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Do you really know your workforce

This blog post was originally published in HR News.

Julia Kermode, CEO of FCSA, discusses the role of flexible workers and the contribution they make to the UK workforce:

“Most politicians wax lyrical about the value of the flexible workforce. The Labour Party have recently been speaking out in support of the self-employed.  Business Secretary Sajid Javid delivered a resounding inaugural speech extolling the virtues of entrepreneurs, and confirmed what we already knew – that economic recovery is not attributable to politics but the hard work of individuals.

The UK’s flexible workforce, freelancers and contractors are playing a key role in that recovery – our own FCSA research shows that the UK’s flexible workforce constitutes 20% of workers which enables businesses to be agile.

However, a recent NAPF report entitled ‘Where’s the workforce in corporate reporting?’ highlights the lack of reporting on how businesses manage their workforces. The report suggests that if a business understands its workforce it can deploy it properly and goes on to recommend that corporations review the composition and stability of its workforce, its skills and capability as well as the motivation and engagement of the workforce. It also questions the employment model and its sustainability.

FCSA members play a key role in facilitating the engagement of contingent workers and see first-hand the value that this flexible resource is adding to UK plc. It is pleasing to see that the NAPF is putting human capital at the centre of its agenda and it is important to me and our members that the voice of the flexible worker is heard and its value recognised by business and the decision makers who hire them.

The NAPF report also highlighted that only 11% of FTSE companies measure the number of temporary workers they take on. Indeed, it is possible that HR departments don’t even know how many temporary workers are working within their organisations. A marketing team might outsource the design of a publication to a specialist firm – is that a person working freelance or a business?

In reality it could be both. Or a large firm might outsource an entire business function, such as dispatch, and their chosen firm might use temporary workers. This is a procurement decision without HR input being necessary. But who is responsible for the welfare of the workers?

Presumably the firm fulfilling that outsourced function; however, there would be an outcry if workers were being exploited. Public perception would surely expect the large firm to have some responsibility for ensuring adequate practices are being carried out in the firm undertaking the outsourced function.

Some might argue that the contingent workforce is an invisible workforce and they deserve a voice as they are so important to UK prosperity. So, I would urge all businesses to be better informed of the number of contractors and freelancers who are working within their midst. They are the key to your future success.”