How flexible workplaces are changing the way we attract talent

Technological advancements, an ageing population and changing attitudes to gender roles are just a few of the reasons why employees are seeking, and getting, more choice in how they do their job.

Today’s employee has more control over the way they work than ever before.

Forty years ago only one in 10 of us worked part time, today it’s more than one in four. Similarly, contract work is on the rise with SEEK data showing 30% of Australia’s workforce is contingency based.

Employees are demanding more flexibility and, unless you are open minded about how the role you want to fill can function, you could be missing out on top talent.

SEEK’s Laws of Attraction study uncovered that while full time work is still the most dominant employment type, those who work full time are likely to have very different attracting factors to those who prefer work on a part time or contract basis.

SEEK research manager Caroline North says knowing how their drivers differ can ensure your messaging is hitting the right target.

“The workplace is becoming more flexible,” says North.

“If you’re finding it hard to fill a role, our Laws of Attraction data can give you insights as to why that might be.

“Perhaps you need to look at what levers you can pull to either attract a wider pool of talent by opening up the way the job functionality is performed, or, find a better way of communicating your message.”

What do candidates really want?

North says full time candidates place a greater importance on salary and career development compared to someone looking for a part time role who gives more weight to work-life balance and job location.

Full time workers also over-index on the size of the company and market position, meaning they are more likely to want to work for an industry leader or listed company, and can be put off by small start-ups.

In contrast, the nimbleness of a start-up can be exactly what a contract worker desires.

A job in the CBD or with guaranteed travel can pique the interest of a full-timer but have the opposite effect on someone seeking part-time work. They prefer a workplace with easy parking and not too far from home.

North says the key to recruitment is staying aware of - and keeping up with - changing trends.

“Millennials have a different mentality to other generations,” says North.

“A lot of them also seek the flexibility of part time work because they may be developing their own business on the side, or have a hobby they want to pursue.

“Employers need to communicate on the issues relevant to part time, full time and contract work so you are increasing the talent pool and getting the best out of candidates.”

When contractors and casuals are good for business

Thomas Amos is the CEO and co-founder of Sidekicker, an online platform matching businesses with hourly workers.

He says in its five years of operation, Sidekicker has changed significantly due to a rise in contingent and casual work driven by businesses wanting to be more flexible.

“The market has shifted,” says Amos.

“What we saw in 2012 was the ability for technology to connect two people – those in the business sector who were constantly time poor, and individuals who had time and were seeking flexible ways to earn money.

“What has happened over the last few years is we’ve realised just what a massive opportunity it is for business.”

Amos says while contract and casual workers are well suited to businesses with high fluctuations in demand – such as events, hospitality and retail - one of the issues they face can be the high cost associated with the constant turnover of staff.

The expense of recruiting someone, on-boarding them, setting up their payroll only to have them move on, can be a cash flow burden some businesses don’t want to bear.

Many consider it more efficient and cost-effective to hire staff on a full time basis, even knowing that in the downtime only 70 or 80 per cent of the staff load will be fully utilised.

Sidekicker’s success lies in its ability to provide businesses with one large ready-to-go talent pool from which to outsource their casual workers.

Amos says there are many reasons people want the freedom to pick and choose the hours they work.

Some are supporting themselves through university, or starting up a business, others are trying to figure out the next step in their career or trying lots of companies while waiting for their dream job.

The benefit to hirers, says Amos, is Sidekicker deals with all the employer issues, but the business still gets to build up relationships with the contract workers they employ knowing their favourite hires will stick around within the Sidekicker system.

Amos says Spark Arena in New Zealand, signed up to Sidekicker knowing the inconsistency of the work they could offer was leading to a high turnover of staff – and potentially impacting on customer service and productivity.

Spark Arena was averaging only around 60 per cent repeat staff per shift, but under the Sidekicker outsourcing arrangement have increased that to 95 per cent.

As the desire, and need, to decide when and how we choose to work increases, businesses need to reassess whether the type of work roles they are offering are still the best way for them to operate.

“At the moment we have more workers than work,” says Amos.

“That shows the level of demand coming from the worker.

“There is a general break down of the traditional Monday to Friday, 9 to 5, work model.

“Companies are becoming more open to people working from home, and to people working to their own rhythm – it can be a very competitive marketplace.”

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Belinda Parkes

Belinda Parkes is a freelance journalist and sub-editor with more than 20 years’ media experience across newspapers, magazines and digital media. Belinda has had a love affair with words from a young age, having written a song at age five, a...

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