Economic downturns typically make it easier for enterprises to fill open positions, as more workers are chasing fewer jobs.
That’s especially the case with contingent labor — freelancers, contractors, consultants and other workers in the gig economy — as they are typically easier to find and hire than full-time employees, whether for picking and packing in a warehouse, or for programming and IT management tasks.
The shelter-in-place orders intended to slow the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic led to an economic slowdown, with demand for many products and services falling dramatically, resulting in widespread layoffs. In April, for example, over 100,000 IT pros lost their jobs, according to Janco Associates.
Unusually for a downturn, though, some sectors have seen a surge in demand — for example in health care and e-commerce — while on the supply side, there have been additional constraints brought about by potential workers’ inability or unwillingness to travel.
This has led fill rates for vacancies in some areas to drop as low as 30 to 35 percent, when they would usually be around 65 to 70 percent, says SAP Fieldglass General Manager Arun Srinivasan, forcing businesses to look beyond their usual pool of applicants.
Any difficulties in filling vacancies are likely to increase in the coming months. “Coming out of the 2008 recession, … we saw how the engagement of external workers in their various forms increased,” he says. “We expect something similar coming out of this pandemic. We’re obviously still right in the midst of it.”
SAP’s Fieldglass is one of a number of HR management tools that enterprises can use to manage contingent workers. Workday and Oracle HCM also offer contingent labor management functions, and there are also more specialist tools such as Kronos, IQNavigator and Beeline.
One thing most of these tools have in common is that they require enterprises to strike their own deals with staffing providers and configure the system accordingly. They can also be customized to take account of businesses’ own interviewing and onboarding processes.
That’s all very well, but for anyone facing a local hiring crunch — or preparing for an economic upturn — building those relationships and configuring those systems can be an unnecessary drain on resources.
With Fieldglass External Talent Marketplace, SAP is offering enterprises in the U.S. a way to access a much larger labor pool, with access to workers from Adecco, Experis, KellyOCG, Randstad U.S. and Guidant Global and its staffing affiliates S.com, Corestaff and SRG.
Access to the marketplace is free for hiring firms and staffing firms in the U.S. through the end of the year, regardless of whether they are existing SAP customers — although of course hiring firms must pay workers in the usual way, and the staffing firms will continue to take their cut.
Enterprises can sign up online — it may take up to two days to verify their bona fides, says Srinivasan — and then they can search for workers or post vacancies using one of 100 or so ready-made job description templates or one of their own creation.
The marketplace has a few limitations compared to the regular version of Fieldglass: It’s a web interface, with no access to the usual Fieldglass APIs, and the workflow can’t be customized, so businesses will have to match their hiring process to it, rather than the other way around.
For Srinavasan, though, that’s compensated by the access to thousands of additional workers that the system will provide.
The marketplace is available only in the U.S. for now. SAP will consider launching it in other countries once it has seen how it fares in the U.S.