Managing a Multi-Channel Workforce

A guide to solving the challenges of a multi-channel workforce

The multi-channel workforce is here. And it's believed to already represent 30-50% of the workforce. Discover more about the multi-channel workforce and how to manage it effectively below.

In this guide:

  • What is the multi-channel workforce
  • What challenges come with a multi-channel workforce
  • How to manage the multi-channel workforce effectively

What is the multi-channel workforce?

The multi-channel workforce is another name for the liquid workforce, where digital technology, social change and market forces are turning organisations on to a more flexible, scalable, elastic resourcing model.

It can be referred to as the multi-channel workforce as there are distinct channels used for the attraction and on-boarding of workers. These channels include:

  • Perm
  • Fixed term
  • Zero hours
  • Agency contract/temp
  • Freelance
  • Consultancy
  • Statement of Work engagements
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The advantages of using a multi-channel workforce come from the improved diversity and availability of resourcing options over the traditional permanent recruitment. For example, by adopting a multi-channel strategy you immediately overcome some of the location, salary, and time-to-hire problems of hiring permanent members of staff.

What challenges come with a multi-channel workforce?

The main issue resulting from managing a workforce that comes from a number of different channels is a decentralisation of reporting and management information.

In other words, if you source two different types of external resource, they'll usually end up being managed by two different systems.

And in the worst case, they'll bypass your systems entirely.

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The end result is a hidden workforce, where a lack of visibility and control creates security, compliance and regulatory risk.

As discussed in the guide to overcoming the challenges of managing a freelance workforce, the resulting problems include:

Apparent skills shortages
Without visibility of where and how freelancers are engaged in an organisation, it is possible for 'phantom' skills shortages to appear. For example, one department can have a number of freelance software developers engaged but underutilised, whilst another department could be struggling to find and hire freelancers with the same skills.

Unnecessary hiring
Frequently unnecessary hiring is a by-product of the apparent skills shortages caused by a lack of visibility. It's easy to see how an organisation, in it's desire to move projects along, can hire freelancers unnecessarily when they could have unseen, underutilised freelancers already engaged elsewhere.

Uncontrolled freelancer costs
Where there is a lack of visibility, no single point of 'truth', it's common for an organisation to be engaged with a number of very similar freelancers, doing very similar jobs, but paying very different rates. Of course, this creates cost inefficiencies (compounded by the unnecessary hiring and underutilisation factors).

No contracts
It's possible to engage a freelancer with as little as a verbal brief. Without a formal contract or statement of work, this exposes the organisation to a risk of incorrect or incomplete work being delivered.

Security issues
Unless there is a system in place to remove the freelancer from accessing sensitive business information when their contract finishes, freelancers with access to internal systems or those who are included on internal email distribution lists pose a data/information security risk.

Regulatory risks
An example of regulatory risk is the IR35 legislation in the UK. If a freelancer is deemed to be a 'disguised employee', both the freelancer and the organisation could be liable for financial penalties. Without the right checks being made, it is possible for a line manager to unknowingly create an IR35 risk by hiring a freelancer for a role that looks like employment.

How to manage the multi-channel workforce effectively

There are three core concepts to master in order to manage a multi-channel workforce:

Create a single view end-to-end view of your external workforce
Being able to make effective resourcing decisions starts with having a complete, accurate view of your current resourcing options, engagements and costs.

Integrate your systems
Any technology you use should connect and share important data. This means choosing FMS and/or VMS technologies that integrate with each other. Check out our buyers guide to choosing the right FMS for more information.

Build a system that's user-friendly and intuitive
It's basic human nature, people won't adopt to something new if it doesn't offer an improvement over the old way.

A proven method of ensuring adoption is to replace cumbersome legacy (or even manual) systems with modern FMS software offering customisable onboarding, intelligent project matching, configurable project milestones and bespoke reporting.

Useful resources

A Guide to Elastic Resourcing Models

A new elastic resourcing model offers a solution for enterprises and large organisations wanting to minimise risk as they push for growth.

Buyer's Guide: FMS Pricing Options

There are a number of factors to consider when assessing the right pricing model for your freelancer management system. Learn how to select the right one for your organisation with this guide.

The Rise of the Liquid Workforce

Gone are the days of the rigid organisational structure, today's forward thinking organisations are adopting a resourcing model that's much better at flexing and scaling.