Futurists have made many predictions for what our economies and working life may look like in the decades to come. Global organisations are predicted to become larger and more integrated, technology and the internet of everything will evolve to points that many can’t yet fathom. But what does this mean for the workforce? There are a number of predictions including that through technology the workforce will become more fluid, decentralised and in most scenarios a higher proportion of contingent employment.
Contingent employment including project or contract work is a key form of employment can have many positive effects, increased flexibility, ability to work from anywhere, freedom to move between work projects and diversify the nature of work. More traditional full time employment also provides positives, including some of the foundations for the fabric of our society. Traditional employment often offers individuals a sense of shared purpose and contribution, connection and community as well as status, financial security and a measurement for loans and credit. People find connection through family, social tribes, community groups as well as their workplace. With our growing urban populations, what happens when some of that connection is lost?
The positive aspects of contingent employment will be embraced by organisations and maximised by those comfortable with the changing face of employment. But what if you’re not? For generations the goal was full time employment and then progression through the career ladder. Contract or short term projects was an interim solution or for some considered a second rate option and often viewed by employers as job hopping and lacking loyalty. For a large proportion of the population, employment has been their aspiration and experience but what if contingent employment outnumbers traditional full time employment, how will they adapt?
Contingent employment is largely facilitated through recruitment consultants, outsourcing marketplace portals such as Freelancer.com or direct contracts. Finding and applying for a job has always been a process that favours those that understand the rules and tick the right boxes. For most people this was something done periodically after a number of years service, but what if this frequency is much more frequent, will there be a new set of processes to master? Career progression and development typically relied on building skills through opportunities to stretch. If the contingent workforce is employed for work they are already qualified for, where do you create development opportunities? Will the market favour even more those that can network, promote and pitch best or will effective talent pools and human resources policies evolve to include their contingent workforce?
Many people successfully make their living through a contingent model with generations entering the workforce comfortable and adept at project, contract and remote working. However given the need for security increasing with life’s responsibilities and funding our ever increasing lifespan, will it provide the basis for a productive working life? The impact of economic downturn or personal issues can create financial instability and uncertainty which can have numerous effects; increased stress, anxiety, diminished long term wealth and unless the banks change their lending requirements, limited ability to own assets and a home.
So how will society, governments, organisations, communities and individuals adapt to ensure there are limited cracks to fall through.
Every generation adapts to what the world offers as they experience it. Social media plays an important role in many aspects of our lives, so can we expand on how people already connect and use technology to build frameworks and communities for likeminded and skilled individuals such as with Meetup Groups? Will there be an increase in consultancies or virtual teams tendering for projects as a full service team? Will there be an increase demand for services to support the contingent workforce, for example career consultants, personal marketing specialists or contractor payment systems that assist in financial management and ratings?
Society creating new ideas of how to balance the future economic workforce with the need to provide frameworks for communities to flourish will be another of our lifetimes’ problems to solve.