Looking to Scale Your Business? Start by Investing in Your Total Workforce

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To not only grow but also scale your business, your gains need to outpace your losses. Your growth is likely to stagnate if you simply continue trying to increase your revenue by adding more resources with a corresponding increase in costs. Eventually, you’ll get to a point where the effort to grow isn’t worth the financial gain.

Instead, you need a strategy for scaling your business that focuses on increasing revenue while also increasing efficiency. It has become increasingly clear to me through the years that, when trying to scale a business, the best way to start is by focusing on and investing in your workforce.

Understanding Who Your Workforce Really Is

Let’s start by defining the modern workforce. It’s no longer just full-time employees on your payroll. The way we work has changed. Companies are increasingly looking beyond their employee populations and turning to the external workforce, which comprises contingent workers (e.g., independent contractors, freelancers, and temporary labor) and services providers (e.g., consulting firms, IT outsourcers, and marketing agencies). These highly skilled external workers are critical to conducting business as usual and achieving broad business goals, from boosting organizational agility to increasing speed to market and improving customer experience.

According to recent research conducted by SAP Fieldglass in collaboration with Oxford Economics, the external workforce represents 42 percent of total workforce spend today, and that figure is expected to keep growing because of the flexibility the external workforce provides to both workers and organizations. However, that same study found that only 29 percent of executives strongly agree their organizations have a talent strategy that encompasses employees and external workers. That’s a big gap, but also a large opportunity to unlock the immense potential of all your people.

Companies spend billions of dollars every year on contingent workers and services providers. Although your procurement team may excel in managing the financial side of contracts, they stop short of managing the people aspects of these engagements — who is doing the work, access to sensitive data, quality of work, collaboration with internal teams, engagement and well-being, etc. This is where people managers, business leaders, HR, and procurement must come together cross-functionally. Long gone are the days when people management applied to payroll employees on a static career path. As you look to scale, it’s critically important to manage these people as valuable contributors to the business and not just a temporary piece of spend disconnected from the business.

The Power of a Positive Workplace Culture — for Full-Timers and Contingent Workers

Devoting time to your total workforce helps you grow and scale by attracting, developing, and retaining top talent, who are in turn more productive and loyal. When your people — whether internal and full-time or external and project-based — feel valued and supported, they will ardently share your vision and work hard to help your business succeed. More and more, employees and contingent workers alike are looking for positive workplace cultures. People today want to make a positive impact on their companies and their communities. An emphasis on corporate social responsibility, volunteering, and health and well-being is key.

So, where do you start in creating a positive work culture? Well, start by listening to your people. What do they need to succeed in their roles? What do they look for in leadership? how do they want to grow and engage with your company in the future?

For more expert HR insights, check out the latest issue of Recruiter.com Magazine:

A simple example of this is the growing desire to work remotely and maintain strong work relationships. The key here is providing your workforce with the flexibility to choose where to work and the autonomy to decide where they do their best work. Empowerment like this stimulates high productivity and trust.

According to Global Workplace Analytics, about 40 percent of the workforce today is working remotely at least some of the time. Simultaneously, people now care more about the integration between their personal and professional lives. Whether they are commuting into an office or not, employees value teamwork because they value their workplace friendships. In fact, Gensler’s “US Workplace Survey 2019” found that employees spend 49 percent of their time at work collaborating or socializing with coworkers. For those working virtually, today’s digital technologies enable workplace relationships to thrive despite team members being scattered around the country or the world.

This culture of collaboration is important when motivating full-time employees and contingent workers alike to perform at their best. I believe in more communication, networking, and learning and development for all. Even the simplest emails encouraging employees to take their vacation time — or sending notes to contingent workers about enjoying their holidays off — shows the company prioritizes worker well-being.

Creating a positive workplace culture also includes embracing an empathetic management style. According to IDC, “By 2023, 50 percent of G2000 organizations will measure and incentivize management empathy metrics as a part of their leadership’s balanced scorecard to positively impact revenue and brand value.” Although empathy is often regarded as a soft leadership skill, it is a critical driver of overall management performance. Research from global leadership consulting firm DDI points out that listening and responding with empathy is highly correlated with key management skills including coaching, engaging, and making sound decisions.

There are different ways to scale a business, but devoting time and focus on your total workforce is the place to start. When people feel valued and motivated, they will help you grow your business faster. Focus on building a positive workplace culture and an empathic management style, and you’ll see a modern workforce composed of employees and contingent professionals working side by side to achieve greatness for your business.

James Lee is chief operating offer for SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass.

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James Lee is chief operating officer at SAP Ariba and SAP Fieldglass.