By Claire West

The private sector is missing out on a key tool for the recovery by viewing a flexible workforce, comprising both permanent and temporary workers, as a way of avoiding permanent headcount, instead of as a way of tapping into new skills sets, according to new research out today.

The survey of 680 employees and 460 employers completed by Hays, the leading recruiting expert, in June 2010 found that just over 30 per cent of employers in the private sector report that 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.

Charles Logan, Director at Hays, comments: “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.”

Employers in the public sector have a more positive outlook on temporary workers, with 44 per cent 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 ten per cent of existing staff have changed their working patterns in the last 12 months.

Overall, 54 per cent 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 per cent of workers say their employers have a mixed view about flexible labour, with just 19 per cent 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, continues: “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 reexamining 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.”

For further information and access to the latest jobs visit www.hays.co.uk