By Tor-Håkon Hellebostad, COO & Co-Founder, Globus.ai

Agility has become critical in recent months, providing organizations with a way to survive and navigate the ongoing uncertainty. As we shift towards recovery, again it’ll come to the forefront as a way of mitigating the risks of the economic crisis and pivot services to meet new demands. Workforce agility, in particular, will be increasingly vital as organizations look to acquire much-needed skills to fulfill their strategies.

Agility during COVID-19

We’ve seen many examples of workforce agility in-action over the past few months, from the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) adding 35,000 extra staff before the peak of the first COVID-19 wave. It drew talent from non-traditional talent pools including 1,788 retirees, 5,500 final year medical students, and 18,000 nursing students. Likewise, in New York, 40,000 health professionals volunteered to act as a surge health force as the pandemic spread.

Cost-effective

As well as helping organizations to meet sudden upswings in demand, building this kind of workforce agility is also cost-effective. As demand rises, the number of engaged workers can increase in-line with it. As it falls, the workforce can be downscaled. Given that we’ve lost an estimated $28 trillion due to the COVID-19 pandemic, being cost-effective with all resourcing is essential. And the financial stresses will continue, with the global economy contracting 4.4% during 2020 and expected to rebound lower than expected, at 5.2% in 2021.

So it’s little surprise that many organizations are turning to contingent talent to meet immediate skill needs while remaining cost-effective and agile. 80% of executives reported an increase in the use of contingent labor during the pandemic.

Meeting new pressures

This tactic will pay-off in the longterm, for all organizations, but particularly the healthcare sector that’s facing unprecedented pressures over the coming decade. There are the long-term consequences of the pandemic, the risks of future pandemics and epidemics, the aging population, and increased digital transformation.

The proportion of European people aged over 80 years is expected to rise from 5.8% in 2019 to 14.6% by 2100, putting additional strain on healthcare settings. Patients often present with multiple comorbid and complex conditions. This requires a multi-disciplinary approach and having a contingent workforce will enable organizations to quickly shift their workforce skills and gain temporary specialist skills to meet changing patient needs.

Plugging skills gaps

Tapping into the contingent workforce also helps to plug skills gaps. By 2035, there’s a projected shortage of 12.9 million healthcare professionals globally. This will be worsened by an approaching wave of professionals retiring. However, using a contingent workforce retains some of these individuals as part of an alumni talent pool. As witnessed during the pandemic, they can be engaged temporarily to help with surges.

Automation + contingent talent

Finally, coupling contingent talent with emerging technology like artificial intelligence (AI) and automation, offers another level of agility. Automation can do many mundane, time-consuming, and manual tasks, freeing up professionals to focus on value-added, human tasks like patient care and speaking with their families.

Agility provides the foundations for our future recovery and the way we use talent will be crucial. Building a contingent talent pool now will help organizations rise to the opportunities and challenges of the coming years.

Tor-Håkon Hellebostad, COO & Co-Founder at Globus.aiNorwegian AI company, developer of smart software for handling staffing needs: automating the placement process for healthcare staffing agencies.