A flexible future: Why businesses need a flexible workforce now

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We’re not alone anymore.

As much as we might think Australian businesses are cut off from the rest of the world, the truth is, we’re more connected than we might think.

A few good years after the global financial crisis made us think we were immune. And the most recent GDP data from March 2016 shows our economy is continuing to grow, now in its 24th year without a recession.

But we can’t get complacent. And business owners can’t, either.

Australia is more connected to the rest of the world than ever before. Global trends like negative interest rates in Japan, massive layoffs in construction in China and the ongoing United States election battle have a huge impact on us.

(As much as we might find the prospect of President Trump entertaining, there’s no doubt the next leader of the free world will have a huge impact on our markets.)

And that means local businesses need to think differently. If change can come at any time, from any direction, we need to be able to think – and act – quickly. As our Prime Minister has said many times, we need to be able to think in an agile way.

One of the ways businesses can do that is by making structural improvements to a cost we’re always going to have – the labour force.

While there has been a variety of public discussion over the past few years regarding the “casualisation” of the Australian work force, the fact remains that flexible employment remains a benefit for both employers, and employees.

Australian businesses will be impacted by the rest of the world – this can’t be avoided. But if you want to insulate yourself as much as possible, here are some things you should consider:

Agility

Think about the stock market this year. (Even though you probably don’t want to.)

For the first opening weeks of 2016, markets have flailed wildly. Oil prices, Chinese manufacturing and even negative interest rates in Japan have seen shares take a dive.

Can we really expect businesses not to be affected by this type of movement?

These aren’t just normal market movements, either. We’re seeing change on a massive scale. The shift to clean energy. The rise of the happy wheels self-driving car. The game is changing for everyone.

Businesses need to be nimble and respond to sudden changes. Having a flexible workforce means companies can respond to economic conditions without the ongoing burden of fixed costs. An agile business is an efficient business.

This is a positive development for employees, also. When businesses experience an influx of work, the ability to pass that work down to employees results in more hours and higher wages.

Flexibility

Creating a flexible workforce isn’t just the priority of businesses in labour-heavy industries such as warehousing – people are seeking this type of work for themselves. The rise of businesses like Uber, Airbnb and other sharing services show there is clear demand among employees to work flexible hours.

A recent survey by Edelman Berland found up to 30% of Australians are doing some sort of freelance work, with those under 35 years of age more likely to be working as freelancers, (along with those over 55).

Indeed, the Australian Bureau of Statistics has found casual employees are significantly younger, with 39.9% of all casuals aged under 25 years.

Younger employees aren’t just more able to work a flexible schedule – they want to in order to fit work commitments around school and other career-building pursuits.

The economy of the future is one in which young people are able to make money from a wide range of opportunities. (The introducing of coding into schools is laying the groundwork for this.)

For them, flexible work isn’t a burden. It’s an opportunity for them to pursue their goals.

Businesses on the move

There are a variety of businesses already making this structural improvements, particularly in warehousing and food production, which can be subject to cyclical trends.

For instance, Bendigo chicken producer Hazeldene has been shifting to a casualised work force over the past few years, while Woolworths has also introduced labour hire agreements for its warehouses.

The introduction of flexible labour is not just for smaller businesses, then – but companies of all sizes.

Have you considered flexible labour for your own business? We provide a comprehensive suite of labour solutions – Please contact us on 1300 268 986 to find out what can we do for you!

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Labour Solutions Australia Pty Ltd specialises in temporary, permanent and outsourced workforce solutions with a strong focus on Food Processing, Civil and Building Construction, Mining and Engineering, Transport and Logistics, Manufacturing and Agribusiness staffing needs.

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