What is a blended workforce?

Well, it’s not all about race, sex, or religion. It’s about job classification and status. In the early days of labor in America, there were full-time workers, those who worked 40 hours per week, 52 weeks per year, 2,080 hours per year. This was the story for millions of workers until unions and employee protection laws were created to safeguard workers from being taken advantage of by employers. These protection laws forced employers to provide benefits, such as healthcare, medical leave, vacation time and, of course, fair pay.

Today’s human resources professional is familiar with Title VII, ADA, FLSA, The Pregnancy Act and FMLA. All laws designed to protect and guarantee rights of full-time workers. These laws have standards or “tests” that an employee and employer must meet before the law is applicable. And, in most cases, the standard is full-time employment. To circumvent these regulated benefits, many employers would cut the hours of employees from 40 (full-time) to 35 or less thus making their employment status part-time. By cutting hours, these companies saved thousands, if not millions of dollars, depending on the size of the organization.

Not long ago, the American worker wanted full-time employment only, but today more and more workers seek part-time casual employment. The benefits of part-time jobs are flexibility, no commitment, less stress, more work-life balance, and the ability to work various jobs at once. The most recent data from Jill Mislinski’s article on Advisor Perspectives, “The Ratio of Part-Time Employed Remains High, But Improving”, reports in 2010, 20.1% of the US workforce was part-time due to the recession and today it’s 18.1%; however, there is no recession and more workers are voluntarily choosing part-time employment.

One of the reasons for this increase is the nature of the global economy, and also the rise of the “gig economy”. A gig is a part-time job that one can perform whenever it’s convenient, also known as a “side hustle”. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and other online service centered apps create opportunities for workers to make extra money at their own discretion. These side hustles are part of a network of casual workers, made up of contractors, consultants, part-timers or freelancers which allow them to make money whenever they want or need.

Contractors are paid to work on a specific project for a pre-determined amount of time. Contractor’s assignments can last anywhere from a month to a year but usually does not continue for years.

Consultants provide expert advice professionally. They are brought in to offer advice on a project and the length of the project could vary.

Freelance is a term used for self-employed workers with no corporate attachments, usually found in the creative industries such as photography, painting, web design, and music.

The difference between a contractor and a consultant is that contractors are more work/task oriented while consultants may perform some work, they are mostly counselors.

According to a Career Builder survey, “40% of employers will hire full-time staff this year and 30% plan to hire part-time, contractors or freelance workers.” (source)

Why Hire a Blended Workforce?

You’ve probably gathered that hiring a contractor, consultant, freelance or part-time worker represents a huge cost saving. It’s true, the average cost of hiring an employee at $50,000 per year can cost upwards of $70,000 when you add benefits and administrative costs. By hiring a blended workforce, a company can save millions of dollars; however, that’s not the only reason why hiring casual workers makes sense.

In addition to saving money, blended workers can help a company maintain a competitive advantage. A mix of full-timers, part-timers, contractors, freelancers, and consultants ignites the competitive nature within the workforce because no one wants to be outperformed by the other. Sometimes full-time employment can breed a sense of entitlement, but with a blended workforce everyone has a reason to work hard, i.e. for a contract extension, leads to more consultancy jobs, or a full-time job offer.

Another great benefit of a blended work environment is the creative aspects. Hiring a blended workforce is a great opportunity for cross-functional collaborations and peer mentoring opportunities which should facilitate some amazing ideas and an internal company knowledge base. Companies that want to remain agile and scalable, should hire a variety of workers for the strategic benefits of collaboration, cost savings, and experience alone. However, no matter how you blend your team, make sure you assess their skills and take a fair and compliant selection decision.

What do you think about hiring blended workforce? Let us know in the comments.

Chris Fields

Chris Fields is an HR professional and expert resume writer with more than 13 years of experience as a former practitioner and current HR consultant. He is the curator of two websites: CostofWork.com and ResumeCrusade.com , and contributes HR-focused content to many others, including PerformanceICreate.com and SmartRecruiters.com . He has been listed by the Huffington Post as one of the “Top 100 Most Social Human Resources Experts to Follow on Twitter”, one of the “Top 40 under 40” by the HR Blogger Network, one of the “25 Must-Read HR Blogs in 2013”, and also featured on Oprah.com. He is very active with the Society of Human Resource Management, working closely with conference directors, communication chairs, and social media teams from Illinois, Oklahoma, and Tennessee to develop social strategies to engage attendees and enhance their conference experience. Chris earned his master’s degree in Labor and Human Resources from Ohio State University. In 2005, he moved back to his hometown of Memphis, TN, where he has developed a reputation for helping his clients create HR strategies, and individuals master the tough economic challenges of the South.

4 Comments

  • Avatar Sandra McKinsey says:

    Hiring externally is a challenge because we need contractors who we can trust with their day-to-day tasks and who can reply FAST to real-time needs. And because of this, I believe recruiting and staffing firms will become more critical as partners with companies.

  • Avatar Jason M says:

    The beauty of this model is that the outer ring can be increased during the business’s peak season and just as easily reduced due to economic or business conditions without the ugly layoffs that typically accompany a reduction in the workforce.

  • Avatar Karen says:

    Cool article. The challenge is how to make the perfect mix of employees…

  • Avatar Johnb248 says:

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