Alternative staffing

From CEOpedia | Management online

Alternative staffing is also known as alternative work arrangements. They refer to situations in which either the employee is provided by an intermediary, or the employee's time, place and quantity of work is potentially uncertain. The 1995 February CPS supplement rules out four alternative employment arrangements: independent contractors, on-call workers, temporary help agency workers and workers provided by contract firms [1].

The independent contractors refer to individuals working as freelance workers or independent consultants, in the character of wage and salary workers as well as the self-employeed. On call workers, are notified and granted work only as needed, however they can be assigned a schedule which covers a particular amount of time (ex. couple of days or weeks). The temporary help agency workers include people receiving payment from temporary help agencies, however it is not determined that their job must be temporary, as opposed to the payment. The last type of alternative staffing - workers provided by contract firms - refer to the arrangement, in which a particular firm acquires employees, by cooperating with another company who outsources it's employees. These type of workers usually provide their services at the customers worksite and are assigned only to one customer [2].

Organizations engaged in alternative staffing

For the last 20 years, staffing services have greatly developed in matching workers and jobs. These organizations function both as the employee, as well as the employer. To the workers who are outsourced they are the employer, by providing them with a job opportunity, and to the firm who actually benefits from said worker, these companies function as employees, by delivering a service. These intermediaries ca be divided into three groups [3]:

  • Community based organizations - their activities are focused on employment and economic development. The utmost importance for this type of organization is employment access, job quality and job transition. They mainly provide temporary employment, due to the fact that it has become a primary means of hiring in many cases.
  • Non-governmental organizations - mainly concerned with the improvement of job quality and access for disadvantaged workers. These individuals include people who have limited experience in the job market or/and who have came across barriers in the search for employment due to their personal history and/or current family or life situation.
  • Fee-for service job-brokering - for-profit organizations focused on providing regular staffing or temporary help. The workers outsourced by these organizations tend to be low-skilled as well as mid-skilled. As opposed to professionals, workers bearing fewer skills are limited in areas such as lateral mobility over the development of their careers and posess less mechanisms able to facilitate their access to employment.

Examples of Alternative staffing

  • Independent Contractors: Independent contractors are individuals who work for themselves and can be hired on a project-by-project basis. Unlike regular employees, independent contractors are not entitled to benefits, vacation pay or overtime pay.
  • On-Call Workers: On-call workers are those who are called in on an as-needed basis. They are usually paid an hourly wage, but may not be given any benefits or vacation pay. On-call workers often fill in for regular employees when they are absent or on vacation.
  • Temporary Help Agency Workers: Temporary help agency workers are employed by temporary help agencies, which provide temporary workers to businesses on a short-term basis. These workers are usually paid an hourly wage and are not entitled to benefits or vacation pay.
  • Contract Firms: Contract firms provide workers to businesses on a long-term basis. These workers are usually paid a salary or an hourly wage, but are not entitled to benefits or vacation pay. Contract firms are often used to fill specialized positions or for large projects.

Advantages of Alternative staffing

Alternative staffing can provide many advantages to a business. These include:

  • Greater flexibility - Alternative staffing offers businesses the ability to adjust their workforce to meet changing needs. For example, if demand for a product or service increases, businesses can quickly and easily increase their workforce to accommodate the additional demand.
  • Cost savings - Hiring alternative staff can be cheaper than hiring full-time employees. This is because businesses don’t have to pay the same benefits and other costs associated with full-time employees.
  • Ability to use specialized skills - Alternative staffing is a great way for businesses to bring in specialized skills for specific projects or tasks. For example, if a business is looking for someone with expertise in a certain area, they can quickly and easily find someone with the right skills for the job.
  • Reduced risk - Hiring alternative staff can help businesses reduce their risk. This is because businesses don’t have to commit to long-term contracts or commit to paying wages for a long period of time.
  • Increased productivity - Hiring alternative staff can help businesses increase their productivity. This is because businesses can access the right skills and resources quickly and easily to get a job done.

Limitations of Alternative staffing

Alternative staffing has several limitations that employers should be aware of. These include:

  • Lack of control over the quality of work: Since the employee is not directly employed by the company, there is no guarantee of the quality of work they will produce.
  • Difficult to monitor: It can be difficult to monitor the progress of a project when using alternative staffing, as the employer will not have direct contact with the employee.
  • Limited benefits: Alternative staffing arrangements typically do not provide the same benefits as a permanent employee, such as health insurance or vacation pay.
  • Potential legal issues: There can be confusion over the legal status of the employee, as the intermediary may not be considered the employer for certain legal purposes.
  • Increased costs: Using alternative staffing can be more expensive in the long run, as the intermediary may take a portion of the employee's wages, and there are additional costs associated with finding and managing the staff.

Other approaches related to Alternative staffing

Alternative staffing is a type of work arrangement in which an employee is provided by an intermediary or the employee's time, place and quantity of work is uncertain. Other approaches related to alternative staffing include:

  • Job sharing, in which two or more employees share the same role and responsibilities, with each person working part-time hours and earning a fraction of the salary of a full-time employee.
  • Telecommuting, in which an employee works from home or another remote location.
  • Contract work, in which an employee is hired on a short-term or project basis.
  • Freelance work, in which an employee is hired on a project-by-project basis and is not employed by a company on a regular basis.

In all of these arrangements, employees may have flexible hours and can often work from home or a remote location. These types of arrangements offer employers a cost-effective and flexible way to staff their business.


  1. A.E. Polivka 1996, p.6
  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2018
  3. F. Carré, J. Herranz Jr. , D. Seavey, C. Vickers , A. Aull, R. Keegan 2003 p. 6

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Author: Marta Marzec