December 3, 2021

It’s Not Just Employees That Are Hard to Find—It Now Takes 41% Longer to Secure a Contingent Worker

Steven Williams
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While there has been much media attention on companies’ current struggles to fill employee openings, there is an underappreciated parallel story in contingent labor markets. Brightfield’s TDX platform allows us to track how timelines are changing to find contingent workers for specific skills and locations. Over the past 12 months, the average time required to find, vet, and start a contingent worker in the U.S. has increased by 41%.

We will be publishing a full report on our findings soon, including details on how some companies are speeding up their processes to fill contingent openings faster. In the meantime, I wanted to share some of the main findings from our data analysis.

It Now Takes 41% Longer to Secure a Contingent Worker in the U.S., and IT Workers are Especially Tricky

The average time required to find, vet, and start a contingent worker in the U.S. has increased 41%, from 29 days in Q4 2020 to 41 days in Q3 2021 (See Figure 1). TDX tracks companies’ Time to Start (TTS), which is the number of days between when a new request is released to suppliers and when the contingent worker starts the assignment. The time to find and start a contingent worker has become worse for all main job classes, but especially so for the IT job class. IT TTS went from 39 days on average in Q4 2020 up to 58 days on average in Q3 2021. This is a 19-day, or 49%, increase. This slowdown is forcing IT managers to push back timelines for delivering critical IT projects or turn to (often unnecessarily) higher-cost options.

Average Time to Start a Contingent Assignment (Weekdays)

Counter to Intuition, Higher Bill Rates Do Not Correspond to Improved Speed

Surprisingly, there is no overall correlation between paying higher bill rates and finding a contingent worker faster. Companies using TDX can examine not only the Time to Start but also component phases of the process to find, vet, and onboard contingent workers. For example, TDX also tracks Time to Fill (TTF), which measures the number of days between when the request is released to suppliers and when the worker is found and approved.

We looked at the correlation coefficients between TTF and the bill rate for individual assignments. The correlations are near-zero, indicating that in aggregate, there is no statistical relationship between an assignment’s bill rate and how quickly the worker is found (See Figure 2). While increasing bill rates across the board do not correlate to faster TTF, our analysis does suggest for some roles (and locations) right now, and there are material returns to increasing bill rates. For example, increasing a Full Stack Developer bill rate by 25% reduces TTF by 34% in the U.S. TDX’s Fillability tool and new Rate Intelligence tools allow users to understand which specific changes to a request (e.g., changes to bill rate, location, experience level, contract length) will speed up TTF and by how much (See the TDX screenshot in Figure 3).

Relationship Between Contingent Assignments’ Bill Rates and their Time to Fill (Oct 2020 through Sep 2021)
TDX Screenshot

While Finding the Worker is Half of the Battle, Getting Them Started is Even Harder

In addition to Time to Start and Time to Fill, TDX also tracks Time to Onboard (TTO), which is the number of days between when the request is filled and when the worker starts the assignment (the days consumed by background checks, administrative processes, and setting up access to systems and/or facilities). TDX shows us that the time required to onboard workers is becoming a much bigger problem than the time to find the worker. The average TTO increased from 13 days in Q4 2020 to 22 days in Q3 2021, a nine-day increase (69%). In comparison, the average TTF increased from 16 days to 19 days, which is only a three-day increase (a 19% increase). As with TTS, the situation is particularly bad with IT roles. The TTO for IT workers has increased to a full month; it now takes roughly two weeks longer than at the end of 2020 (See Figure 4). Brightfield’s Customer Success teams have been helping our customers pinpoint where their Time to Onboard is particularly slow and advising them on ways to speed up the onboarding process (Note: this will be a topic for a future post).

Average Time to Onboard, by Job Class (in Weekdays)

We See Expanding Interest in Diagnosing and Improving Contract Labor Supply Chain Performance

The dramatic slowdown in the time to find and start contingent workers has many line managers in a panic and has put tremendous pressure on the Procurement, HR, and Sourcing executives in charge of contingent workforce programs. As the problem of securing contract labor has been playing out across industries, we at Brightfield have seen a spike in interest in our TDX Platform. TDX offers the world’s deepest dataset and most robust analytic tools related to contract work; TDX allows companies to:

  1. Diagnose and improve their contract labor supply chain performance
  2. Track quickly changing markets for specific skillsets at specific locations around the world
  3. Understand ways to find great workers faster without needlessly over-paying
  4. Shape their contract labor buyers’ behavior in real-time

If you are interested in learning more about TDX and Brightfield’s support, please let us know.

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