What a difference a pandemic makes.
2 years 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, a completely new workplace culture exists: where once there was routine, there is now reactive hybridity; where pubs were the focal points of post-work socialisation, now you’re as likely to find me on a Zoom quiz than sharing a round.
Times have changed. But, nevertheless, businesses are showing immense flexibility by rolling with the punches and adapting to our new normal, and the new challenges we all face as we move into a post-pandemic world.
We’ve had 2 years to adjust to the generationally defining changes wrought by COVID-19, and the affiliated pressures and novel stresses of working and sourcing talent amid a pandemic.
The following is a brief look into what we think the future holds for a disparate, decentralised, yet productive, workforce model across the two main formats of recruitment and workforce management: permanent staffing, and contractor/nearshore staffing.
Permanent Talent Solutions
The pandemic has taught IT teams two things: that the pace of digital transformation is only set to increase as cultures of work, socialising, commerce and entertainment pivot more permanently online and cloud based; and that a tech-team is only as effective as its retention of skills, resilience, and agility in response to a crisis.
Your business resourcing strategy has had the best part of 2 years to see whether legacy hiring structures are still relevant, and how to factor in the age-old “build or buy” conundrum at the heart of IT talent support.
Enterprises have forever been battling with whether outsourcing or taking on permanent staff is the right cure to their IT ills. To a point, the reactiveness of near-sourcing, and the flexibility inherent in contracting IT talent in (and out) to handle projects has defined the effectiveness of IT talent resourcing. But the pandemic ushered in new cultures of work, and, most importantly, redrawn what long-term talent retention means.
Consider the following: candidates across a broad swathe of industry are seeking more security in work; more career-minded roles; jobs with more development; jobs with better opportunities and jobs that factor in remote work and hybrid work solutions. This is especially apparent in younger generations (Millennials and Gen Z talent pools). COVID-19 has thrown a vast, global expectation-spanner into the candidate mindset. Employers need to understand this shift in workplace expectations is driving the Great Resignation, and will continue to define good, or bad, recruitment practice for the foreseeable.
Now consider the IT market: forever fighting talent shortages and resource scarcity; increasingly relied on to provide solutions to a myriad of issues; the driving force behind Web3, Industry 4.0 and 5.0, and the essential foundation underpinning how entire societies effectively live, work, communicate, educate and entertain.
There will always be a place for permanent staff. Understanding what roles are business-critical in light of the above, and within a post-pandemic environment, has never been more important.
Permanent talent resourcing answers a critical candidate question - is there security in my work? While most IT talent have undoubtedly worked as a contractor and provided their services in the temporary market (and understand they are in high demand) the world is changing, and you need to be aware that prioritising one “type” of contracted or non-contracted employee simply doesn’t get you the talent you need any more - it’s about matching expectations on a use-case basis, quickly, and by knowing how to navigate the hyper-competitive recruitment market.
If you need reactive teams who can turn over tickets in 24 hours, your contractor market is still a rich resource pool. But if you need invested staff, who can build competitive UX, who can drive IT efficiencies, who can improve your brand journey and impress personality and brand commitment upon your stakeholders, consider a permanent staffer who understands your DNA.
Flexible Resources – Contractors, nearshore and offshore talent solutions
There is a fine line between business critical and business important - outsource options are the salve when the important becomes critical.
However, for non-critical business needs enterprises still need flexibility. In the current climate companies are mostly flexing down, but nothing stays fixed for long and the tech and IT talent market is fast changing.
Contractor resources traditionally act as a buffer that can be increased in times of plenty, and decreased in times of famine. In our disrupted new normal, being able to do both is the success differentiator, and this is where the contractor market comes into its own.
Over the last 2 years reduced notice periods have lessened client risk exposure, and we have seen contractor notice periods reduce from a month to 10 days, with some even less than that. This means businesses can react quicker, and this has been a boon to companies dealing with multiple waves of COVID-19-related business fluctuations.
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 is viable with now-consistent latency, and an uptick in video- and team-communication tools like Slack, Teams, Zoom etc have created the channels to keep on top of project timelines and iterative processes to meet deadlines.
Historically, clients have been reluctant to embrace the potential uplift of nearshore for a variety of reasons, none more so than remote working traditionally posing an “issue” to organisations. That mindset has been firmly put to bed. There were also concerns over an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it came to project delivery: many of those perceived barriers have been successfully broken down over the last 2 years.
BrightBox Group have three nearshore partners based in Eastern Europe. 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, they work to UK time zones, and these teams have been working hand-in-glove with clients across our 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 your business focus is managing fluctuations whilst reducing cost and maintaining quality and service efficacy, two crucial elements exist for clients to measure output and drive success: communication, and metrics.
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 suitable metrics and reports in place to support work and demonstrate delivery is crucial.
Agile methodology lends itself to this form of project delivery: regular sprints 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 can be used to steer decision making.
Professional services companies usually have these types of systems and processes in place. Companies that are new to embracing a more flexible workforce, or who do not already have this infrastructure, need to test which metrics and communicative channels work for them. With some focus and structure, this can be achieved quickly and effectively.
The bottom line
Global organisations have been benefiting from using flexible workforce solutions for some time. Smaller businesses are just starting to play catch up, spurred on by necessity in these uncertain times, while larger companies have been undergoing digital transformation and the slow move away from legacy ops.
The main challenge is ensuring long-term strategy, effective communication and the right IT infrastructure is in place to handle business changes ushered in by COVID-19.
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.