You sit at your desk wishing you could turn back time. Three months ago, the HR Business Partner who works with your most profitable division shared the news that she was expecting her first child. After the hugs and congratulations, you immediately got to work on a detailed coverage plan by divvying up her work among the team. You remember thinking, “This is a strong team and three months will go by fast, right?” Wrong. Now you are dealing with two resignations on the team due to burn out. You just hung up with the HR Business Partner, who is returning from leave shortly, to prepare her for a new set of challenges when she gets back.
The Case for Fractional HR Talent
I share this anecdote because this scenario is more common than many leaders realize. In order to be more competitive, many companies are expanding parental leave policies by offering longer maternity leaves and by better promoting paternity leave options. In order to keep up with growth, companies are also dealing with more unfilled positions and the need to bring in project-based talent. In an effort to make good use of company resources, it is tempting to try to cover these openings by “making do.” Although well intended, this strategy can sometimes be the more costly option.
As more organizations are embracing flexible leave policies, it is not surprising that companies are also leveraging flexible coverage strategies. This concept is not new. Functions like Finance and Legal have been leveraging fractional talent for over a decade. Not only is the business case for fractional HR talent highly compelling for companies, but I have discovered hundreds of highly talented HR professionals who choose fractional work. Just as there is a gig economy for things like errands and rides, there is a thriving gig economy for highly skilled HR talent—from HR Business Partners to Benefits.
Here are five reasons to consider the use of fractional HR talent:
1. Avoid Productivity Loss.
Fractional talent is a great way to smooth out spikes in work demands – whether from an employee absence or the regular business cycle. While it is tempting to redistribute extra work to existing staff, increasing workloads may actually reduce productivity. According to one study, 31% of CFOs cited increased workload as the greatest cause of lost productivity. In the same study, nearly 60% of employees considered an open senior leadership role an impediment to productivity.
2. Prevent the Loss of Talent.
Fractional HR talent also goes a long way in reducing turnover. The statistics on the high cost of turnover are not new, ranging from 50% of salary for entry level, all the way up to 200% of salary for executive level positions. When our HR teams face a temporary talent gap or a large spike in work, we often see an additional loss of talent in response to the excess demands on already highly taxed staff. Bringing in skilled resources to bridge these gaps can ultimately be a cost saving compared to the high costs of replacing team members due to burnout. Furthermore, fractional talent gives peace of mind to the employee on leave, knowing they will return to work in a way that sets them up for success.
3. Support Gender Diversity Programs.
I often encourage my clients that have invested heavily in gender diversity programs to consider flexible coverage strategies. If we are going to make the investment in high potential women, the idea of losing them to something as predictable as the adjustment to starting a family just does not make sense. According to Lean In author, Sheryl Sandberg, 43% of highly qualified women with children are leaving careers or off-ramping for a period of time. Fractional talent is a great way to build a bridge and create scenarios that high performing women want to come back to.
4. Gain Access to New Thinking.
An often unexpected benefit of bringing in fractional HR talent is the infusion of new ideas and perspectives. I often advise clients facing down a talent gap to carefully consider the work that needs to be done. It might be a great time to temporarily bring in a new set of expertise. Not only will your projects get a boost, but remaining staff will gain exposure to new skills and ideas that will become part of their own talent portfolio.
5. Scaling HR.
As our organizations grow, so does the role of the human resources function. What was once possible with a person and a payroll system, suddenly requires a team with varied expertise. As with most high growth organizations, growth is not subtle and often feels like it comes without warning. Fractional HR talent can be invaluable as companies look to scale their HR function without taking their eye off of their primary business goals. Not only will your people processes run smoothly, but you will set up a strong infrastructure for when it is time to make those positions permanent.
The decision to leverage fractional talent should be carefully evaluated on a case by case basis. I recommend that companies weigh the risks of each need by considering factors such as the development path of those going on leave, the workload and skill set of the team in place, the revenue at risk, and anticipated growth. To learn more about Inspire’s Interim HR Services, contact me at [email protected] or (917) 612-8571.