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Private sector sees temporary or interim staff as a way of reducing headcount rather than as a source of new skills

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The private sector is missing out on a key tool for the recovery by viewing a flexible workforce as a way of avoiding permanent headcount, instead of as a way of tapping into new skillsets, according to new findings.

The survey, of 680 workers and 460 employees completed by recruiter Hays in June 2010, found 30% of employers in the private sector report the greatest motivation for using temporary, contract or interim workers is to avoid permanent headcount, whereas the greatest motivation for public-sector employers is to access specific skill sets.

Employers in the public sector have a more positive outlook on temporary workers, with 44% citing them as essential to the success of their organisation. Just a third of their private-sector counterparts agree and they tend to see temporary workers more as a cost-reduction tactic.
 
The majority of employers in the private and public sectors say that up to 10% of existing staff have changed their working patterns in the past 12 months.
 
Overall, 54% of employers believe organisations need to recognise the benefits brought by a mix of temporary and permanent staff. But the view is less positive from the perspective of employees; 59% of workers say their employers have a mixed view about flexible labour, with less than one in five (19%) convinced that their employers see flexible labour as integral to their success.
 
On average, public-sector employers also rated the use of a flexible workforce as more important to their team and organisation’s success. As the focus on driving efficiencies and budget cuts continues to intensify the benefits of a flexible workforce will become even more prevalent.

Charles Logan, director at Hays, said: "As we start to see signs of an improvement in the economy, a flexible workforce will be essential in allowing businesses to grow, without the commitment of a permanent member of staff. The private sector could be missing the opportunity to use a flexible workforce as a key part of their plans, to take better advantage of the upturn and drive recovery.
 
"These findings underline the importance of a flexible workforce to the British economy. During the recent downturn, organisations of every size and sector struggled, which led to them re-examining their workforce and ensuring they could adapt to the changing conditions.
 
"As we move forward and the public sector is faced with major transformation, talented professionals will be needed to manage this period of change. In particular, skills will be required in change and project management, budgetary control, procurement, HR transformation and outsourcing. As transformation takes effect and the line between the two sectors continues to blur, a flexible workforce will be a key component of any successful organisation."