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  • Richard Blow

Variable Workers, A Growing Trend in Today’s Workplace.

With a skills shortage across all sectors and industries, is now the time to re-assess FTE’s vs a variable workforce?

With the employment rate the lowest in 48 years and the skills shortage set to continue for the foreseeable future, for many businesses it is becoming increasingly difficult to keep resources at a level that aligns with demand. Competition for talent is fierce. It is critical to consider building a workforce that consists of both regular full-time employees (FTE) and variable workers or contractors for specific requirements.

The modern employment landscape is a far cry from that of 10, let alone 20 years ago. Personal views on life and work have changed. People are switching jobs and industries, moving from traditional to non-traditional roles. How people interact and communicate has changed dramatically. Technology has reshaped everyday life in ways earlier generations could not have imagined possible. Covid fuelled a skills exodus, in addition, lockdowns prompted many ‘boomers’ to re-evaluate their work-life priorities. As a result, record numbers quit their jobs or took early retirement in a trend the media coined ‘The Great Resignation.’ This exacerbated candidate-short pressure meaning demand for experienced and specialised FTE’s exceeded supply. The resulting momentum is fuelling a long list of skills in demand.

These changes have heralded a higher proportion of workers choosing to join the variable workforce rather than find full time employment. Working in this way better fits their personal lives and gives them greater flexibility. They fill gaps in a company’s workforce during periods of short-term growth, organisational change or for a specific project/need within an organisation. The terms contractor, contingent worker/interim worker/interim expert/interim executive/interim specialist/subject matter expert (SME) are all widely used to describe members of this variable labour pool.

You know what you want to achieve, your team is great, but you need to boost your capabilities to get the result you are after. More and more businesses now engage contractors and interim expertise to cover staffing and skills gaps as they arise.

Advantages (And Challenges) Of A Variable Workforce

Access to expertise and filling skills gaps

Interim workers (contractors) are often highly talented individuals with a specific skill set. It is hard to have expertise in all areas within any permanent workforce. Looking to a contractor is a way to cover any shortcomings in your workforce’s skills. Opting for a contractor gives your company access to the specialised expertise that you may only need on a project-by-project basis.

Immediate productivity

Most contractors will require little training, if any, to begin the project. It will take them less time to dive in and start making a difference than a regular new hire. Using experienced companies like Performance Drivers can help decrease the time it takes to hire a subject matter expert or contractor.

Flexible/hire per project

Hiring on a project-by-project basis allows you to fill specific needs as they arise for your company and at the skill level needed for the specific project. It also means that, if your company needs to re-work budgets and costs, you are not obligated to renew a contract after it ends. In general, hiring contractors is a wise move for businesses since it enables them to grow or shrink their workforce as they see fit.


Having contractors as part of your workforce makes a lot of financial sense for many SMEs. You only pay them for as long as you need them and only for the work they do. You agree on a price for the work you need, pay it, and get the input you need from the worker. Many contractors are flexible with their hours and do not always work full days or weeks if they have completed necessary tasks within the given timeframes.

Fresh outlooks

A company does not always need a new employee. Often, all that is required are some new perspectives. Being too close to day-to-day operations makes it harder to see paths for improvement. A contractor with industry experience, but no close ties to the company, may see things more clearly. That fresh perspective could make all the difference to a company’s strategic direction.

Easier, swifter hiring

Hiring full time employees for your business is often a complicated process to solve a simple problem. You need to add talent and skills to your organisation so that you can grow. That is simple enough, but in practice doing so takes lots of time and effort. You must perform a talent search, interview process, and then onboard your new hire. There’s far less red tape if you choose contractors. Experienced, highly skilled contractors are often available at short notice and able to hit the ground running.

Challenges Of A Variable Workforce

It is rare for any business decision to be all ‘upside.’ Choosing to use contractors is no exception. The 4 most common concerns held by businesses when hiring contractors directly are:

Control and oversight: Contractors are not your employees. You should always provide them with a detailed outline of what is expected of them.

Screening and trust: Overlooking the screening process can cause significant problems down the line.

Team building and culture: This is a drawback when using contractors on a significant scale. It is less relevant if you only contract outside professionals now and again.

Regulatory Compliance: Regulation can be complex when it comes to variable workers. With rules, regulations and compliance changing according to how they are set up to trade.

There may be challenges when using contractors but that does not mean you should not do so. By working with companies like Performance Drivers you can have flexible and timely access to the expertise you need and significantly mitigate any potential downside.

How Performance Divers Can Help

Performance Drivers is a locally based, Australian owned and operated SME established in 2000. We provide expert management consultants and interim contractors to public and private sector clients nationally. The services provided by Performance Drivers are supported by our core team of proven business professionals, respectfully called “Grey-Haired Gurus.” Each has demonstrated results in their chosen discipline and operates at the highest ethical and professional standard.

Whether you need advice, have a short-term staffing need, or a complex and evolving project; we will work with you, to provide the professional technical, operational or management expertise you need, to get the work done and rapidly achieve results.


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