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Leveraging a Flexible Workforce To Solve Industry Challenges

March 17, 2023
min read
Dylan Sharek

Organizations across the light industrial and manufacturing industry are faced with a wide range of challenges, from inconsistent demand and talent shortages to shifting customer expectations. To stay competitive, businesses must be able to react quickly and adapt to changes as they come, and a flexible workforce will prove a powerful tool to achieve this. 

The Rise of Flexible Workforces

When individuals think about a “flexible workforce,” they often assume this refers solely to the working arrangement whereby employees and employers adopt a unique work style (as opposed to the traditional 9 to 5 approach). But, this flexibility also includes elastic staffing. This is essentially the use of any mix of full-time, part-time, and contingent workers (e.g., freelancers, independent contractors, consultants, or other outsourced or non-permanent workers) to accurately meet variable demand. In other words, using a flexible workforce gives organizations the ability to quickly scale and adapt depending on the short-term and long-term needs of the business. 

Today, utilizing elastic talent is gaining traction quickly. In fact, the trend of hiring contingent workers is expected to continue accelerating, and Intuit reports that more than 80% of large corporations are planning to substantially increase their use of a flexible workforce in the coming years. Here are just some of the industries that are poised to benefit as the reliance on flexible workers continues to grow:

  • Manufacturing and logistics
  • Information technology
  • Warehousing
  • Healthcare
  • Hospitality
  • Professional services

With the flexibility and expertise of elastic hourly workers in mind, it’s no surprise that corporations are embracing them as a key component of their overall workforce strategy. So, how are these workers supporting businesses in the industry today? 

Solving Industry Challenges With a Flexible Workforce

Workforce and workplace flexibility are gaining momentum across almost all industries, but using skilled hourly workers may be most salient in the light industrial and manufacturing industry. Why? Because prioritizing greater flexibility and contingent talent can help teams tackle industry challenges more efficiently and effectively. Some of the most common issues these companies face include:

A skills gap and talent shortage

The manufacturing industry is battling a skilled labor shortage, and the projections for the near future are an increasing cause for concern. Deloitte found that not only will 22% of existing skilled manufacturing workers be retired by 2025, but it’s also predicted that there’ll be a shortage of more than two million American manufacturing workers by 2030. Leveraging an elastic workforce gives organizations access to a diverse talent pool with specialized skills and expertise. The flexibility and adaptability that these workers provide help quickly fill critical skills gaps and contribute to efficiency and productivity. 

Employee recruitment and retention

The light industrial and manufacturing space is experiencing a rapidly aging workforce and a growing demand for skilled labor, but companies are finding it difficult to strengthen recruitment efforts and lasting employee retention to stay competitive. This shortage of qualified talent is leading to high turnover rates and increased competition for capable workers — ultimately driving costs, overworking employees, negatively impacting morale and productivity, and hindering the ability to meet production demands. 

Using a contingent workforce with specialized skills boosts efficiency, output, and performance, fostering a more flexible and supportive work environment that values individual contributions. This creates a positive company culture of teamwork, professionalism, and continuous improvement, inevitably advancing efforts to attract and retain top talent. 

Increasing consumer expectations

According to Forbes, 93% of customer service teams report that customers have higher expectations than ever before. This is often attributed to the rise of e-commerce and the breadth of products and information available online. And, because this trend is only anticipated to continue, manufacturers have the added pressure of delivering high-quality products, convenience, and more personalized experiences. Leveraging skilled contingent workers ensures organizations can meet the demands of today’s fast-paced and dynamic business environment, which promotes long-term customer satisfaction. 

Inflation and supply chain disruptions

Another challenge that’s projected to endure is the rising cost of raw materials (e.g., steel, aluminum, and oil). This is making it increasingly difficult for manufacturers and other industry professionals to keep costs low while maintaining quality. What’s more, organizations are navigating continued supply chain disruptions that have affected virtually every industry in recent years. This can cause significant losses in terms of finances (62%), logistics (54%), and reputation (54%), as reported by Finances Online. With the resulting increased costs, lower product quality, and longer lead times, organizations are struggling with repercussions to their production schedules, customer satisfaction, and overall long-term profitability. 

An elastic workforce provides support by increasing flexibility and reducing fixed labor costs, which are significant factors in combating inflation. Moreover, as teams work to overcome supply chain issues, contingent workers with the right expertise guarantee companies are prepared to adequately address variable demand. This demonstrates the value of flexible workforces for companies looking to maintain their competitiveness in an increasingly challenging economic environment. 

The Key Benefits of Flexible Workforces in the Light Industrial and Manufacturing Industry

As organizations make use of more flexible work options, they stand to see several advantages along the way. Here’s a closer look at the top benefits of an elastic workforce in the light industrial and manufacturing industry:

  • Adaptability and resilience: While it might seem obvious, the most valuable benefit of a flexible work approach is just that — flexibility. When an employer leverages an elastic workforce, the organization becomes well-equipped to scale up and down as needed to meet changing demands. This is highly important considering the seasonal cycles, unexpected orders, and possible supply chain disruptions that are a natural aspect of the industry. 
  • Cost-effectiveness: Because hiring flexible employees eliminates the need for long-term commitments or the costs associated with full-time workers, it’s often a cost-effective solution for companies. Organizations save money by only paying for services when they need them, helping them avoid under- or overstaffing amid fluctuations in demand.
  • Access to specialized skills: A contingent job seeker — such as a freelancer or contract worker — typically has specialized skills and experience to bring to a team. This expertise, in combination with the new ideas and perspectives they can provide, is key to improving processes and increasing efficiency. Because the manufacturing industry is experiencing fierce competition for skilled labor and a widening skills gap, improved access to job seekers with the right skills and know-how will prove invaluable. 
  • Employee productivity: Leveraging elastic employees promotes both organizational and employee productivity by filling gaps in the workforce and helping teams complete projects and tasks more efficiently. For companies that plan to use a mix of full-time and flexible employees, taking on contingent workers will reduce the workload on permanent employees which can go a long way toward promoting positive company culture and long-term employee retention. 
  • Customer satisfaction: With hourly workers to help fill skills gaps and drive productivity, teams are better equipped to improve efficiency and quality. This leads to faster production times, streamlined delivery schedules, and higher-quality products, effectively promoting a seamless and enjoyable customer experience. 

Building a Flexible Workforce and Resources To Support the Process

Both the market and your labor needs are ever-changing, and when you’re trying to not only tackle industry challenges but also maintain a competitive edge in the process, greater flexibility can help you keep up. But, how are organizations building a flexible workforce? 

To get the most out of skilled elastic labor, consider these seven strategies:

  1. Assess your organizational skills gaps that need to be addressed, and pursue talent with the right expertise.
  2. Find a unique approach to greater flexibility that’s beneficial to your team, whether that’s a flexible work arrangement or a flexible workforce model. 
  3. Standardize the systems you have in place for finding and managing external talent.
  4. Encourage a healthy work-life balance for your entire workforce as this will promote employee wellness along with increasing engagement, productivity, and efficiency. 
  5. Maintain open communication channels with contingent workers, including check-ins and feedback sessions, to ensure they feel valued and encouraged. 
  6. Invest in training and development opportunities to increase your workers’ skills and expertise.
  7. Utilize valuable workforce resources available to you, prioritizing those that can help you standardize procurement practices and improve workforce management. 

Today, a flexible workforce model can help your teams thrive in a world of disruption, and Bluecrew can support you along the way. With our advanced workforce-as-a-service solutions, your business has access to pre-screened, elastic hourly workers to help you address demand forecasting challenges in the most efficient way possible. 

Quickly scale teams up or down on an as-needed basis with qualified W-2 Crew Members, while boosting your workforce management through our robust platform — streamlining everything from recruiting, employee scheduling, and time tracking to forecasting, compliance, and more. 

Ready to take on industry challenges with confidence and promote long-term productivity with an elastic workforce? Contact Bluecrew today to learn more and get started.

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