A specialist recruiter has advised UK SMEs to draw on the country’s professional contracting community as an integral part of a long-term recruitment and flexible employment strategy.

Writing in SME news outlet Real Business, Richard Abelson, Director of specialist financial services recruiter MERJE, highlights a fundamental shift towards hiring Umbrella Company Employees and other contracting professionals to manage demand in uncertain economic times.

He proceeds to itemise reasons why more companies are leaning toward the contracting model as a long-term strategy to access vital skill sets without the need to add permanent staff to their payrolls. Businesses are increasingly drawing on their talents not only in times of turbulence but in times of growth as well.

Budgeting constraints and recruitment freezes on permanent roles have made contractors an increasingly attractive option for many SMEs, not least because seasoned flexible professionals are fast to adapt to new work environments and incentivised to go beyond what is expected. They know, Abelson says, that the quality of their performance determines whether they’ll be hired again.

The issues that Abelson itemises for SMEs to consider when contemplating a contracting solution are:

  1. Hiring urgency 

A contractor is almost always the best choice for time-sensitive business projects, Abelson explains. Recruiters can generally place an experienced contracting professional within two weeks at most, against the three months (or longer) often needed for recruiting permanent staff members.

  1. Expense 

While high day rates for contractors may seem less cost-effective than a permanent salary, this is only true if sustained on a long-term basis. As Abelson puts it, though the primary cost might be greater in the short-term, it is only for the contract’s duration, which means that the company is not caught paying an employee it no longer needs a high salary.

  1. Type of work 

Specific projects in need of urgent execution are ideally suited to skilled contractors who have the experience to handle complex tasks without delay.

  1. Type of situation 

Contractors are known to be able to help improve under-performing teams and bring them up to speed by example, providing fast solutions to urgent problems. They’re also an excellent solution for a common staffing predicament: covering a key role vacated by a departing staff member until a permanent hire can be made.

Abelson’s conclusion is that if SMEs are looking for a skilled individual to come in, finish the job and then drop off the payroll, then hiring a contractor via a flexible employment strategy is the best solution.

And, he adds: “if you build a bank of good, reliable freelancers, they’ll always be there should you need another pair of hands.”

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