You help people get jobs, right? Most of us are comfortable with the notion of finding jobs, posting jobs, finding the right people to fill particular jobs and so on. What if that notion is outdated and antiquated? And if it is, as many think, what does that mean for you?
The workforce is undergoing the biggest shift in nearly a century. We are leaving the traditional workplace and a singular job title, for basements and bedrooms and coffee shops and co-working spaces where we cobble together various types of work for more than one client.
As of 2005, maybe a third of our entire workforce was a part of this surge, with millions of independent workers who come under the various headings of freelancers, single shingle consultants, the self-employed, contractors, temps, etc.
How that percentage may have gone up in the past six years – and it most assuredly has – is anyone’s best guess.
You see, back in 2005 the Bureau of Labor Statistics stopped counting those people in a consistent and ongoing way.
As it is, “current” statistics lump workers into one of a trio of silos: private wage and salary workers, government workers, and the self-employed.
Obviously these groupings don’t account for the nuances in how people work now, including the overlap between groups.
Sara Horowitz, founder of the Freelancers Union, has authored an interesting series for the Atlantic on the growing Freelance Nation.
By her count, over 42 million Americans are working independently, to whom America’s mid-century, job-based system of health-care provision, unemployment insurance, and collective bargaining rights do not apply.
She opines that the considerable difference in the level of material security afforded workers in the old “job” economy and the new “gig” economy helps explain at least in part our large surplus of unemployed job-seekers.
Tina Brown, a journalist, magazine editor, columnist, talk-show host, author and founder of The Daily Beast, says the “Gig Economy” is old news. What’s new is the way it hit a section of American workers for whom a college degree from a good school was considered “a passport to job security.”
“For a while last year, the downsized people I know went around pretending they enjoyed the ‘freedom’ and ‘variety’ of doing a whole lot of interesting things,” said Brown. “Twelve months later, nobody bothers with that cover story anymore. Everyone knows what it actually feels like, this penny-ante slog of working three times as hard for the same amount of money (if you’re lucky) or a lot less (if you’re not). Minus benefits, of course.”
Phil Bowermaster thinks, writes, and talks about emerging technologies, emerging possibilities, and the future. He is the Chief Futurist and Strategy Guy for Zapoint, and says while jobs themselves may not be becoming obsolete per se, the idea that we go out and find an existing one is.
“Increasingly, perhaps, a job is something that we each have to create. We can’t count on someone else to create one for us. That model is disappearing. We have to carve something out for ourselves, something that the machines won’t immediately grab. Ultimately, it means we have to find something useful to do, something so useful that others are willing to pay for it.”
“Permanent employment is an oxymoron. The whole idea of security is laughable.” – Carl Camden, CEO of Kelly Services
Last year the economy barely kept ahead of what’s considered “natural growth” in the working population. Temporary workers accounted for more than a quarter of those gains.
Barry Asin, president of Staffing Industry Analysts, a Mountain View, Calif., research group, says a survey of private employers indicates that the temporary-employment sector is likely to include 12 percent of the workforce in the next few years, up from 8 percent in 2005.
He adds that if temporary worker penetration continues at this pace, then a fundamental change and shift is truly at hand.
One person who agrees with that assessment is Carl T. Camden, president and chief executive officer of Kelly Services, Inc.
“Permanent employment is an oxymoron. The whole idea of security is laughable.”
A very successful serial entrepreneur I know is fond of saying that “if lots of people are dying, then someone is getting rich selling caskets.”
That’s his rather crass way of saying that bad news for some creates opportunity for others.
Certainly there is lots of bad economic news to go around these days, for all of us.
But is this rise in the non-traditional workforce benefiting you? Is the gig economy a good thing for staffing agencies?
Obviously there is not a simple, universal yes or no answer to the question. It depends on lots of things. Including how forward thinking you are, and how capable you are of making soup out of some crazy ingredients.
Here are a few ideas that might help you frame your thinking.
Have you devised a list of questions or ways to help clients, or potential clients, evaluate non-traditional arrangements to get their work done?
Do you know a good way to access and tap into this growing pool of freelancers, even if the government doesn’t know how many there actually are?
Are you taking into account the fact that basic entitlements American workers have long taken for granted, such as health insurance, protection from unpaid wages, a retirement plan, and unemployment insurance, are now out of reach for one-third of working Americans? Independent workers are being forced to seek these things elsewhere, and go without if they can’t find or afford them. You may need to be part of that solution.
Your changing pool of future workers will no doubt need to build economic security in profoundly different ways.
And what about your economic security, or that of your clients, as temps become a bigger part of the workforce?
Worker’s Compensation Insurance for example only covers injuries to employees injured on the job. At the same time, it prevents the employer from being sued by those injured and covered.
Are you emphasizing to your clients that when a freelancer or non-traditional worker is hurt on their property they can be sued unless a reputable staffing service (you) carries the required insurance and can help protect them and their business?
This is your space, your business and you can position yourself as the expert when it comes to guiding, counseling and shepherding clients or potential clients through these changes some refer to as “the industrial revolution of our time.”
What else are you doing? Are there things that have worked that weren’t touched on there?
We would love to hear them, or any other thoughts on the changing ways we are thinking about jobs and careers.