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Hiring in the new mobile economy
It is a pervading trend in most developed economies – more workers are aspiring to participate in the mobile economy. Buoyed by technology that allows for work-on-the-go and working offsite, more varied experiences, flexibility and for some, better work-life balance, workers are starting to favour the upsides of contract work.
According to Accenture, there were 15.5 million contingent workers in 2015 in the United States alone, and that number is predicted to go up to 60 million people (43%) by 2020. In Asia Pacific, the Australian Bureau of Statistics notes that casual employees already account for a quarter of the workforce. In Singapore, 10% of all resident employees are in contracting roles and this number is expected to rise fast.
It is hardly surprising that hiring trends and practices have taken on a different look. A multi-channel workforce, one that consists not just of permanent staff but a composite of freelancers, contractors and contingent workers, is the new normal.
Business owners: a paradigm shift
For companies, it is not really a question of whether to hire contractors or not, but rather how many and in which roles. The paradigm shifts from asking “if” to “where, when and how many”.
Author and futurist Alexandra Levit, whose eight book Humanity Works was published in 2018, sees getting serious about contracting as a vital step to embracing the future of work. “Start by having a discussion with people around you,” she told PageGroup recently. “An example of low hanging fruit is the systematisation of the contract workforce you already have, or the systemization of flex-work.”
“Why not gather together a strategy that can make that far more meaningful and far more useful, and actually track metrics associated with it,” she says. “The contract workforce and the flex workforce are only getting bigger and it’s only getting more unruly. So figure out what you’re doing with your contract and flex workers and systemise it.”
Before you decide on a strategy for your team, ask these questions:
1. Are we agile?
One of the biggest challenge in today’s fast-moving business environment is maintaining a high level of agility within the company. Being able to respond quickly and effectively to changes can be a huge competitive advantage. If your workforce is a roadblock to building agility, it is time to reconsider your current structure. Relying on contractors, especially for non-business core functions and ad hoc projects, can ensure your organisation stays lean and nimble.
2. Are we short of new ideas?
A changing workforce can bring fresh ideas. Having short-term injections of new people in your workplace can contribute to new ideas and inspire new ways of doing the same thing. Hiring contractors at all levels can achieve that quickly, without any heavy financial upfront costs and investments.
3. Where are the gaps?
Is there a project that has fallen behind on the timeline and needs a quick boost of help? Is there an issue that has cropped up within the company that is not within your core business capabilities to fix? Have you taken on a project that has now gotten ahead of you and is in a bit of a mess? These are some scenarios when various types of contractors can step in quickly and resolve.
4. Are there new roles to fill?
Companies may have to create a new role that is defined more by questions than answers.
Using a contractor for that role may be a good way to find the answers before committing to a full-time hire. Who knows? That contractor may even turn out to be the full-time staff you eventually hire.
5. Uncertain times?
Relying on a contingent workforce can be useful during uncertain economic times. While you may still need to invest in staff to keep growing the business, it may be too risky to make new hires. Contractors can help you ramp up the business without too heavy a commitment and likewise, you can scale back quickly if you need to.
There are always two sides to a coin. Pros and cons will exist with each hire in each situation. The best strategy forward is to build a multi-channel workforce, a hybrid model that can serve you well through all situations. The important thing is to keep an open mind and keep asking those questions.
For contractors: a new normal
Contract work is undoubtedly more popular. As inclusion of a contingent workforce becomes the new normal for companies, contractors understand these are new opportunities for them. The shifting tide favouring contract work also means there is increasingly more protection and better conditions for contract workers. In 2017, a tripartite agreement hashed out by employers, unions and the government, specified better work conditions for term workers in Singapore. Almost 300 companies signed on immediately.
Ready? Meet the four faces of this new mobile economy and find out which ones you need in your team.