Contingent workers often better suit the needs of modern businesses.

Contingent employment is the new normal: Part 1

Jeremy Market Trends

The world of work has changed significantly over the past decade and even within the past few years. Cloud-based platforms and digital connectivity have made it possible to communicate with people across the world in real time. At the same time, these platforms have led to a shift away from traditional office settings.

However, these aren't the only changes that are affecting the way people work. Millennials raised in this always-on environment are now embracing work on their own terms. All these trends combine to create a new work paradigm where 9-to-5 is quickly becoming a thing of the past. Contingent employment is the model of the future and staffing agencies are well-poised to take advantage of it.

"31 percent of the workforce are free agents."

Several recent studies support this shift. According to "The Intuit 2020 Report," the number of contingent workers will increase to a full 40 percent by 2020. Also reflecting this theme, Kelly Service recently found that 31 percent of the workforce worldwide identifies as free agents rather than traditional employees.

It's clear that a contingent workforce is rapidly becoming the new norm, but what's driving these trends and what does this mean for the staffing industry?

Businesses embrace flexibility
One reason for the rise of temporary and contingent workers is they often better suit the needs of businesses. In industries where supply and demand can fluctuate unexpectedly, companies can save resources by maintaining a roster of workers they only take on as needed.

Particularly in the wake of the Great Recession, companies are being more cautious than ever. Even when it seems like business is booming and growth is inevitable, companies want to test the waters with part-time workers before taking on full-time staff. With a contingent workforce, companies can take a more conservative approach to hiring.

While in the past companies started out by hiring part-timers and shifted to full-timers as growth continued, temporary employment is now becoming the standard. Along with other trends, such as the rise of digital tools and remote work, businesses will find it more effective to reduce full-time employment and maintain a robust database of workers ready to go when needed.

The rise of digital tools especially plays into this hiring trend, according to a report from Mckinsey. Business intelligence and more efficient scheduling software enable companies to calculate labor as a variable input instead of a fixed one. While businesses may take on temporary workers, they can also schedule them for just a few hours of the day to meet employer requirements.