Contingent work is a topic that gets people excited. Labour unions are afraid it means the end of permanent employment and the ability to collectively bargain for salaries and benefits. Politicians fear it will erode stability and lead to more people needing welfare or other state-funded support. Workers fear that it means the end of job security and a predictable paycheck.
And all of these fears are real. The rising contingent workforce is a game changer and will radically transform the ideas we have had for 100 years about what a job or career are. Labour unions may morph into professional associations, laws will need to be modified to provide some level of protection to the contingent workforce, and workers will need to accept that the permanent job is going to much harder to find.
But the world of contingent work will also open opportunities for people to be more creative, to take control over their own time and skills. They will be able to choose opportunities that excite them and give then personal fulfilment. The watchwords of the emerging contingent workforce are choice, freedom, and flexibility. People with skills who perform well will find ways to use their skills to make money.
And the permanent workforce will not disappear. It will simply be one other option in the basket of ways to work. People may move from permanent to contingent and back again many times in a working lifetime. We are entering an age of greater choice.
The Contingent Workforce In 2012 vs 2015
The key difference between 2012, when we did the first Contingent Workforce and now, is the sheer increase in the number and popularity of contingent work, and the many types of contingent work. I think we tend to think of it as either “statement of work” person or a “part-time person” but there are people who work three days a week, there are people who work entirely virtually, there’s people who work when they want like an Uber driver. We’ve got a very complex mix of types of people, and ways of doing contingent work.
This is the area that keeps evolving, and one that will just keep getting more complex.
The Contingent Workforce In Australia Vs USA
The biggest difference between Australia and the US, is that in the US we just have more of it, and a greater variety. Contingent is contingent, but when you look at the numbers of contingent workers, the US is approaching a quarter of the workforce. For the most part, these are people who voluntarily desire to be that way.
“Contingent” No Longer a Dirty Word
I think historically, it was believed that contingent workers are just the poor suckers who can’t find a regular job, and that is completely erroneous. There are huge numbers of people who just don’t want a regular job. Ever. They love the freedom and flexibility of being a contingent worker. This is one of the problems of the labour laws, which assumes that everyone wants a permanent job.
Being a contingent worker has pluses on both sides of the equation. I think the downside that people see is one based around the illusion of security, which people think they have but less and less is that the case. People who think they have great steady jobs can still be made redundant. The real security comes in your ability to do stuff, and the demonstration that you’ve done it.
The Future Of Contingent Work
Today most organisations can’t deal with a worker not being in because it’s their day off, and that’s a simple problem. Imagine when you have the level of complexity in terms of your workers.
The future of contingent, from a corporate perspective, is that you’re going to have to deal with this. You’re going to have to deal with a very complex scale of pay, and your administrative complexity is going to increase tremendously. You’re going to have to look at your whole workforce. You’re going to have to look at people in say your Legal department and be able to determine and manage the people who are perm, the ones who are demand only, the two who are SOW, and the three part-timers. It’s going to be really complicated.
The Tools To Help
Scheduling, understanding the complexity of all this, paying these people – this is going to be the real challenge, and I think that’s what we’re going to have to deal with as we move into the next four or five years. That’s why at CWF2015 we’ll be able to demonstrate some of the software that’s out there and the companies with the tools to help manage this sort of workforce. These tools can’t just manage contingent workforce, they also have to manage the permanent workforce.
Contingent As The Norm?
In terms of contingent staying it’s own niche, in the US we’re already close to this being mainstream. If you go to any recruitment conference in the US next year I think you’re going to see sessions about the contingent workforce. This is something we’re all going to have to understand and know how to manage.
Join Kevin at #CWF15 in Sydney on 22-23 September where he will presenting a session looking back on the workforce of 2012, and looking forward to the workforce of 2022. Register your ticket for the event here.
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