The Contemporary, Temporary Workforce

temporary workforce

As much as 80 percent of employee turnover is due to bad hiring decisions, which doesn’t fare well for a company since a poor hiring choice can cost from 1.5x to 3.5x of that person’s annual salary. Consider an employee who earns $50,000 a year. If that person is a bad hire it could cost a company up to $175,000. The higher the position, the higher the salary, the higher the cost is to lose or fire that person.

More than ever companies are hiring project-based professionals who provide a specific skill-set. These placements might be short-term or long-term, depending on the company’s needs. According to the Wall Street Journal, in March 2014, more than 2.8 million workers, or 2.5% of the workforce, held temporary jobs, up from 1.7 million in 2009. One reason for the spike in numbers is due to companies having to reassess their processes and spending after the recession. Some of these employees, many of whom hold multiple part-time jobs as temps or contractors, are the new semi-permanent, temporary, or “perma-temp” work force. They are in charge of their own brand, skill-set, and advancement.

Why do companies continue to lean in this direction, even while the economy is recovering?

Let’s have a look at the benefits for employers:

  • Hiring a temp or contractor allows a company to meet work demand and deadlines without having to make rushed decisions about long-term, expensive, permanent staffing.
  • By hiring a contractor or temp employee companies cut expensive benefit, administrative, and payroll costs, not to mention unemployment insurance.
  • Bringing in temps or contractors can boost morale amongst other employees who may feel overtaxed. A temp or consultant can take some of the work overflow from other employees.
  • Temporary and contracted employees are often eager to work hard to prove themselves and gain experience. Some may be coming off of a period of unemployment and anxious to get back to work. Temporary and contract workers may work creatively and tirelessly to meet their own financial obligations. They might not have the same loyalty as full-time, permanent employees, but since they have to fend for themselves, they are not complacent. According to University of Illinois professor Joe Broschak, “On average, these temporary workers displayed better performance relative to goals compared to their full-time counterparts.” When those temps were hired on as full-time employees “they continued to become better workers after becoming permanent.”
  • Temp and contract workers can offer an area of specialization that a company might be lacking in current staffing. It might be less expensive to hire a new contracted employee with years of experience in a specific skill-set than to train a current employee.

Semi-permanent work is not ideal for everyone. Some employees, especially those seeking security, certainty, and the full gamut of benefits will not be satisfied with this work. One concern is how temporary or semi-permanent employees are paid and treated. If paid fairly and treated well, this paradigm will work smoothly for some people.

What are the benefits for employees?

  • Many contracting and temporary positions allow for flexibility. The jobs might be part-time and allow for adjusted hours that could accommodate an employee’s home life, another part-time job, or other interests. Because these workers have a different status than permanent, full-time employees, the same “in-office face-time” expectations may not apply to a consultant or temporary worker.
  • If a temporary worker or consultant is hired for a specific skill set, they are able to focus on work they’re good at and interested in. If they’ve been out of work they can use this as an opportunity to sharpen their skillset or, perhaps, learn a new one.
  • Working on a short-term project might be freeing and invigorating. Having more of a sense of control over one’s own branding, hours, and projects is exciting for many people.
  • This can be a wonderful opportunity for people to network, build their personal “press kit”, and garner new, current references.
  • Temporary positions often turn into long-term, semi-permanent project based consulting positions. Some people find the combination of interesting work and flexibility perfect for their lives.

It is important to remember that every dollar paid to employees –temporary, semi-temporary, “perma-temp”, full-time, or part-time—is not a dollar taken away from the bottom line, but an investment in the company. Finding the right fit that benefits employers and employees is critical.

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