Worker supply chain management for the 21st century

The ongoing Brexit debate has brought public awareness of the vital intricate supply chains that feed British industry to an all-time high. Supply chains are the arteries that carry the lifeblood of commerce. It is rare, however, that we think of these in relation to the services sector, and more specifically worker supply chains.

Efficient management of the worker supply chain is something that is often overlooked by businesses. The possibility of making this something agile enough to allow companies to hire on demand is a recent phenomenon, the potential of which we are only beginning to see today.

Contract workers can provide businesses with greater flexibility, allowing them to select and hire candidates with the right skills in a short space of time, and therefore respond rapidly and according to workload fluctuations. Additionally, temporary workers are not required to give notice, usually cover their own healthcare and other benefits, and can be hired remotely as there is less at stake compared to hiring a permanent employee.

The administrative burden that used to be unavoidable when hiring, onboarding and paying temporary staff has now been lifted by the advent of new technologies and software. These bring a wealth of advantages to companies and contractors, of which adaptability and profitability are the front runners.

Whereas before contingent workers were required to manually fill out and submit time-sheets, enter this information into a payroll system and then complete the relevant tax forms, nowadays hours can be logged, payments actioned and HMRC compliant tax forms generated instantly via a smartphone app. Additionally, apps such as Airbnb, Uber and Amazon Flex are making it easier than ever before to become self-employed.

Temporary workers make business sense, by offering an adaptable worker supply chain – one which is there when you need it, but which doesn’t cost you during quiet periods in the business cycle.

However, contrary to much comment on the topic, the temporary working trend is in fact being primarily driven by workers seeking greater flexibility and professional autonomy, as opposed to businesses simply looking to cut costs. According to the January 2019 ONS UK Labour Market Survey, over 73% of temporary employees said they were working temporarily for a reason other than the inability to find a permanent position.

The trend towards flexibility should be welcomed as it makes the UK an attractive destination for foreign direct investment. More efficient staffing methods will allow UK businesses to better compete internationally as trading patterns transform post-Brexit.

Businesses will need to rapidly adapt to changing social, technological and economic realities in the coming years. Those that invest in technologies that provide them with an efficient and flexible worker supply chain are best placed to thrive in the 21st century’s global economy.