Building a flexible workforce for the changing scientific and technical landscape

Three scientists working in a laboratory. Focus is on mature man typing on laptop.

While COVID-19 may have forced many businesses to put a closed sign on their door and bunker down for the last few months, for those in the food and pharmaceutical industries this hasn’t necessarily been the case. Shifts in demand, supply shortages, panic buying and household stocking, regulation and R&D process changes have made these sectors very busy.

According to Techstaff National Manager Alen Skaro, many organisations have recognised the benefits of on-hiring any new talent as a way to better manage these fluctuations in demand and production. “There is a lot of uncertainty moving forward,” Alen says. “Yet companies are needing to keep up with consumer demand right now, while reducing their own risks as much as possible into the future.”

The food and pharmaceutical industry are often driven by seasonal fluctuations, but 2020 has shown too, that global and economic uncertainty will have massive implications for these industries. This has inevitably seen organisations quickly adapt and become increasingly agile, having been forced to reassess business models and hiring strategies. So, just how can a flexible, on-hired workforce assist employers in science and tech, both now and into the future?


Managing seasonal impact

Science and technical industries are typically driven by seasonal change. For example, food and beverage companies typically ramp up production in the lead up to holidays such as Christmas and New Year, while the pharmaceutical industry is in higher demand during winter, when traditionally colds and flus run rampant. What 2020 has revealed too, is that in times of crisis and extreme uncertainty, traditional demand can shift quickly and both are very much an essential service for the public.

This sees a greater need for employers to be able to scale up quickly in response to these changing demands for short periods. This is something that an on-hired workforce can facilitate, allowing for labour shortfalls to be quickly met or can provide cover of existing staff in times of absentees, ensuring production levels remain consistent. With focussed workforce planning, on-hired workers are an effective means to address multiple shift requirements.

While many job seekers are understandably looking for more secure work, there are advantages to taking up causal on-hired work in a saturated market. It gives job seekers the chance to build a relationship with a recruitment company as well as networks within an organisation, learn about upcoming permanent job opportunities and prove their capabilities to hiring managers.

“Techstaff place scientific and technical professionals in what have been deemed as essential services during this time: food, pharmaceuticals, and industrial manufacturing as well,” Alen says. “All of these sectors have continued operating throughout the pandemic, as they’re a crucial component to people’s way of life. In fact, we’ve seen a greater demand for flexibility within these workforces, with companies pivoting into new products, or else significantly increasing their supply to meet consumer demand. This requires new employees for research, development, quality control and assurance, manufacturing, sales, and much more.”



Responding to a changing market

Consumer demand is always changing, and companies are constantly needing to adapt in order to cater to these shifts. A good example of this is the growing trend for health foods, gluten and dairy-free products and meat alternatives. In fact, between 2015 and 2020 Australia was the third-fastest-growing vegan market in the world, seeing 9.6% growth. As demand increases rapidly, Australia’s packaged vegan food market was set to reach $215 million by this year. The pandemic has only heightened this market as a greater number of people become more aware of their health, and as suspicion around meat-related illnesses reaches an all-time high.

Not only will greater demand in these areas most likely require a larger workforce, these may be relatively new and growing areas and products for many companies. For this reason, employers might not have the necessary skills within their current workforce, and will therefore require a set of specialist skills which can be on-hired to assist in the development of these products or projects. Once on-hired, this also gives an employee the opportunity to be considered for a permanent role if growth occurs within the organisation.


Managing risk

These are already uncertain times, and keeping up with new workplace laws changes to awards can be a time consuming and often costly endeavour for employers from a payroll and HR perspective. When on-hiring employees, a business becomes what is known as the Host employer, seeing the company on-hiring the worker absorbing all of the risk and costs associated with employee management and payroll, and ensuring all obligations and responsibilities are met with regard to employee entitlements.

It may initially appear that engagement through a labour-hire company costs a business more on a direct per hour basis, however Alen believes administrative support services, increased flexibility and overriding mitigation of risk makes labour-hire the most viable employment option for many producers at the moment.

Furthermore, the Fair Work Act, defines strict rules around the engagement of on-hired workers, meaning employers need to understand their obligations in order to mitigate employment risk. For this reason, engaging a specialist recruitment agency such as Techstaff, which on-hires hundreds of employees each year, can ensure all employee obligations are met.

In some instances, on-hiring employees provides a good opportunity for employers to determine whether an employee will be the right fit within a company and, in some instances, will  wish to keep an on-hired employee on as part of their permanent workforce. This can be facilitated through your labour-hire provider and sees best outcomes for both the employer and employee.


If you are looking talent, partner with a recruitment company that understands the specific needs of the science and technical industry, and contact Techstaff today.

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