Resources: Contingency in the Workplace is Great!

The business-world is full of essays lauding the advent of the contingent worker, or at least prepping companies to take advantage of it (selling their services to companies trying to deal with contingency).

I’m reading these in the context of adjunct labor and an essay I’m writing for Chronicle Vitae. I see strong parallels. Here are some examples.

Intriguingly, more and more people are choosing a contingent work style.

Some contingent workers say they are seeking better work/life balance; others want to create or design their own careers by choosing the kind of work or projects that create a unique set of skills, making them more desirable prospective employees. Contingent employment can expose individuals to a broad variety of challenges, demanding constant learning and new skills, which make work more interesting for them.

Often, contingent workers say that it was their full-time employment experience that convinced them to strike out on their own.

A sea change in the U.S. workforce is swelling. Over the past 10 years, companies looking for alternatives to the traditional employee work model have increasingly turned to contingent arrangements. Recent data suggests that 30-40% of American workers hold part-time, temporary, or contract positions. According to a Randstad Workforce360 Study, two out of three U.S. companies are already using contingent workers. Moreover, while U.S. companies lead the world in using temporary workers as a core part of their business strategy, surveys show the rest of the world is not far behind in the quest for new work paradigms as the economic issues contributing to this shift become globalised. Business executives, in-house counsel, and HR professionals must strategically analyse legal issues surrounding the contingent workforce to stay ahead. This article addresses the key issues you need to understand.

We live in an on-demand world where speed is everything and companies better be prepared to keep up, or get left behind.

Modern companies are faced with moment-to-moment fluctuations in reaction to market demands that require quick decision making and agility to adapt to new trends. But these characteristics are rarely seen in large organizations.

To meet these new demands, companies are realizing they must change the way they view their workforce, and many are shifting toward a contingent workforce.  

  • FBN cites a report by Accenture. It’s pretty long. They want to advise the HR departments of the future to gain agility and talent by using an “Extended workforce.”

To compete in the future, organizations will need to push talent management beyond the confines of the enterprise wall to include the new extended workforce: a global network of outside contractors, outsourcing partners, vendors, strategic partners and other nontraditional workers. By maximizing the potential of both an extended workforce and permanent employees, companies can gain critical advantages—including agility and access to valuable talent.

I started my business as a workplace consultant in 2004, and since then I have seen more people take a similar employment path. A government report in 2006 said that 31 percent of the American work force was independent or contingent, a category that encompasses contractors, temporary workers and the self-employed, among others.

A strong part of me is thrilled with this. I generally like being a contingent worker. I’m a self-disciplined go-getter with two children, ages 1 and 4, so I enjoy having the independence to do what I need to do when I need to do it.

But, to be honest, I’m also tired. Tired of having to sell myself to a new client every week. Tired of worrying if I will earn enough in a year to cover child care and household expenses. And tired of dealing with the administrative and tax problems that inevitably crop up with self-employment. Another part of me yearns for the predictability, social outlets and built-in networking opportunities of previous jobs at big companies.

The piece also mentions a Freelancers Union, which is interesting.

Dissent from CBS Money Watch: “With job growth still weak in the U.S., another trend poses both an opportunity and a challenge for American workers: The explosion in temporary and part-time employment.”

One Reply to “Resources: Contingency in the Workplace is Great!”

  1. DavidG says:

    Big fuss in the UK over zero-hours contracts, including much use in care-worker applications where there should actually be very little day to day or month to month variation in workload. It's evident they've increased in use as worker leverage has been eroded by the recession.

    From the personal viewpoint, as a disabled person with both mobility impairments and more than a touch of neurodiversity, in an industry (software) where contract working now seems to be dominant, it's a nightmare. Changing jobs on a regular basis just isn't physically or mentally practical.

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