How do shift-based workers fit in your contingent labor workforce?

April 21, 2022

If you’re responsible for in-house recruitment/talent acquisition your contingent workforce needs to effectively bolt onto your permanent workforce. Allowing you to scale seamlessly and align with your business needs.

 If you work in an agency supporting your clients, using this style of workforce means you need to respond quickly, get shifts filled and make sure you get the right people, in the right place, at the right time.

Both in-house recruiters and agencies need to keep on top of compliance and cater for complex rate calculations.

At JoinedUp by Beeline, we specialise in the delivery of solutions within a typically shift-based and/or high-volume and/or on-demand labor ready environment against the backdrop of often complex and legislative rates and rules.

In this blog, we define the shift-based workforce and explore the characteristics that drive growth, success and quality - and attract experienced people - in businesses across many industries.

The shift-based workforce is a part of the contingent workforce. The shift-based workforce is typically seen as unskilled, but this isn’t always the case. Look at teachers, social workers or call center workers – these are skilled people, working at a business on an assignment basis, but with additional skills. They can be on assignment for a couple of hours, days, weeks or months.

“Businesses spend $1.7 trillion globally on the non-employee workforce annually.” 

It’s becoming the norm for people to work remotely, flexibly, and in patterns that suit them and their employers. They want to work in ways that fit their lives, just as employers want to bring in workers as and when they need them.

Shift-based workers are a growing category of the workforce: working in industries where demand fluctuates, supply is increasingly volatile, and trends pick up steam at an unprecedented pace. Many organizations look towards these types of workers to gain a competitive edge. But managing these workers can be costly, as well as an administrative burden that’s often plagued with mistakes and inaccuracies.

Different businesses and sectors have different needs. A business may need to place a large number of people, such as pickers, packers and drivers, for multiple shifts, at different times in different locations, to meet seasonal or production demand. Or a school may need a teacher on an assignment basis, where relevant qualifications, checks and availability will need to be considered.

For some clients high-volume can be a dozen people, whilst for others it could be a couple of hundred or even thousands at large sites or over multiple locations.

The contingent workforce: shift-based encapsulates numerous variables. A mixture of permanent staff, topped up with shift-based assignment workers that can scale-up and down based on need. Businesses benefit from this flexibility and resource.

Definition: what is a shift-based workforce?

The shift-based workforce consists of large numbers of shift workers, who bolt-on to the existing permanent workforce to scale with business needs. These help businesses adapt to seasonality, or other fluctuations in demand and even unpredictability in supply. These may be multiple people doing the same role, such as picking fruit or packing boxes, or it may be multiple people in one place doing numerous different tasks/roles at different intervals for a specific period of time.

As well as being able to scale the number of workers, shift-based workforces can access the skills, talent and expertise that they need, when they need it. Calling on this category of talent can help businesses quickly exploit market opportunities, without burdening themselves with the risk that comes with hiring lots of permanent staff.

But there are some important management considerations that should be taken into account.  With more workers, the greater the need to ensure compliance with necessary labor laws, the more difficult it is to assess candidates suitability for particular temporary job roles, and even more troublesome to track who has the necessary training and onboarding.

For decades, recruitment teams were responsible for managing this lengthy process. This means they would need to:

  1. Manually review candidates, contacting each individually to check availability for shifts.
  2. Recall (with an encyclopaedic-level knowledge) labor laws, shift patterns, compliance and job requirements.
  3. Review clock-in, clock-out times and calculate pay rates based on hours worked, the rates paid for the shift and job they were completing, as well as consider any laws or regulations that apply to that individual – perhaps even based on their union membership.
  4. Regulation and labor laws: for globally-operating companies, the local laws need to be considered for every worker, which can be impacted by their length of service and number of hours worked, for example.

Characteristics of a shift-based workforce


Traditionally, temporary workers would be hired on an assignment-by-assignment basis. For businesses that respond to big swings in demand – where it’s inefficient to pay a worker for an individual assignment, because the work simply doesn’t suit that model – this approach doesn’t work.

Shift-based workers can range from drivers and hospitality workers, to call center staff and many others, each of which can’t realistically operate on an assignment basis.

There are also greater qualification requirements needed: call center staff need onboarding and training before they can set to work, as do hospitality workers and many other types of workers. Think of a factory worker, assisting with the assembly of a widget, a temporary worker without the right level of training may be unlikely to perform as well as a trained-up candidate.


The flexibility of the shift-based workforce is its biggest advantage: yet also its biggest management challenge. Workforces need to grow and shrink to adapt to demand, and this large turnover of workers presents a number of challenges for recruitment teams:

  • How are candidates selected?
  • Which workers have been fully trained?
  • Which workers need onboarding?
  • Who meets the requirements of the role?
  • Who is available to work this time?
  • What about candidates that don’t have availability for the entirety of the labour gap?

In a warehouse, school, factory or transport setting, these needs change as often as daily, or as infrequently as 6-monthly intervals. If permanent workers are unavailable, you might also need to bring in assistance within a matter of hours.


On the other side of the coin, more businesses are using shift-based workers to become more profitable, efficient and agile. The availability of skilled workers can become an issue in any industry, at any point.

This lack of security and internal data presents an issue: how do you know what the market is truly like for workers you need?

Conversely, are you overpaying for these types of workers? Are the market conditions ripe and offer an opportunity for you to grow your bottom line?

Naturally, any organization with useful data, reports and sophisticated forecasts put themselves in a great position to move ahead of their competitors: making sure you have access to the talent you need, at the right time and the right price.

A JoinedUp approach

The business case for using shift-based workforces is clear: but what many organizations are missing are the controls, tools and reporting mechanisms they need to efficiently organise a high-volume workforce in the optimal way.

JoinedUp is helping organizations better manage their shift-based workforce – making these organizations better able to use their budget, ensuring they become more profitable and agile, whilst becoming more efficient and data-driven in their labor strategies.

JoinedUp are also helping agencies that place the shift-based workforce by improving processes, increasing efficiency and profitability. As well as supporting relationships between agency and clients through improved communication, transparent reporting and a real-time view of the shift fulfilment.

Learn more about how we can help you achieve your goals by using our robust solutions. Contact one of our consultants for an informal discussion about your needs and how our platform will save you time and money.