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Maximizing Growth: Four Advantages of Building a Flexible Workforce

David Pelyhes
April 4, 2024
min read

Amid a fantastic expo season, your sales and marketing teams have successfully secured a  flood of orders. With higher quantities and tight deadlines, your supply chain and operations team need to scale fast to make the most of the opportunity.

In this scenario, any companies struggle to handle the sudden rush of orders, resulting in unexpected challenges. Without a flexible team, you end up fighting fires, rather than strategically planning for the long term. Your team is stretched and unable to focus on their core competencies. Let’s take a look at what a flexible team looks like in today’s workplace and dive into the benefits using real-world examples from the JPG Talent team.

WhatDoes a Flexible Workforce Look Like?

During the pandemic, people tried out new ways of working, including taking on more freelancing and contract work. Recent surveys by OwlLabs and Korn Ferry confirm this trend towards more flexible working arrangements.

Korn Ferry’s research indicates that the number of global interim or short-term workers is expected to grow from 43 million in 2018 to roughly 78 million. The report goes on to suggest that a 70/30 split between full-time and contract workers creates a team with the ideal mix – a solid foundation that can be complemented with the right expertise at the right time.

Let’s explore why companies are turning to more flexible ways of working and uncover the benefits of a flexible workforce.

The Benefits of a Flexible Workforce

We spoke to three fractional experts at JPG Talent, to find out what it’s really like to jump in, fill gaps, and provide specialist expertise. Andrew Bott, Marko Matla, and Beth Brown give their first-hand experience of the benefits of a flexible workforce.

1. Increased Speed and Responsiveness to Challenges

When you get that sudden rush of orders, or if an important team member leaves, you need to be able to promptly respond to these changes.

Being ready to hire in a non-traditional way allows you to adapt and augment a team more quickly. You can bridge the gap with a specialist while you begin the process of hiring a full-time team member.

Fractional hires excel at making an immediate impact, so you save time and resources with a shorter onboarding period. Ultimately, a flexible workforce gives you the ability to scale along with operations and also the agility to evolve as supply chain needs fluctuate.

Marko Matla is a seasoned supply chain and operations professional with experience launching hundreds of unique products. He shares his story of how he helped a pouch manufacturer with manufacturing quality issues that arose just as orders substantially increased.

“They were in the middle of contract manufacturing negotiations. They were also having quality issues with some of their pouches that had been recalled,” he reveals,“So there was a lot to solve all at once and the issues were causing ‘out of stocks’ in the marketplace, which is never good.”

Marko came into run operations while the company looked for a new lead: “We came in with a very specific set of deliverables right off the bat which allowed the client time to search for a permanent COO.”

It was a nine-month process hiring the next COO, so being able to lean on Marko’s experience in the meantime allowed the company to solve their quality issues and keep processing orders.

“Speed and responsiveness are a huge part of this, as well as specialization and trust,”he adds.

2. Improved Cost Efficiency and Productivity

Flexible working arrangements offer cost efficiency because you only need to pay for the time you need from a hire. If you only have a budget for 25% of someone’s time, it’s harder to hire internally. But with fractional talent, you can hire for a project or short-term need.

Beth Brown excels in process improvement supply chain planning and product introductions.As a 20-year veteran of supply chain, procurement and operations roles, she shares her experience working with mid-size companies: “They could take projects on internally, but it's such a big learning curve that it would take much longer for them [internal team] to do that.”

“It's not cost-efficient,” she adds, “They're taking their resources and they're utilizing them in ways that don't make sense for the organization.”

Beth highlights the common misconception that contact hires are always more expensive than using internal resources.

She says: “Often, they will try to take on these projects and ask individuals on the internal team to start the project only to realize that it is a full-time job and what’s really needed is additional help with specialized expertise.”

Although specialist experience comes at a premium, when you bring in an expert who can execute on day one, you may get a far higher return on investment.

3. Access to Specialized Industry Expertise

Fractional or contract hiring gives you unique access to experts and specialists in your field. Much of the leading talent is highly skilled, mission-oriented, and project-based. These experts can quickly assess the situation based on previous experiences and strategize from day one.

They help you implement best practices and optimize existing processes for immediate and continued improvement. As Beth found from her own experience working with specialists, “The result is far less risky because your interim hire will not only deliver the specific ask but will also provide continuous improvement benefits.”

Andrew Bott has 15 years of CPG experience, specializing in solving complex supply chain and operations problems for growing companies. He gives an example of a seven-employee company that he joined as a fractional expert.

“Before I joined the team, the founder and CEO of the company was handling a lot of the operations work,” he reveals, adding, “She realized that she needed bandwidth on the operation side because it wasn't something that she knew how to do well and it wasn't her specialty.”

Andrew continues: “As a founder, she needed to focus on activities that were absolutely essential, such as promoting the brand, sales and marketing, and fundraising.”

On smaller start-ups, he says, “They may not have invested in people with experience. They have a lot of people that are more like generalists.”

Andrew believes that specialists in contrast “understand how to scale. They've seen things happen multiple times in different environments,” Andrew adds, “They know what can and will go wrong and can you know help companies navigate and avoid some of the potential pitfalls.”

Finally, he adds that fractional hires can even help founders “build a skill set, level up, and develop their areas of expertise”.

4. Not Overloading Your Team

Bringing in additional short-term support allows your team to focus on their core competencies. This keeps managers focused on high-level and strategic initiatives that benefit the whole business. It also helps your teams stay focused and reduces mistakes.

Beth reveals a distinction many companies miss: “Mid to larger size companies typically have the right staffing in place, generally speaking, but they don't usually have project staffing or project managers,” she says.

“So when they have new projects that are coming, specifically strategic projects, they just don't have enough staff. This requires staff to step out of their existing roles or to work on a project in addition to their existing roles.”

Marko highlights an example where he brought in four additional hires to sort out issues a company was having around supply chain, distribution, and fulfillment. This allowed the existing team to focus on keeping the business running while the interim experts worked on sales and operations planning.

“If you don't have your operations settled zero to six months out, then you can't properly plan out your projections,” he explains.

“They were in the business of firefighting,” he adds, “I don't think anybody had time to slow down and think because they were always firefighting.”

Bringing in these seasoned professionals to identify the most pressing issues allowed for more strategic long-term planning. 

“We removed all the noise that was happening on a daily basis and when you remove that noise the operations run a lot smoother,” Marko concludes.

Reap the Benefits of a Flexible Workforce

A mix of full-time, part-time, and contract or fractional employees offers the right balance for fast-growing businesses. Fractional experts can offer immediate value with strategic insights and invaluable experience.

A flexible mix of talent allows you to adapt quickly to busy periods and take on valuable extra projects without overextending your team.

JPG Talent matches food and beverage businesses with the highest quality fractional talent. Find out more about how JPG Talent can help your business grow with fractional experts.

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