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August 25, 2014

More Contingent Workers is a Sign of Things to Come

Posted 4 years 179 days ago by Alison Harrison

As of August 2013, 1.99 percent of the US workforce was made up of contingent workers. That compares with 1.34 percent at the end of the Great Recession in June 2009, and the all-time high of 2.03 percent that continued unchanged from April 2000 until the March 2001 recession.  

In a Special Report for Workforce magazine, Max Mihelich shared those figures with some senior executives in the staffing industry to see what they made of the high rate. In part, the number of contingent or temporary workers has always tracked the economy. Numbers of temporary workers increase at times when the economy starts to recover but employers are still feeling uncertain. However, today other trends seem to be emerging.


Increasing Sophistication
Brett Good of Robert Half International Inc. sees a growing understanding from employers in how to get the most out of a contingent workforce. “When I got into the business 20 years ago, there was still an education process for businesses to understand how to utilize this industry,” he says.” Fast forward two decades…organizations have learned how to better leverage this [talent].”


The growth in the contingent workforce is driven, in part, by steady increases in the area of professionally skilled talent. “We refer to this talent the emerging Professional Workforce 3.0.,” says Sheila Lewis, CEO of Ashton212. “Today’s workforce is bookended by Baby Boomers moving out of corporate America with loads of intellectual capital and a desire to “dial it down” a bit on the work front but still contribute in the business marketplace and Millenials redefining workplace dynamic. Caught in the middle are Gen Xers trying to work as hard as their parents did but accepting the responsibility of adulthood and doing their best to come to terms with their own definition of success. It’s somewhat of a perfect storm where new workplace traditions are being defined and firms like ours have a big role to play in how it all shakes out.”


Structural Changes
In great part, this increase in the number of contingent workers is a response to economic uncertainty, but Jeff Joerres, chairman and CEO of ManpowerGroup also sees a more structural shift. “The trend of the industry has clearly been companies striving toward some form of agility and flexibility,” he says. “We’re seeing organizations become much more creative and decisive in what they want to do… outsourcing is nothing new, but it’s being done with more finesse.”


Mark Nussbaum, COO for Signature Consultants is certain we’re seeing a more significant shift. “The percentage of Americans employed through a temp staffing firm five years from now will be greater than the percentage of Americans employed through temp staffing firms five years ago. That will be structural in our economy,” he says. “The rate of change in the economy is faster. One of the ways to cope with that is to use a larger flexible workforce.”


Finding the Right Stuff
This throws up interesting questions about the future of the US workforce and feeds into a different kind of problem for businesses. Jeanine Hamilton, president at Hire Partnerships, points out an uptick in temp-to-hire positions. While this indicates that companies are starting to feel more confident and taking on more full time employees, it’s also meaning the pool of qualified job candidates available to staffing companies is shrinking. This is especially true in fields where at least a bachelor’s degree is required.


For staffing companies and consulting agencies like Ashton212, this is a double edged sword. If it were easy to find qualified candidates, companies wouldn’t need these types of firms at all but as Sheila Lewis says, “That’s our job—to know what a success looks like for our clients in solving their immediate needs and finding the exact resource with the skills, management style, and cultural fit to deliver. It’s the art of matchmaking that is our passion.”

Tags: Baby Boomers consultant consulting contingent Gen X Interim ManpowerGroup Millenials research Robert Half Workforce magazine

Categories: categoryEmployment Trends categoryConsulting

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