The True Costs, and Unintended Consequences, of On-Demand Talent

WorkMarket has just published a new survey analysis, the 2016 Corporate On-Demand Talent Report.

It’s got some really great information about “On-Demand” talent in our changing economy. And while a definition of “On-Demand” was never given, it’s clear that it means more than the traditional blue collar or retail “temp” definition.

It clearly also includes professionals of all stripes who either prefer a more fluid and flexible on-demand employer-employee relationship, or, who have been displaced and who can’t seem to find new, satisfying full-time employment.

Getting a fix on the on-demand workforce

There are some interesting findings here:

  • Nearly 17 percent — or 27 million workers – of the U.S. workforce is now part of the corporate on-demand economy.
  • 88 percent of businesses are currently using an on-demand workforce.
  • 46 percent of businesses are using on-demand labor for more than a year at a time.
  • 42 percent of businesses are using the same professionals more than half the time.

At nine (9) pages, the survey report is a quick and interesting read. The survey results are from an online survey of 1,037 adults that was fielded in November and December last year. The employers represented appear to be an appropriate cross-section in terms of revenue size and numbers of employees.

The results of this survey show an economy and workforce undergoing an even larger transition than we might have realized: More than 40 percent of businesses indicated their on-demand professionals comprised more than 30 percent of their overall workforce.

Growing while shrinking commitment to workers

‘WorkMarket suggests that employers are trying to shrink their full-time workforces, with all the expenses and liabilities they entail, while trying to grow their businesses. This could mean a fundamental reshaping of the employer-employee relationship.

This seems to be the key message from this report: Employers are considering how they can we grow their businesses while shrinking their commitment to their people.

This graphic is challenging for me:

 

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Just what is workforce flexibility, anyway?

I guess my question is: What does flexibility mean?

Does it mean having the ability to move people around when and where we need them? Does it mean being able to staff up and down during peaks and valleys? Or does flexibility mean being able to “rent” skills for as long as possible without calling the skills holders “headcount” and having to provide a full range of benefits? Is headcount a dirty word now?

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Does lowering labor costs mean paying on-demand workers less than full-time workers? Does lowering labor costs also mean not providing the full range of benefits to on-demand workers that similarly skilled and deployed full-time workers receive?

These findings are surprising to me because I’ve actually been noting a growth in the number of employers that are focusing on creating more human workplace cultures — creating an environment that treat employees as full human beings, not just skills that clock in and clock out.

The proliferation of data connecting better corporate performance with positive, employee-focused cultures seem to contradict these findings that suggest employers will go to great lengths to NOT hire full-time employees and be liable for them.

Unintended consequences

WorkMarket may have uncovered some unintended consequences of the On-Demand economy.

At least I hope they’re unintended. These survey results could turn our conversations away from the ever elusive quest for employee engagement to a more useful discussion about the changing nature of the employer-employee relationship in the U.S.

If employers really do want skills flexibility more than they want a stable, reliable workforce to whom they are committed, we have only begun to experience the On-Demand economy.

This originally appeared on China Gorman’s blog at ChinaGorman.com.

China Gorman is a successful global business executive in the competitive Human Capital Management (HCM) sector. She is a sought-after consultant, speaker and writer bringing the CEO perspective to the challenges of building cultures of humanity for top performance and innovation, and strengthening the business impact of Human Resources.

Well known for her tenure as CEO of the Great Place to Work Institute, COO and interim CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and President of Lee Hecht Harrison, China works with HCM organizations all over the world to enhance their brands and their go-to-market strategies. Additionally, she serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Jobs for America’s Graduates as well as the Advisory Boards of Elevated Careers, the Workforce Institute at Kronos, and WorldBlu. Addtionally, she chairs the Globoforce WorkHuman Advisory Board and the Universum North America Board. China is the author of the popular blog Data Point Tuesday, and is published and frequently quoted in media properties like Fortune, TLNT, Huffington Post, Inc., Fast Company, U.S. News & World Report and many others.

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