Industry is evolving. And as the fundamental nature of business has changed in recent years, the makeup of the workforce has had to change, with more of an emphasis on contingent labor.
An economy once based on industrialization, mass production of goods and high-volume labor has transitioned into a data- and professional-services-based economy, one that is more reliant on specialized, project and temporary work. Naturally, an influx of freelancers, contractors and consultants into the workforce has followed. There’s no doubt contingent labor is currently having a moment – but it also appears to be here to stay.
The rising contingent labor trend grew into a full-blown movement during the pandemic, which drove many former “traditional perm” workers to seek alternative employment or convinced them it was time to finally give freelancing a try. Forty percent of the American workforce today is made up of contingent labor, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, and one estimate suggests that half of the working population in this country will be freelancing by 2027.
Yet how we arrived here isn’t as important as whether the new paradigm is working. The consensus: a resounding “yes,” on both sides. Employees who had grown weary of office life, the daily commute and grappling with child-care logistics have embraced contract work wholeheartedly. Others who were initially less certain of its merits have learned how the flexibility of freelancing has improved their work-life balance. A recent Upwork study found that 60 percent of freelancers said no amount of money would convince them to take a traditional job, even after the pandemic ends.
At the same time, more employers who previously had resisted contingent labor are discovering that it can be a sort of skeleton key to productivity, with lower associated cost and far higher flexibility than hiring a full-timer outright. It is, however, the best bridge to a staff position, offering employers the ability to gauge a contractor’s skills and cultural fit prior to assuming the additional risk of extending an offer for permanent employment.
The macro need for contract work isn’t cyclical, making it one of the most recession-proof areas of HR. Whether pre- or post-pandemic, no matter the ebbs and flows of the economy, contingent labor will be in demand. And with the stigma of freelance work having nearly evaporated, more employees are not only accepting – but will expect – contract opportunities from companies of all stripes. Even if contingent labor weren’t the most efficient means for generating margin from a workforce (though, to be clear, it is), gig work is being sought out by more employees than ever. A professional relationship that registers as a win for both management and labor will continue to have a lasting – and growing – presence across every industry.
Interested in using PeopleCaddie to source your next contingent need? Check out our jobs page where your company can feature an opportunity.