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Taking a Look at the Impact of COVID on Temp Staffing

COVID-19 has impacted most of the globe in different ways, including the world of temporary staffing. Initially, companies had to downsize, and many lost their jobs. But now, the world is coming to terms with the virus and the new way of life that we’ve all had to adopt. Things are slowly picking up again. In the USA, the American Staffing Index reflects that staffing employment had started to recover last year. In India, the staffing industry was expected to grow by 22.7% and reach 6.1 million workers by 2021. But a wrench was thrown at this prospective growth, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic.

We can see that the temporary staffing industry has been witnessing much uncertainty. It goes beyond the health and welfare of employees. Let’s look at the scenario.

Increasing Workforce Turnover

A recently published Work Institute article reports the latest “voluntary quit” (turnover) rates are near twice the number of employees who quit their jobs in July 2020 than those who quit in April 2020. The workforce turnover has risen at an unparalleled rate as people fear contracting the virus in public. That also affected the general mobility of the people, which resulted in a spike in workforce turnover. That has created a market for temporary staff, as such employees work contractually and are usually flexible.

Temp and contract workers give companies more flexibility in such uncertain times. They act as a ‘labour-force shock absorber’ when the business goes up or down. Thus, with less certainty of future demand, employers may be less likely to directly hire workers into permanent positions. They would rather rely on temporary staff instead, to meet their labour needs.

The Rise of Remote Working

Most employees are working remotely these days – even temporary staff. The upside to this is that geographical location isn’t a boundary, as work can be done over the phone or virtually. Many companies are following a hybrid model. The trend seems that the hybrid model of working will stay even post-pandemic. Since temp staff is usually flexible with contractual changes, clients are requesting them to also follow work-from- home norms.

A challenge for temp staff and hiring companies alike is that a remote model must be created to facilitate interaction. That includes using both the right processes and tools. Companies must invest in the appropriate hardware and software that supports productivity. These must also manage intellectual property and have stronger cybersecurity measures. That’s especially important since a remote workforce entails increased access to sensitive data. Another investment would be into productivity measuring tools that can track worker engagement, such as digital logging timesheets and more. Hiring training managers to strategize how to better manage contingent labour remotely would also be a good idea.

Temp Staff Must Be Tech Savvy

As mentioned, offices are using technology more prominently. Right from the interviewing process to just staying connected through digital means. That means temp staff must be comfortable, if not well-versed, with using technology. This includes using tech to make video calls, video streaming services such as Zoom, and others. These are being used for several processes, such as basic onboarding, candidate orientation, virtual small group lunches, and even coffee chats.

This can be a tough hurdle for some, especially for those whose home environments aren’t work-friendly. That could be due to a lack of internet connection, less physical space, living in shared accommodations, or certain family obligations.

New Job Roles

Certain industries, such as healthcare, logistics, and online retail fared well during this time. Within these industries, there are new positions have been created. That includes ‘temperature takers’, return-to-work assessors, and clinic staff. According to a report by McKinsey, the demand has significantly risen for “travelling nurses, food-delivery services, and jobs that require moving, packing, and loading skills.” The article states that these trends can be traced either directly to the pandemic or changing consumer needs and preferences. Research also suggests that consumers may continue to embrace offerings such as contactless delivery.

In India, clients have been hiring mostly in the eCommerce industry, logistics (package, freight), and critical business roles in healthcare and IT/ITeS. Temporary employees are also working in retail cooperatives and agricultural operations, including the distribution of food, milk, groceries, and vegetables. They’re employed under different job roles ranging from delivery executives, supervisors, drivers, customer care, etc. Other hiring industries include manufacturing and distribution of PPEs, and employees are associated with telecom, banking, ATM, and internet services.

Industries badly hit include aviation, travel and tourism, hospitality, automotive, media, and entertainment. Another point to note is that there’s a sharp transition from a candidate-driven market to one that is job-oriented. Candidates could choose from several offers in the past. But now, they must adapt their skills according to the available positions.

Employee Engagement High

Due to the restrictions on communication imposed by the pandemic, many staffing clients have increased telephonic and virtual modes of communication. This is especially true during the pre-and post-hiring process. Some have been scheduling multiple video calls, others have been using email, webinars, messaging, and even phone calls. This is being done to ensure there is still a human connection and social bonding keeping the team together. Otherwise, employee engagement with corporate culture, on-the-job learning, etc. can suffer.

The more proactive firms send care packages that include branded coffee mugs, mouse pads, and other tokens of appreciation to keep morale high. Ideally, these gestures must be extended to temp staff. Although not permanent members of the company, it’s still important for temp staff to become a part of company culture on some level, to be able to contribute to the best of their ability.

We can see the overall snapshot looks good for temporary staffing, but some hurdles must be overcome. Professional temp staffing agencies can train and equip contingent labour to ensure they’re able to meet the demands of the working landscape. These can also aid companies in creating the right environment to maximize their temp staff’s potential and reap benefits. Connect with us if you need help manoeuvring temp staffing during this trying time.