We live in changing times.
3 months ago, on a Friday, sometime around five in the afternoon, work would be winding down. A gradual stream of my colleagues would start to make the weekly migration from our office to the pub one floor below us. (Shout out to the boss for a well-planned office location). This little occurrence was a constant in my working life. Now I have not seen these colleagues face to face for about 12 weeks and the pub below the office is closed till further notice. Times are certainly changing, but nevertheless, businesses are showing flexibility by rolling with the punches and adapting to the new challenges.
The following is a brief look into what we think the future holds for the workforce model. What changes are ahead and how flexibility and adaptation are needed in these times of reduction and cost saving.
There will always be a place for permanent staff and understanding what roles are business-critical has never been more important. The necessity for a business resourcing strategy has not changed, it just needs more focus. Businesses need to understand what roles are important - which ones hold intellectual capital for example. Any roles that house key business know-how usually want to be kept in house. Losing time and investment spent on these roles can be costly. In the IT world, the sourcing of test and development can be more flexible depending on the requirement and nature of the delivery needed. There have always been options around how to deliver this with the age-old build or buy conundrum. However, architects or business analysts with knowledge of key business processes and systems can fall under this business-critical banner. If a resource and their knowledge capital / experience is someone you cannot do without, think hard about going external.
If a resurgence of the pandemic were to occur, business critical roles would weather that storm, however in general, permanent recruitment is certainly reducing. Uncertainty means businesses are less confident to bring staff in on a permanent basis. We see this in the current market, post Covid-19, and also hear it from our wider network that we speak to on a regular basis. Still, work needs to be done and if companies are reluctant to hire permanent staff so that they can deal with situations that require them to pivot within 24 hours then flexible resources are going to play a big part in their resourcing strategy.
Flexible resources – Contractors & Nearshore options
There is a fine line between business critical and business important. Within important roles, business still needs flexibility. In the current climate companies are mostly flexing down. Contractor resources act as a buffer, that can be increased in times of plenty, and decreased in times of famine. Reduced notice periods reduce the risk that clients are exposed to. We have seen contractor notice periods reduce from a month to 10 days. Some even less than that. This means businesses can react quicker, a must if there is ever a second wave of Covid-19 or something of a similar, wide-spread nature.
Of course, there is also the nearshore and offshore option. Outsourcing roles, projects and functions to a different geographical location who offer a lower cost service, which let’s face it, today’s technology can fully support. Historically, clients have been reluctant to embrace the uplift of nearshore for a variety of reasons. Remote working could pose an issue to some organisations. There were also concerns over an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it came to delivery. How well can a team deliver if they are not on site and in contact with the rest of the organisation? Due to Covid, and the now widely proven success of Working from Home approach, many of those perceived barriers have been successfully broken down.
BrightBox Group have three near-shore partners based in Poland, Belarus and Bulgaria. Our teams are sourced from world-class technology universities and are a part of organisations that are dedicated to client success, and that fit with our BrightBox ethos. English is a second language and they work to UK time zones. These teams have been working hand in glove with clients across the main industries and sectors. Communication between these partners and our clients remains strong and our clients have seen continuity of productivity since the onset of the Pandemic. They consistently demonstrate a desire to deliver and succeed in doing so. They are a shining example that optimised cost does not mean lower quality.
The client’s perspective
If the focus is reducing cost while maintaining quality, two crucial elements for clients to measure output and success are communication and metrics. These can drive the types of roles you can remote work. Good communication alone will work with small numbers where it is easier to touch base. But for multiple teams or larger project delivery, especially if using a nearshore resource, having metrics in place to support work and demonstrate delivery is crucial. Agile methodology lends itself to this form of project delivery. Regular sprint points help keep everyone up to date with each other’s progression. Systems (such as Jira or Azure DevOps) help provide reporting feedback and a whole wealth of management information that can be used to steer decision making.
Professional services companies usually have these types of systems and processes in place. This can be more of a test for companies that are new to embracing a more flexible work force who do not already have this infrastructure, but nonetheless, with some focus and structure this can be achieved quickly and effectively.
Global organisations have been benefiting from using a flexible workforce for some time. Smaller businesses are just starting to play catch up, spurred on by necessity in these uncertain times. The main challenge is ensuring strategy, communication and infrastructure are in place. If the organisation has the infrastructure in place already for remote working, the nearshore option becomes more and more appealing. Organisations who are willing to embrace change and innovation will be the ones who do not just survive this pandemic but thrive.
We have worked with a number of our clients on their workforce models and how they should change to meet the ever shifting sands of time, if you would like to discuss your resource strategy, to discuss what could or could not work for you, or to know more about our nearshore teams and how they can help you, please contact us, we would be more than happy to have an exploratory call with you and your team.