The Tom Sawyer Approach to Launching a Workforce Optimization Initiative

“He [Tom Sawyer] had discovered a great law of human action without knowing it – namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain.” – from Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer

The quote from Twain’s seminal work illustrated the wisdom gained by the novel’s young protagonist, Tom Sawyer, upon learning that he could persuade people to do unpleasant tasks by simply promoting the appearance of exclusivity. No one (Tom included) wants to spend a Saturday tediously painting a fence. But being told it was an important task that no one else could successfully complete was enough to make Tom’s cohorts covet the task. Ultimately begging Tom to allow them the honor of wielding the brush, he obliged, allowing young master Sawyer to sit in the shade along the banks of the Mississippi and eat a crisp apple.

So it goes with workforce management. Taking a page from Tom Sawyer, in order to extract the potential benefits of active workforce planning, perhaps CFOs and CHROs should be told that truly effective workforce optimization is limited to only a few select, elite organizations. In reality, every organization could derive ongoing savings through workforce optimization, therefore adding significant heft to revenues. Below are the top ways workforce optimization acts as a revenue generator if properly executed.

Improved Productivity

Active workforce optimization programs focus intently on sourcing the most appropriate candidates for positions, taking specific considerations into account beyond simply matching skill sets. A responsive provider can ensure other intangibles such as cultural alignment and temperament of candidates to ensure that the contractors engaged can operate at the highest levels of efficiency. This translates into higher levels of productivity and increased business activity.

Increased Efficiency

Workforce optimization tactics are shown to reduce turnover rates among contingent workers. Better sourcing practices and policies yield savings on sourcing and hiring while also ensuring greater quality work without the interruption commonly associated with turnover and retraining. Ensuring optimal balance between direct hire and contractors (core vs. non-core analysis) is a function of a solid workforce optimization program. Moreover, using contractors as a pathway to permanent positions lowers costs of sourcing and training direct hires. This all can translate into bottom line savings.


Maintaining a robust and optimized contingent workforce program enables an organization to easily ramp up and down to meet with the ebb and flow of business cycles. It does so without locking the organization into too many direct-hire positions which can be a drag on profitability at ebb time. Moreover, it enables an organization to be more responsive to emerging opportunities by having the processes and policies in place to accommodate any level of workforce requirements without the need for extensive planning and preparations.

Subtly suggest to your CFO that workforce optimization may be an idea too sophisticated for your organization and see how quickly you can be sitting pretty while workforce management begins adding to your company’s bottom line!

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