Sink or swim: HR must adapt to new project-based workforce

by Stephanie Zillman11 Oct 2012

While project-based workforces allow organisations the freedom to quickly adapt to changing market conditions, HR increasingly has to deal with the fallout of burnt-out workers who are left to shoulder fluctuating workloads.

That’s according to new report findings by recruitment and consultancy firm Hudson, which after surveying more than 3,500 Australian employers, found project-based work is driving longer working hours. An overwhelming majority of employers (87.4%) reported their staff clock more than 40 hours per week and cited rising numbers of projects (65.7%) as the key driver behind longer hours.

And whilst operating with a project-based workforce offers many financial benefits, Matthew Franceschini from Entity Solutions recently told HC there are significant challenges for HR. In particular, rising staff turnover inevitably leads to increased workloads, and some HR professionals feel they are losing control of the talent sourcing process all together.

Burn-out is chief among the list of concerns, and the report revealed some 25% of employers find their staff to be feeling overwhelmed at work. “It’s important for companies to be mindful that [project-based work] can result in stress and longer working hours for employees, which is not healthy or sustainable for extended periods,” Mark Steyn, CEO of Hudson Asia Pacific said. To combat this it’s paramount that employers and HR ensure they are clear about roles and delivery expectations, as well as improve alignment of employee skill sets and job requirements, Steyn said. HR should also be ready to bring in interim hires to support employees at risk of burnout.

Do your candidates fit the brief?

According to Steyn, sophisticated soft skills are needed to thrive in this new world of work. “Skills that commanded a premium yesterday are no longer so valuable today. Organisations now need people who can operate in multiple dimensions, who have the ability to analyse information, prioritise and communicate with stakeholders. These sophisticated soft skills are among the hardest to measure but ultimately can deliver the greatest value. It is time recruitment methods reflected that.”

In the fast-paced, project-based working environment, success is often based on employees’ cognitive ability and behavioural traits, and the report singled out:

  • The ability to analyse information quickly
  • Prioritise and manage tasks effectively
  • Ability to communicate required actions and desired outcomes

Personality and psychometric testing, as well as benchmarking to assess these skills in candidates has never been more important to make sure have the right people are on the right projects.


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