As companies strive to find new and thoughtful ways to manage costs in their organization alternative staffing is a concept that has taken hold with many companies over the last several years. Alternative staffing refers to hiring individuals on a part-time or as needed basis, typically under short term contract and for specific services as opposed to full-time personnel.

Benefits of Alternative Staffing

Alternative staffing has a number of benefits for both employers and increasingly for employees as well who enjoy the increased flexibility and free time.

Benefits for Employers
  • More flexibility to adapt to changes in market conditions and labor requirements. The ability to adapt the labor pool to the immediate needs is a huge benefit if managed effectively.
  • Potential lower labor costs as companies don't need to hire full time staff for every role. Consider small companies that need an accountant for 5 hours a week, hiring a full time accountant is costly and a waste of resources when a long term relationship can be arranged with a part time resource.
  • Labor laws can be stringent around tax filings, severance packages, and different benefits paid. These are largely avoided by utilizing alternative staffing.
Benefits for Employees
  • More flexibility than traditional full time roles in choosing your work and managing your work schedule. This is a huge benefit for many individuals including parents and those that simply do not want to commit to a nine-to-five job.
  • Potentially higher income as individuals can contract their services to numerous companies and as part time staff often earns a higher pay rate than if they were working there full time.

Risks of Alternative Staffing

Alternative staffing does not come without it's downfalls for both employers and employees as for both parties the security of a long term hiring relationship is missing.

Risks for Employers
  • In a market upswing the labor market can become tight and finding qualified alternative staffing can become difficult. This can leave a company unable to find the resources they need to meet their commitments or objectives.
  • Turnover can be higher with alternative staffing, companies are not incredibly loyal to these individuals and the individuals are the same. If a better offer comes up for a temporary staff they can disappear quickly and the company is stuck having to look for new staff with short notice.
Risks for Employees
  • Employees have very little job security in alternative staffing solutions and can quickly find themselves looking for new work. In a market downturn when the labor pool is plentiful it can be difficult to replace a lost job.
  • Employees have to cover things like medical insurance themselves in many alternative staffing situations; as such they can find their overall costs increasing significantly.

Criticism's of Alternative Staffing

Many employee organizations, i.e. unions, are heavily critical of alternative staffing as they see it as companies simply trying to cut costs at the expense of employees. This is true in some cases, particularly with companies that employee less skilled labor.

For those in the skilled professional trades there is less criticism as many lawyers, accountants, and finance specialists greatly appreciate the flexibility and time freed up by working in alternative staffing environments. These people are higher earners, however, so they can afford working limited hours more than someone working at close to minimum wage.

So Is Alternative Staffing a Good Fit For Me?

Companies and individuals need to carefully weigh the benefits and risks outlined above in determining if an alternative staffing solution is something they want to pursue. For some this is a great fit while for others the risks may not be something they can tolerate or absorb.