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Flexible resourcing: how to hire tactically in 2021

Coronavirus has forced every organisation to work in a different way and revolutionised how we use technology. But faced with a shortage of technical skills to support this, how can organisations ensure they stay ahead of the game in months to come? Mark Skelton looks at the advantages of flexible resourcing. 

The Covid-19 pandemic changed the way businesses adopted and utilised technology almost overnight. Lockdown ushered in a new era of remote working, and more and more businesses have become reliant on cloud and video conferencing tools.

The uncertainty also brought an uptick in cybercrime, with many opportunist hackers looking to exploit newly extended and unsecure networks. Ultimately, 2020 saw a rapid rate of IT change, which has exacerbated an already glaring skills gap. As it stands, nine in 10 (88%) organisations admit they have a significant shortage of digital skills, harming productivity, efficiency and competitiveness, according to an Open University report.

This rapid rate of change is now one of the most crucial resourcing challenges for businesses across all sectors. With lockdown increasing the urgency behind digital transformation, the pandemic has exposed the glaring IT skills gap amongst the UK’s workforce.

With current IT teams struggling to keep up with the constant pace of change, and the UK’s education system isn’t generating enough candidates with the appropriate skill sets, 56% of businesses are being negatively affected by the growing skills gap, the OU’s research confirms.

Short skilled and short-staffed

With this ever-increasing rate of change, IT departments have been playing catch up. New software that has been a lifeline during lockdown also brings an entirely new set of demands, which IT teams simply cannot accommodate on top of their day jobs. Dealing with the issues associated with the unfamiliar digital territory can often be a full-time job on its own. These new demands, after all, are likely to become more time consuming and require a specialist skillset themselves.

As organisations continue to push through the uncertainty, the evidence could not be more apparent – IT needs help. It’s time we looked further than the technology and explored how IT teams can adapt and thrive at a resourcing level.

The skills gap isn’t complex to comprehend; organisations are understaffed to deal with the demands they are faced with. Moreover, they often don’t have the time to allocate to train staff and keep up to date with all the new tech, on top of looking for new employees to remedy the situation with permanent resources.

The pandemic has exposed a lack of expertise in the market and the need to adapt, and quickly. Compounding the rapid evolution of various digital platforms, and their increased adoption, there is also the need to consider changes to markets, sectors, consumer habits, client demands, budget limitations and customer relationships.

It’s understandable why an existing cohort of IT professionals within an organisation would struggle to keep up with everything, on top of their traditional day-to-day duties. To expect a new full-time employee to hit the ground running across all of those considerations, as well, is a stretch too far.

Maximising resourcing while reducing risk

As a result of the inherent risks, and organisations’ revised financing models after a tough year, many are realising they can cover the costs of external services, such as flexible resourcing, much more efficiently than hiring a new full-time employee.

Flexible resourcing mitigates many of the challenges put forward regarding both this year’s pressure points and the broader skills gap they have revealed. The pandemic has simply increased this need.

What’s more, we don’t know what is around the corner considering the current state of affairs with the pandemic, and having flexible resourcing allows businesses to scale up and down resourcing as business performance and needs change.”

The process of flexible resourcing includes hiring the number of people and the skills you need at isolated intervals, for specific projects or individual strategies. Pinpointing the requisite level of skill and expertise for that purpose increases the likelihood of a successful outcome, in a more cost-effective way that doesn’t weigh down payroll long-term.

What’s more, we don’t know what is around the corner considering the current state of affairs with the pandemic, and having flexible resourcing allows businesses to scale up and down resourcing as business performance and needs change.

It also reduces the amount of maintenance required with a large-scale resourcing arrangement. The talent that’s incorporated into the organisation is managed externally as part of the process, which frees up existing internal resources to focus on the longer-term strands of the company.

To this end, a flexible resourcing service must be built on ‘right first-time’ deployment, bespoke to each specific need, and inclusive of all vetting, onboarding and aforementioned management. Done properly, results include practical and effective problem solving and solution support via highly skilled engineers, tailored engagement support, access to qualified Full Time Equivalent (FTE) and partner resources, and an adaptable working relationship throughout.

Looking longer term

The current uncertainty highlights the need for flexible resourcing as a form of short-term crisis relief. However, from a budgetary and operational standpoint, flexible resourcing is just as applicable beyond the pandemic.

For a large portion of IT projects, there is simply no need for a business to hire and onboard permanent staff. Businesses can look to maximise both their resources and their IT projects by supplementing their primary workforce with specialist temporary hires and external services.

Additionally, this is as effective for HR evolutions as it is for IT fluctuations. Without the pandemic, the issues associated with the new off-payroll rules for private sector companies (IR35) would have caused its own set of resourcing concerns (indeed, it is still scheduled to do so next year).

In anticipation of this regulation, businesses have been quick to release key contractors and freelancers to avoid failing compliance, which has also played a significant role in widening the tech skills gap this year.

A flexible resourcing approach is one way in which companies can reduce the risks posed by IR35. By no means does it bypass the risk entirely, but with the appropriate framing and engagement, businesses can rely on external services that have specific engagements and clear deliverables. Ultimately, this would allow businesses to maximise projects and remain IR35 compliant.

Indeed, it appears that having a dedicated team of specialists supplementing your workforce is not just the ideal solution for the crisis-ridden year of 2020. Instead, this highly adaptable approach signals to the future of IT resourcing.

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