Reflecting on your client experiences over the past couple of years, it probably comes as no surprise that in 2017, “three-quarters of Australia’s CEOs were worried about the availability of key skills in the wake of technological change and automation.” 2 years on, and recruiters are still coming to grips with the unfolding skills gap and what it means for the talent ecosystem. Two avenues in particular- contingent labour and skilled immigration – are two important pillars of a forward-thinking labour strategy that deserve far more attention. Demand for them is only increasing as they drive operational efficiency and satisfy urgency for businesses, and are coming to define an agency’s competitive edge. How well are you incorporating these strategies into your service offering and attracting independent professionals in the first place, to unify client and candidate needs?
Building a contingent workforce
With contracting approaching the norm and no longer the sole domain of ’temping agencies’, recruitment firms of all specialisations must help their clients explore contract options to bolster their workforce. “About 34 per cent of 1500 employers surveyed as part of Manpower’s 2018 global talent shortage survey reported lack of skills as a major impediment to hiring, climbing to 43 per cent for medium-sized businesses and 41 per cent for large businesses.” Over half of those surveyed had considered adopting contingent work arrangements. There is a sense of responsibility for recruitment agencies to act now in helping shape that outcome by preparing clients for the benefits of a contractor workforce and helping mitigate the challenges it brings. Playing catch-up simply won’t do. A disproportionate value on traditional employment models will only interfere with your ability to capitalise on the benefits of a robust contractor pool.
- Source niche skills in a competitive market where workers are ‘shopping around’
- Diversify skill sets within companies to both complement and train permanent staff
- Quickly adapt and cater to transformation and change projects with changing goalposts.
- Trial workers and ‘company fit’ before longer-term commitments
- Manage budgetary and headcount restrictions
Swift sourcing must accompany a professional and seamless process to cater to the ongoing mobility of contractors. Many agencies would already be familiar with outsourcing payroll in the ‘chain of on-hire’ with their clients, but setting the tone for a successful contractor engagement goes far beyond that. It means evaluating and remedying what is often an uneasy handover of contractors from procurement to HR to make the placement stick and safeguard your reputation as a recruiter of choice.
- A meaningful and interactive onboarding experience that emphasises contractor value and promotes a point of difference for your organisation
- Well-defined workflows to ensure your contractors are onboarded quickly and efficiently
- Investigate value-add services from partners, offered to contractors as an extension of your client’s employer branding
- Review and polish your re-engagement process for contractors specifically; it will need to be dynamic to handle contractor mobility.
Harnessing Skilled Migration
All agencies know the frustration of not having the right candidate after exhausting your talent pool. Worse still, is when the perfect candidate exists, but is located offshore and thus deemed inaccessible. Industry commentators have made a link between the skills gap and underutilisation of skilled migration, observing that “the long-term decline of skills shortages as an issue aligns with a steep fall in employers’ use of the 457 visa [now 482], designed for skilled workers, since about 2011”. To the detriment of businesses, skilled migration as a staffing solution often gets overlooked due to the perceived hurdles in securing a sponsorship. It goes against the sheer demand for international talent that ought to be capitalised on to secure that perfect client-candidate pairing. Again, onus rests on recruiters in making this a viable and lucrative option- not only in the eyes of their clients, but for themselves. A lengthy visa application process and outsourcing to a registered migrant expert risks it getting relegated to that proverbial ‘too-hard basket’, but committing to a skilled migration solution is sure to set you apart from competitors.
- Consider bringing skilled workers out for short term projects, on a 6 month Temporary Work Short Term 400 Visa – it’s a quick and inexpensive way to bring highly skilled people into the country and you can secure longer-term opportunities thereafter
- Explore companies who offer on hire-labour agreement options. This can assist clients without sponsorship capabilities and who want to outsource the risk and compliance associated with employing 482 Visa holders as employees
- An in-house migration agent is not viable for many agencies, so source a dedicated and registered migration partner to field ongoing enquiries and facilitate visa applications
- Seek Migration Agents as opposed to Migration Lawyers, to maximise cost-effectiveness
- Recheck a company’s potential to get their own sponsorship, as the approval process is less stringent than it once was and companies may not realise they are eligible
- Keep job advertisements current for roles you regularly recruit for, to avoid application delays. Labour Market Testing (LMT) was introduced in 2018 as a compulsory part of the application, and advertisements need to have run for a 28 day period
Identifying the needs of top talent
The strategies discussed above will of course collapse without a solid understanding of what motivates independent professionals and attracts them to roles. A 2018 US study found that 46% of independent professionals say they have a lot of choice when it comes to picking their clients, and 36% say they have some choice, which also appears to reflect the Australian experience. This should clearly signal how important it is to position your (client’s) organization as a Client of Choice for independent professionals, and by extension, your agency as a recruiter of choice. Gone are the days when contractors and especially freelancers tolerated late payments from clients and a general devaluation of their work arrangements compared to permanent staff. Word travels fast in the independent professional community, so their feedback, positive or negative, *will* impact yours and your client’s prospects.
Placing a contractor presents a different dynamic from that of a salaried worker, which plays out in unique ways. For instance, payment terms should be aligned with market standards as much as possible but be aware that contractors will usually present their own rates and are prepared to articulate the value of their services. And as contractors turn away from the very idea of being employees beholden to a company, they are still purpose-driven and not immune to the human condition. The importance of client-branded welcome initiatives cannot be emphasised enough, to overcome the transactional nature of contracting and develop brand affinity. These are conversations you need to be having with your team and your clients well in advance to ensure a contractor-friendly infrastructure. We’ve come up with the following talent strategy blueprint, to help you nurture your talent ecosystem as it relates to the contingent workforce.
For more on what motivates independent professionals and how to tap into this as part of your talent acquisition strategy, join the APSCo ‘Across the MD desk’ webinar: https://www.apscoau.org/events/whats-giving-contractors-buzz-2019