Knowledge When and Where you need it

Join me for Moxie Insight’s complimentary webinars. In September I will be sharing a piece of our research “Knowledge Where and When you Need it.”


Contingent by Choice: Understanding and Leveraging the New Workforce

Organizations will need to broaden their thinking and apply innovative strategies to attract the talent they need.  One of the talent pools organizations will need to learn how to tap more effectively is the growing pool of virtual talent labeled “contingent.” A 2009 Manpower, Inc. survey on the “Role of Contingent Workers” found that 34% of the 41,000 employers in 35 countries surveyed viewed contingent workers to be a key to the execution of their organizational strategy.  Not only is it strategically important, but the size of the contingent workforce is expected to grow.  Adecco in their 2010 white paper on the “Lessons of the Great Recession” highlighted that the contingent workforce is expected to grow three to four times the rate of traditional workforces, and is expected to eventually make up about 25% of the global workforce.  And according to a recent report from the BLS, contingents are expected to make up 40% of the U.S. workforce by 2019.

 As Daniel Pink pointed out in Free Agent Nation, contingent work has evolved into a deliberately chosen non-traditional employment arrangement.  Contingents may want to acquire new skills, experience different types of work environments, or build resumes using a broad spectrum of assignments.  They may want balance in their work and professional lives. Experienced workers may want positions that have a specific endpoint because they prefer to work only part or the year or a limited number of years in a particular project based assignment.  Younger workers may be using contingency to build a skill portfolio or pursue a personal passion.  The new reality is that contingent work has become a free-form career strategy that stems from an individual’s desire for flexibility, autonomy, and freedom.  Supported by new advances in technology knowledge workers, in particular, see contingency as “Plan A” NOT “Plan B.”     

 To take full advantage of this emerging cadre of workers, employers will need to change the common perception of contingent workers as being less important, less skilled, or less committed than “permanent” employees.  More importantly, they must abandon the idea that contingent workers are simply an economic play to handle temporary swings in employment. Contingent workers bring unique experiences, fresh thinking, and new approaches to problem-solving. Furthermore, research shows that contingents tend to be more satisfied and engaged with the work they do than full-time employees.  Independents recognize that completing the project on time in a successful manner is the key to gaining future assignments. 

 Indeed, organizations will need to change their fundamental mindset about talent to be successful in the future.  As John Boudreau points out in Retooling HR, “the idea that employment is the primary way organizations and their contributions interact is so instinctive that it many blind organizations to an alternative form of engagement.”  The role of contingency in organizations is still being defined and their importance being assessed, but as the numbers grow, employers stand to benefit if they include contingent workers as a permanent part of their overall talent strategy.