More and more people are choosing a contingent work style — that is, temporary work that may be project-based or time-based — over full-time or part-time work. Temporary placement service provider Adecco predicts that the rate of growth in contingent workers will be three to four times the growth rate among traditional workforces, and that they eventually will make up about 25% of the global workforce.
One reason for the increasing popularity of contingent work is involuntary: not everyone can find full-time employment. But, 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 their full-time employment experience that convince them to strike out on their own. Research published by Rosalind Bergemann in 2010 among workers who voluntarily chose to become independent reveals that 74% of respondents cited a lack of employer engagement as their principal reason for leaving.
New technologies and services for contingent workers make it easier and less painful to make the choice to go independent. New types of talent brokers such as YourEncore, an online network of retired and veteran scientists and engineers, or InnoCentive, which offers crowdsourcing services to companies with innovation challenges, connect free agents with project-based work in virtual marketplaces. The lack of benefits such as health and life insurance and disability benefits has been an ongoing major deterrent to contingent work, but even that situation is changing. Insurance and other benefits can be obtained from organizations such as the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE) at highly competitive rates. Axiom Legal offers its members continuity of benefits when they are between assignments.
Contingent workers can add to an organization's intellectual capacity and provide instant expertise as needed.
Going forward, employers should incorporate contingent workers into their talent strategies. My colleague at Tammy Erickson Associates, Dr. Margaret Schweer, recently studied the impact of contingent workers on corporations, finding strong evidence that incorporating contingent talent offers several advantages, including:
- Cost flexibility: Not only can organizations derive a cost savings from adjusting staff sizes up and down based on business requirements, but they are also able to control the wages paid for particular tasks by using contingent talent on a project basis.
- Speed and agility: Talent needs can change on a dime. New technology or new competitors can expose talent gaps in any organization. Employing a contingent talent strategy enables a company to access the right talent to meet specific skill or competitive challenges quickly, without incurring longer-term costs or disrupting the organization. "Virtual talent" is much easier to find than it was even a few years ago, and can be brought onboard rapidly.
- A boost to innovation: Contingent talent brings in new knowledge and fresh ideas based on experiences outside of the company or even the industry. Companies that have programs or processes in place to facilitate knowledge and expertise transfer from contingent workers to full-time workers capture that knowledge on a permanent basis. If contingent workers' roles involve moving across the organization, they can also share best practices across organizational boundaries more easily than do internal employees.
To take full advantage of this emerging cadre of workers, employers will need to change the common perception of contingent workers as somehow less important, less skilled, or less committed than "permanent" employees, and must abandon the idea that contingent workers are simply an economic play. Contingent workers bring unique experiences, fresh thinking, and new approaches to problem-solving. Today, the growing contingent workforce provides opportunities for talent-hungry corporations.
Are you tapping the contingent workforce as part of your talent strategy?