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Along with festive store decorations and blow-out sales, nothing signals the beginning of the holidays more than help wanted ads for seasonal workers. A recent report from outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas, forecasts retailers could hire over 800,000 people willing to lend a hand during the last three months of 2014, numbers not seen since 1999. Even more optimistically, a Harris poll found that 42 percent of these companies expect to transition some seasonal staff members into full-time, permanent roles.

Seasonal hiring is only the tip of the iceberg. The nature of employment is undergoing a groundbreaking transformation. According to a recent Oxford Economics report entitled, “Workforce 2020”, a hefty 83 percent of surveyed executives say they are increasingly using consultants, intermittent employees, or contingent workers ‒ at any time, on an ongoing basis. And, the rise of non-payroll positions is forcing change on companies, with 42 percent of executives saying it is affecting their workforce strategy.

It sounds like a much more complicated workplace, especially for human resources (HR). But Arun Srinivasan, Vice President of Marketing and Strategy at Fieldglass, says it doesn’t have to be that way. Fieldglass is recognized as a leading technology provider for procuring and managing contingent labor and services. Srinivasan believes companies can simplify workforce management with a structured, scalable model that allows managers to pinpoint workforce gaps, measure performance results against company metrics, and take action before major problems occur.

“The secret lies in a company’s ability to breaking down the larger corporate goals from the management level, all the way down to each individual worker’s contribution. For example, Fieldglass complements all of the existing solutions in SAP’s rich portfolio, thriving at the intersection of procurement and HR. Combined with SuccessFactors and Ariba, we provide customers with a complete spend management and workforce management offering.”

To find out how this kind of centralized insight might play out in the real workplace, I had a conversation with Marc Farrugia, Vice President, Human Resources at Sun Communities. He told me his company has taken its HR processes into the cloud with compelling business results.

“We truly now have an end-to-end solution. The amount of efficiencies we’ve gained by having onboarding means that HR does no data entry. We just announced a very large acquisition that will grow the company’s size by one-third in terms of revenue. I’m very excited about the fact that our latest, very large acquisition doesn’t mean we have to expand the HR department again because we have the tools that we need to support the growth.”

Already relying on SuccessFactors to meet the usability demands of a seasonal and diverse staff, Farrugia is looking for even more potential value from integrating with solutions like Fieldglass.

“I’m very interested in Fieldglass to see how it can help us manage our large contingent workforce. We have very little visibility into those employees. I’d like to see who that subset of the population is.  If they’re stronger performers, maybe we bring them in-house.”

All signs point to a more flexible 2020 workforce as alternatives to the traditional relationships between employer and employee grow in popularity. But how can companies put in place the culture, processes, and technologies to manage these new relationships with valuable workers who may or may not be actual employees? That’s a question that needs to be answered for all seasons.

Follow me @smgaler

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