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What is a blended workforce – and could it benefit your company?

There comes a time in any startup’s life when the next step is to expand its workforce. This is undoubtedly a good thing, as it’s indicative of the company’s growth. It does however beg the question: how do you bring on board the people you need without your wage bill spiralling out of control?

A blended workforce could be just the answer. When you have a blended workforce this means that permanent, full-time employees work side-by-side with different types of workers. These workers might include temps, freelancers, consultants, and perhaps even apprentices.

As a business owner, it’s important to stay agile and competitive while still being in full control of your workload. To help you achieve that with your new company formation, we’re going to look into how a blended workforce could be the way forward for your fledgeling business.

Blended workforces in a nutshell

When you picture a traditional workplace setup, a certain way of working often springs to mind. First, there is the boss at the top, then a layer of management underneath, followed by the main body of workers: all clocking in and out at the same time and all full-time employees of the company.

In large organisations where the volume of work is continuous and consistent, this model may work well. In other businesses – perhaps even yours – it can prove inflexible and needlessly expensive to maintain.

Take a company formation such as an online jewellery store, for example. The business may need help from time to time with a range of technical tasks, but it might still be a long way from requiring its very own full-time web administrator, for instance. Similarly, if you owned an events company, you may need to be able to call in extra manpower for bigger functions. In terms of having them on the payroll permanently, however, there might not be a feasible justification – or the necessity.

A blended workforce functions a lot like a jigsaw puzzle: different types of workers all slot together to meet the overarching needs of your business. Working out the best fit means understanding the characteristics of those workers: their advantages, limitations, and what they can offer your company.

Full-time, permanent staff

In a blended workforce, your full-time employees are your core team. Indeed, for many small business owners, a permanent assistant is often the first hire.

When you’re looking for this kind of employee, focusing on flexibility is a good start. For example, the main motivation for getting someone on board might be to help you with your business accounts and general administration. But there will be times when that mountain of paperwork just happens to look smaller, so it could be worth taking on someone who combines office administration skills with other experience, such as customer service, for instance.

Even during quieter periods. Permanent staff still have to be paid. The more adaptable and versatile they are, the greater the contribution they can make to your business.

Temporary and part-time workers

Whether it’s a big order to assemble and pack, a construction job calling for labourers, or a busy Saturday night in a restaurant, there can be times when your business needs to call upon more help than usual.

It’s understandable that zero-hour contracts have received bad press in recent years, however, when used sensibly and fairly they can help you meet demand surges as well as catering to employee desires for flexibility. In these instances, staff are employed with no guarantee of set hours and the worker is not obliged to accept any work offered. That said, to avoid any suggestion of leaving staff in limbo or permanent standby, it’s important to understand the rules around zero-hours – so make sure you seek legal help with drafting your employment contracts. This practice is especially common in hospitality and retail, however best practice is giving staff as much notice as possible.

Utilising agency temp workers are a great way to deal with demand surges. The agency screens the employees for you, essentially providing you with access to labour as and when it’s required. The downside is cost: you can expect to pay up to 20% higher on wages than the market rate to cover the agency fee. That said, this can be a quick and easy way to fill a temporary gap for a small business.

Freelancers and consultants

If it’s not so much the volume of work that’s causing problems, but rather that your workforce is lacking technical expertise, the answer could be freelancers.

You might, for instance, require a couple of days of help each month with the bookkeeping, a specialist project manager to handle your latest contract, or just someone to build and maintain your new website. Hiring a freelancer enables you to agree a price with self-employed contractors on a task-by-task basis. It means you are dealing with the specific tasks in your to-do list, while keeping your fixed costs as low as possible. In other words, you only pay for what you need.

Remote workers

Embracing flexible, remote working can open up all kinds of possibilities for a blended workforce. For instance, if you are struggling to recruit for a permanent specialist role, you may have more options if you offer the ability to work from home for at least part of the time, or if there is a degree of leeway in determining employees’ working hours. The result is that geography is less of a barrier to recruitment – making it more likely that you’ll attract those particularly talented candidates.

The same applies to freelancers: if you have the right collaboration tools in place, such as live document sharing or video conferencing, it becomes easier for people from outside your organisation to get involved in projects.

Sound interesting? Check out this article on essential tech for entrepreneurs for extra advice on how to integrate these kinds of apps into your company formation.

Interns and apprentices

There’s an attractive “try before you buy” element to taking on a prospective employee as an unpaid intern. This way you can find out their aptitude and capacity for new skills by putting them to the test, rather than simply relying on a CV.

Similarly, an apprentice also learns on the job. Taking on an apprentice can be an excellent way of developing a new starter and moulding them into developing the type of skills you need. Having apprentices and interns on board does, however, require commitment on your part: you need the time and the resources to train them up.

Want to discover more about how small businesses like yours can keep control of their budget and get the best out of their staff? Head on over to The Formations Company help centre to learn more.

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