Scott Erwin 25 February 2021

How to reduce spending on temporary staff and boost employee engagement

How to reduce spending on temporary staff and boost employee engagement image

There is no doubt that agency personnel offer valuable support for a multitude of areas within the public sector. This has been illustrated with the events of the past 12 months; during which we have seen exceptional levels of staff sickness, absence, and seesawing demand for local services. Yet an overreliance on a temporary workforce will not only send staffing costs rocketing, but it can also negatively influence employee morale and engagement.

Fortunately, there is an approach that allows leaders to balance budgets and unpredictability at the same time, one that requires rethinking attitudes to staffing. This approach is one I call ‘dynamic staffing’ and brings the elements of an agency mode into play, but without the higher costs. Setting full-time staffing levels to a minimum required for operational stability and using a flexible pool of workers to cover all other levels of demand, is how dynamic staffing combines the benefits of an agency approach with more stable budgeting.

To do this, there must be a clear distinction between static roles – those that have a fixed rota pattern, and do not change with demand – and dynamic roles – those that can be filled from a pool of people who work non-fixed hours.

This dynamic staffing allows leaders to respond swiftly to unpredictability. Once the overall proportion of permanent staff numbers and dynamic reserves are identified, you can begin mapping your dynamic reserve skills against your staffing needs. It is important to keep the following in mind when doing this:

  • Identify which skills are in demand.
  • Map the skills you already have available (in your reserves, or amongst staff you can transition to your reserves).
  • Map the skills you need against your operating hours to understand peaks and distribution.
  • Compare your operational needs to the skills and availability you have.
  • Recruit for skills gaps or availability gaps and prioritise those who can perform multiple skills.
  • Be intentional about hiring people seeking dynamic/flexible work and whose desired availability matches your shift needs.

We have seen this approach used in the NHS in recent years, resulting in great success in cutting staffing costs. Trusts have significantly reduced temporary worker spend by working alongside agencies and introducing a capped fee to ensure the costs are kept low, whilst also driving the money saved back into building a bank of staff for each healthcare location to dip into. This has enabled the NHS to save money whilst also allowing the bank staff the same flexibilities as if they were working for an agency.

Dominic Raymont, national workforce deployment lead, National Vaccination Programme at NHS England, led the NHS’s temporary staffing programme which has reduced agency cost by £1.2bn (a third) in three years. When I spoke to him recently, he described the benefits of using this model, not only in terms of reducing costs but also highlighting the employee benefits:

'Agencies are really good at providing short term staff into specialist roles and that's really where we want to be working with the agencies,' he said. 'Where we buy in lots and lots of staff from agencies, that is an area where some of them could be procured through banks which then gives that volume of staff available to the trusts and makes them less reliant on agency staff.'

This flexible ‘agency’ style bank model hints to a future of mobilising key workers as and when workload fluctuates, paving the way for significant reductions in staffing costs while employees can enjoy flexible working patterns and a better work/life balance.

Offering staff flexible hours, the ability to increase or decrease working hours depending on workflow or personal commitments, the choice to say no to working certain hours or days and the benefits of being able to schedule holiday easily and in response to a changing diary are invaluable. Bringing these types of employee benefits to a variety of roles could be the difference between building an engaged and motivated team or having to consistently outsource or recruit to cover staffing needs, as well as attracting and retaining people.

Scott Erwin is CEO and founder of HireHand

Protection is a two-way street image

Protection is a two-way street

Russ Langthorne outlines how the workforce can be protected from the debilitating effects of HAVS and WBV through real-time, accurate and objective monitoring and measurement.
SIGN UP
For your free daily news bulletin
Highways jobs

Administration Officer

The Coal Authority
£19,137 to £21,264
To apply please click the Apply Now link below. Mansfield, Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: The Coal Authority

Programme Assistant

City of York Council
£11.37 per hour
We are WorkwithYork and we are working with our client to find a Programme Assistant working with the Homes for Ukraine project. York, North Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of York Council

IT Security Manager

City of Bradford MDC
£42,614 - £47,665 pa
This is an exciting opportunity for an enthusiastic IT Security Manager Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of Bradford MDC

Recovery Support Worker x 3

Wakefield Council
£12,963.50 - 14,113.00
We are seeking to appoint suitably skilled, motivated and caring recovery support workers Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Wakefield Council

Transport Craftsperson

Wakefield Council
£25,927.00 - £28,226.00
You will be joining us at a very exciting time as we move to Featherstone later this year to a state of the art fleet maintenance facility Wakefield, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Wakefield Council

Partner Content

Circular highways is a necessity not an aspiration – and it’s within our grasp

Shell is helping power the journey towards a circular paving industry with Shell Bitumen LT R, a new product for roads that uses plastics destined for landfill as part of the additives to make the bitumen.

Support from Effective Energy Group for Local Authorities to Deliver £430m Sustainable Warmth Funded Energy Efficiency Projects

Effective Energy Group is now offering its support to the 40 Local Authorities who have received a share of the £430m to deliver their projects on the ground by surveying properties and installing measures.

Pay.UK – the next step in Bacs’ evolution

Dougie Belmore explains how one of the main interfaces between you and Bacs is about to change.