Discovery’s Award-WinningFlexible-Staffing Strategy

Discovery’s Flexible Staffing Group saved the
company more than $10 million from 2008 to 2010, while increasing
its overall operating efficiencies. Two years ago, Discovery’s
HR department was tasked with reducing costs. That could have
been easy, but department honchos didn’t want to sacrifice staffing levels in any division or reduce benefits for workers, according
to Tyler Benjamin, vice president of global talent management.

It was determined that the costs associated with the company’s
contingency workforce were out of whack and difficult to manage
and that outside recruiting firms were often charging Discovery
huge sums of money to manage those employees, Benjamin said.

“The system for [hiring and classifying] independent contractor and freelance workers was
messy and uncomfortable for everyone,” Benjamin said. “So we decided to do an audit and
we realized we were paying high markups to the recruiting agencies and those workers were
often being misclassified, which could have significant tax implications for us. We decided to
go in-house with these functions.”

Discovery’s HR department created the Flexible Staffing Group to develop a system for
sourcing, presenting, tracking and classifying independent workers for tax-reporting purposes.
The group also negotiates reasonable rates with staffing agencies and manages relationships
with an external payroll provider.

Today, the FSG has four members — a director, two recruiters and an administrator — but
Benjamin expects that number to increase over time as the company continues to expand.

Discovery’s HR team was careful not to move too quickly with this program. For example,
the company held off including the IT department in the initial overhaul until there were assurances
that the workload and department performance wouldn’t be negatively affected.

The IT department had a lot of contractors and freelancers and HR found that it was not easy
finding qualified temp workers, so the FSG group waited for more than a year to fold that department
into the overall corporate program.

Since the new program was launched in late 2007, the number of overall temporary workers
has declined significantly. The reduction was partly a result of some staffers moving from
“perma-lancer” status to full-time employment. Though that made the workers eligible for
company benefits, the costs were often off set by the drastic reduction in outside agency fees.
In 2007, Discovery counted about 1,000 independent contractor and freelance workers. Today,
that number stands at about 500.

The initiative has been so successful that Discovery is now
auditing its international operations with plans to launch a
similar program overseas, Benjamin said.

Before moving into his current role, Benjamin was director
of organization and talent management for Discovery
Networks International in London. He was responsible for succession
planning, setting strategy and implementing plans for
a new recruitment system.