Is your business ready for contingent workers? Consider the “Big 5”

We’ve been looking at workforce management in our last few blog posts. Trends regarding contingent workers and how to implement a contingent workforce strategy are two of the topics we’ve explored. But maybe you’re still not sure if you’re ready to expand your staff complement to include contractors, freelancers, gig workers, etc. Your policies and procedures are all geared to managing your permanent employees, and the notion of moving away from these familiar processes may be a bit daunting. How do you know you will reap the benefits?

Ironically, contingent workers tend to be used by very large and very small organisations. Large companies have sufficiently robust infrastructures to manage the on- and off-boarding of contractors, and usually have a variety of projects needing specialised skills for a fixed time period. Very small companies, on the other hand, are not equipped to carry the overheads of all the skills they require, particularly when they don’t require them all the time. It makes obvious economical sense for a micro or small enterprise to engage certain functions or activities on a contingent basis. But if you are in the middle – a medium-sized company – with all the basic departments staffed by qualified professionals – HR, finance, IT, communications, etc., you may be unsure as to what value a contingent element would add to your current workforce strategy.

It may be helpful to consider the following “Big 5” advantages that contingent workers bring to an organisation and ask yourself if your business could benefit from them.


Does your business experience fluctuating demand? Are there seasonal variances or is a lot of your activity project-based? A flexible workforce could help you navigate these variable requirements, insulating you from the ups and downs and the risks associated with hiring and firing permanent employees to meet demand. Contract workers move on when the contract is finished and the off-boarding process is simple. You may even find a contingent workforce makes expansion more attractive, as it removes some of the risk and allows you to take a just-in-time approach to your staffing requirements.


If the cost of contractors has deterred you in the past, it’s worth considering the total cost of an employee. You may find that the “premium” you associate with contractors is not as much as you think, when you factor in the cost of recruitment, on-boarding, benefits, etc. Contingent workers cover their own holidays, sick days, medical aid, etc., and the cost of recruiting, on-boarding and termination is covered by the managed service provider (like Highveld) providing the resource.

Timeliness, aka speed

Think of how long the typical recruitment and selection process takes. If you manage to fill a vacancy in less than three months, from first advertising the post to inducting the new employee, you are either very efficient or very lucky. Finding suitably qualified people takes time. But if you want to be seen as an agile and flexible organisation, there are times when you must act quickly. A contingent workforce gives you the element of speed. Contractors and freelancers can be sourced quickly in the event that an unforeseen need arises urgently. Managed service providers have databases of qualified and vetted professionals who can respond to your request immediately.

Specialised expertise

Perhaps you are working on a project that demands a particular specialist skill. When the project is finished, that skill may be surplus to requirements. Do you carry the overhead and under-employ the resource, waiting for the next relevant project? Using contingent workers allows you to recruit exactly the skills you need, when you need them, and then part company. It enables you to access far more technical, highly skilled experts than you could afford to employ on a full-time basis. Furthermore, you can usually source these experts at short notice (see “speed”, above).

Temp to perm

Now this may seem contradictory, but those contingent workers could just be a good source of permanent employees. Not all contractors and freelancers will be tempted by such a proposition; in fact many wouldn’t choose any but the “gig” lifestyle. But it is not unusual for a “temp” to fit in so well they are offered…and willingly accept…a permanent job offer from a “casual” employer. If you have a cohort of contingent workers you use semi-regularly, your HR department may see them as a good source of talent for key positions, with the added advantage that you have a performance record for them. You’ve been able to “try before you buy”.

Alternatively, if you are using a contingent worker to fill a gap that is taking some time to fill, you can ask the contractor for feedback on the lived experience of doing the job. Their observations may help you refine the job description and your selection techniques to better identify the most suitable candidate for the position.

Talk to us

Taking the plunge and adding contingent workers to your staff complement can seem like a big step, but a good managed service provider like Highveld can take the strain, leaving you free to focus on doing what you do best – running your business. Let us show you how a contingent workforce can improve your productivity and help you manage your costs.

Contact us on 012 367 5600 or Your business is worth it.

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