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How Interim and Contract Recruitment Strategies Can Help Businesses Become More Agile and Responsive

With market volatility continuing to blight the economy, the ability for property businesses to be able to react swiftly to market changes is proving more vital than ever. And whilst there are many ways organisations can adapt their business model to a challenging economic climate, some overheads are harder to temper than others.

With recruitment costs representing one of the largest overheads for most organisations, a sudden downtown in turnover can put many small-medium enterprises and independent businesses under increasing financial pressure.

In this article, Julian Murray, Head of Contract & Interim Recruitment at Deverell Smith, talks us through how using temporary and contract workers can not only cushion and protect property businesses against market volatility, but how they can help firms become more responsive and agile in a world of increasing uncertainty.

Using contract workers to respond to changes in workload

“A lot of the property employers that we work with operate on a project by project basis. How much output is required on each project and where they are within that cycle can vary quite significantly. Instead of having a large, permanent workforce, which you pay for whether you are busy or riding out a quiet period, our clients are looking to consolidate into a smaller, core workforce that forms the framework of their business, supported by a highly skilled, contract or interim workforce.”

“This enables businesses to have a more flexible approach – in busy times, those who follow a more rigid, fixed workforce structure may be unable to meet their agreed deadlines when additional work comes in, whereas those who have a more flexible structure, and are adaptable to having contractors come in, can upscale further than those who don’t.

“Conversely, when things quieten down, those with flexible workforces can scale back, and don’t have staff sitting idle which frees up financial resources to use elsewhere in the business or later down the line. Contract workers help businesses to control costs at the same time as providing the capacity to deliver more than might otherwise have been possible with a rigid workforce.”

Using contract workers to speed up the Recruitment Process

“The recruitment process for contractors is generally much faster than for permanent recruitment for several of key reasons.”

  1. With permanent property recruitment, when committing to a salary liability and all the added benefits and costs that are associated with a full-time contract, employers use a far more rigorous recruitment process, with more stages of interviewing or referencing. A high level of sign off may also be required so timelines are often pushed out through this process.

 

  1. The property recruitment process to fill some vacancies can take up to six months – clients will generally have an advert out for 3 or 4 weeks, with a further week needed to review resumes and book interviews. By the time a candidate has been interviewed and selected as the preferred candidate, salary negotiated and waited out their notice period, it can be a six-month process. With contractors, quite often you can post a job and be conducting interviews the following week, as it’s far more likely that a contractor has a short, if not zero notice period. Because contractors move through jobs more regularly, it’s more likely they are ready to start immediately, so it is not uncommon for us to fill jobs, even in senior and technical roles, within a couple of weeks.

 

  1. If a client is experiencing a sudden uplift in business activity, seeking out a permanent candidate could mean that the project has moved in to a completely different cycle by the time that person starts. Therefore, many organisations can’t react quickly enough and often don’t hire a permanent member of staff as they have concerns about ongoing availability of work after a project has ended to make that salary cost effective. This is when the work can often get pushed onto overworked, existing staff and the quality of work can fall short of what is expected.

Using Contract Workers to Fill a Skills Gap

“The property industry consists of numerous highly skilled organisations – consultancies, builders, developers – and they’re hiring people with hard to find skill sets. If a client’s business is going through a growth period, they can upscale with contractors to meet that demand. If six months down the line their business is still growing, they have the opportunity, in many cases, to offer the contractors a permanent role in full knowledge of what they’re capable of.”

“Taking on a contractor whilst undertaking a permanent recruitment search provides our clients with the flexibility and confidence to find the best person for the role, not the next person for the role. Our clients consistently tell us that hiring the right people is critical to their success and this strategy provides the platform to make this happen.”

Using contract workers to build morale

“Whilst some businesses may prefer to take on staff on a full-time basis, hiring permanent staff when projects pick up and then firing them when projects end, or the market takes a turn for the worst, can have an adverse effect on their reputation in the recruitment market. Very career-driven individuals are put off applying for jobs at organisations that are known to apply the ‘first in, first out’ rule. Staff being hired and fired on a regular basis can impact internal organisational culture, which inevitably leads to attrition.”

“Whilst it’s important to have a core group in-house that can whether the storm in a tough market, one of the leading causes of long term staff leaving their jobs in highly skill-short markets is being overworked. If a rush of new work comes in, it is unlikely that staff are immediately going to get a salary increase – they will be doing extra hours, taking on extra stress, so staff leave as they don’t feel rewarded for the extra work they are doing. Permanent staff are therefore appreciative of contract workers who come in to relieve the pressure when activity does pick up.

“In addition, the perception of contractors coming in and out of a business is very different to permanent staff coming in and out. When permanent staff feel safe and secure in their positions, they are more likely to be loyal, work harder and be more productive.”

Other benefits for using interim and contract recruitment solutions:

Faster Induction Process

“Professional property interims are used to adjusting to a new workplace. They are used to picking up new systems and processes, new IT platforms, and adapting to new ways of working. Conversely, when you employ someone who has come from a job they have been doing for 5-10 years, they are far more likely to need additional support to adapt to new systems and ways of thinking than someone who does it a few times a year.”

Contractors are Loyal and Flexible

“Contractors who are treated correctly can be very loyal as that is how they get repeat business. It is common for contractors to return to previous clients where a need arises, without any need to induct. Because a contractor’s job description is more flexible, they are more likely to be amenable to going from one task to another. A permanent staff member being asked to do additional work outside of their job description is far more likely to feel aggrieved.”

Additional Talent Pool

“The property labour market is increasingly moving towards a flexible, less formal, interim marketplace and by opening your organisation up to the interim market, clients are exposed to a much bigger candidate pool. Some people only work as contractors – if you don’t consider these people then they are not an option for your business.

“If an organisation is operating in a highly skill-short market and they eliminate a proportion of suitable candidates solely on the basis that they want someone permanently, they are reducing their talent pool and the likelihood of finding the right person.”

If you would like to discuss contract and interim property recruitment opportunities with Deverell Smith, please contact Julian Murray, Head of Contract & Interim Placements, on 020 7291 0907 or julian.murray@deverellsmith.com.