Just-in-time (JIT) labor is a customized staffing model that ensures you have the right resources with the right talent in the right place at the right time. In the past 20 years, the use of JIT labor by in-house creative groups has grown from less than 10% to nearly 30% and is predicted to increase over the next few years. When developing your staffing plan, JIT labor provides creative leaders with an alternative to adding full-time staff and other traditional staff augmentation techniques.

Having a well-run and effective JIT workforce will allow you to meet project deadlines and peak workloads and maintain high-quality deliverables while minimizing your fixed/overhead costs. Utilizing JIT labor enables creative leaders to:

  • Find and utilize specialized skills on an as-needed basis to produce the marketing and communications products needed to support your company's business objectives.
  • Provide the skills and capacity needed during peak workloads.
  • Manage their business in a cost-effective manner by lowering labor/personnel expenses.

Benefits of JIT labor include:


  • Decreased downtime and improved utilization rates
  • Minimized need for additional full-time and part-time headcount
  • Reduced administrative costs
  • Eliminated need of medical and other benefits (usually >30% over full time salaries)
  • Reduced facility and IT costs as many of your JIT pool can work remotely and use their own equipment

Find and Utilize Specialized Skills on an As Needed Basis


The best use of JIT labor is to bring in this external talent for a project that is not part of the core competency of your group. These professionals provide specialization and niche services. For example, if clients bring you the occasional Web project but you have a staff of print designers, rather than turn that work away, bring in JIT staff to do the work. Or, if you have a staff of technical writers and editors but need a writer of another skill, bring in JIT talent to write executive summaries, marketing and sales collateral, Web content or a communications plan when the need arises.

Bringing on JIT talent enables you to assign projects to people who have the best skills and expertise to address the objectives of the project. Quality is improved as these creative professionals handle projects that are not part of the competency of your permanent staff and when utilized correctly, this pool of professionals will contribute significantly to your current staff's capabilities. JIT labor allows you the means to hire the valuable talent that you couldn't justify hiring full time.

Provides the Skills and Capacity You Need When You Need It

A JIT labor model allows for flexibility to support the peaks and valleys of your business with no impact to your fixed costs such as overhead and benefits. A best-in-class JIT labor team should include talent that are available during your busiest demand periods, as well as outside of standard business hours within that period and across the year. In addition, your JIT labor may not need to be locally sourced. Opening up your JIT labor search to the full national market and even the global market will increase the effectiveness (both cost and quality) of your JIT team. An added benefit of offshoring is the ability to leverage time zones to add production hours on projects.

Run Your Business in a Cost-Effective Manner

Many companies today are have frozen or are still aiming to reduce labor costs. Creative leaders can leverage a JIT labor model to create a buffer to economic oscillations. Upper management will appreciate your initiative for introducing an effective cost containment strategy which prioritizes spending money only when you need to and cutting and minimizing fixed costs.

Getting Started

Establishing a JIT resource pool isn't difficult if you follow these steps:

1. Define your JIT pool capacity and timing requirements. Identify where, when and for what duration JIT labor will be beneficial. When considering how many JIT laborers to contract with, err on the high end as these high-performing pros are very marketable and in demand and won't always be available when you have a need. In addition, you will need to regularly (at least quarterly) reach out to your JIT labor pool to verify their near-term availability.

2. Define your JIT pool skill set requirements. Identify the skill sets and talents you need to augment your existing staff. The ideal staffing mix includes a full-time staff for the assignments your shop routinely gets and JIT for strategic, highly specialized projects that are not consistently requested.

3. Identify sources of these talents. You will need to source JIT labor from multiple sources. Consider using staffing agencies, independent consultants (freelancers), former employees (from your current company and past companies) and certainly request referrals from your staff and network.

4. Develop a process for bringing on JIT professionals. There are strict IRS rules around the classification and requirements around 1099 contractors. In addition, some companies require independent contractors to carry liability insurance and take a drug test to work for them. Work with your HR and/or purchasing department to mitigate any risk and liability and to ensure that company policies are being followed and are in compliance.

Finally, it is important to develop solid relationships with your JIT staff. These people will become an extension of your permanent staff and work best when they are treated as part of your team. And, if you like the quality of their work, their work ethic and they are a good fit with your corporate culture, full-time team and clients, you have a win-win and a valuable resource for future projects.