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Solid Game Plan + Strong Hires = Successful Recovery

By Tim Smith, President, Thompson Technologies

Spring is well-underway, as is a forward-moving economy. One indicator that our economy is shifting in a positive direction is consecutive IT job growth during the first quarter of 2010. According to TechServe Alliance, IT employment grew in April, with an IT employment gain of .4 percent which represents more than 17,000 jobs over March. Since the low point in August 2009, employers have added more than 43,000 IT jobs to their payroll with the majority of those hires occurring in 2010.

While these numbers are promising, what we’re finding is continued caution on the part of companies to hire FTEs, but not as much trepidation for the use of contractors. Why? We believe the memories of staffing turbulence in 2008/2009 are still too fresh. Companies can’t afford to be aggressive in their hiring just yet, but at the same time, in an effort to move their business forward, they need to be fully prepared to implement mission-critical IT projects that have been benched during the past several months. Another factor hindering hiring is political issues in Washington—like healthcare reform. The decisions coming out of the White House will greatly impact the cost of benefits for full-time employees, making supplemental staff all the more appealing.

Considering the dichotomy most businesses face—cautious to hire yet desperate to move projects forward—we are seeing companies use contract staffing to fill their needs in effective ways. In fact, temporary jobs posted their first year-over-year increase since March 2007, and the percentage of temporary workers in the labor force rose to 1.55 percent. According to some Thompson clients, the ability to bring talent into their company with the exact skill set at the exact time that skill set is needed, has allowed them to be able to hit the ground running and immediately launch those projects that have been kept on hold.

“During periods of uncertainty in the economy, it’s important to have flexibility,” says Bruce Culbert, President, Cultech Executive Consulting.

To start, companies are leaning on contract IT professionals because of the opportunity for scalability. As companies start to ramp up their projects, they can also increase the size of their team with experts in the specific areas needed, without taking on additional overhead. This means companies can pick and choose the very pointed areas of expertise required to get an IT project up and off the ground quickly.

“Some of our work is project-based and therefore the staff that we currently have may or may not have the skill sets we need for a particular project,” says Mark Strader, Manager, Talent Acquisition at LexisNexis. “In order to stay competitive in the marketplace, we have to bring in extensions to our team.”

During a time when companies are focusing on revenue growth, the ability to start implementing projects in a timely manner will be key to rebuilding efforts. Equally important is the opportunity for companies to increase staff to meet the needs of their clients whose businesses are growing. Figuring out the right hiring mix is a fine line. However, not being fully prepared to hit the ground running when your customers say “go” could cost you their business.

“We work with partners to make sure they’re pipelining and getting the right team lined up so that we’re ready when the need arises,” says Culbert. “Using contractors is part of how we do business. We count on the fact that we can take our core expertise, consulting methodology and subject matter expertise in a given industry and supplement our skills to allow us to go into new business areas. It’s integral in our go-to-market strategy.”

Another reason many companies are turning to staffing partners is because a “career contract consultant’s” time to productivity is typically very quick, which can have a huge impact on the bottom-line of a project. “Career consultants are usually able to ramp up faster, they’re used to coming into a situation and getting up to speed very fast,” shares Strader. “When consultants are prepared, and companies like Thompson meet their clients’ project requirements, the transition is usually very seamless.”

It’s the companies that manage their operations well and prepare for what’s ahead that will succeed. And you can bet there are plenty of companies out there who are setting the stage to move forward; who will be ready and willing to take over the clients of those who do not do their due diligence in getting their talent sourcing options prepared. Companies might not be ramping up quite yet, but whether hiring, staffing or outsourcing is the solution to meet demand, putting a strategy in place is imperative.

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