HR professionals are acutely aware (…or should be) that the nature of their work is changing at a rapid pace – not in the future, but right now. As HR emerges from the blur that is COVID-19, they will need to put their mind to significant workforce challenges, many of which have been amplified by recent events. Ensuring organisations have the talent they need to build organisational capability will continue to be a key focus for CEO’s and HR leaders alike.

Yet HR has been slow to embrace new ways of working. There are limited examples of HR moving away from the traditional business model to a more agile, responsive approach to service delivery like their peers in functions like IT and Legal, where it is well-established practice. Complex workforce demands are increasing at the same time as pressure on budgets and headcount increase. As companies rein in non-essential spending, preserve cash, and focus time and resources on generating revenue – the ongoing demands on the HR function will not go away.

HR professionals know all too well that the right talent cannot always be found easily, or from within the organisation (or at the right time). A recent paper by Expert 360 discussed the benefits of the highly skilled contingent workforce. In particular, it found that companies are utilising highly skilled, high performing contingent workers (or contractors/consultants, as they are often referred) to solve complex and often urgent problems. They cite research by McKinsey & Company (2017) that shows high performing workers are around 8 times or 400% more productive than their ‘average’ counterparts. This grew to 800% as the complexity of the job and occupations increased.

Highly skilled contingent workers enable companies to be nimble, adapting to changing circumstances quickly and in the most efficient and effective manner. They can inject new ways of thinking and innovation into existing teams, and without being burdened by existing politics or perceptions, can have a net positive impact on the company culture.

COVID-19 has provided a glimpse of what work/life balance may look like into the future. Many highly skilled HR professionals will be looking to ways in which they can achieve that balance, just like the rest of the workforce. Whilst HR professionals have in the past seen contingent work as ‘high risk’ (and in some instances, a “step down” from permanent part time/full time work) , the clear benefits of taking back some control in their career and choosing the type of work/projects, the type of employer and how often you work must be looking pretty good right now. Wise employers will be looking for ways in which they can tap into this growing pool of talent.

CEO’s are focussed on improving productivity, fostering collaboration and innovation, and driving efficiencies, whilst building organisational capability and finding and keeping great talent. They need effective workforce strategies to enable this to occur. Utilising a skilled and high performing contingent workforce for specific jobs and for solving complex problems when they arise, should translate into a tangible competitive advantage if seen as an integral element of the overall talent strategy.

So, as HR designs, builds, and implements these strategies for the rest of the workforce, isn’t it time they also do it for themselves?