Temps, Gigs and Side Hustles: The End of Permanent Work In the era of the Knowledge Economy

Are companies following the Netflix model when it comes to landing work?
People used to consumed whatever came in on one of the twelve channels around the dial. That number of options jumped in the 1980s. Fast forward today and TV shows can be binge watched. Netflix allows viewers to watch movies and TV anytime they choose, without having to wait for a scheduled time.

Is this happening in the workforce? Your grandparents may have had one employer for their whole life, but today’s job scene is as broken up as your TV choices: full-time, part-time, casual, contract, gigs, entrepreneurism. Showing up at the same desk for the same employer is fast becoming a thing of the past. Employers are looking for nimble solutions to their staffing. It’s forcing the labour force to adjust.

Instead of ongoing work, employers are looking for contingent workers. Contingent workers, like those shows on Netflix, are “on-demand” resources.

Employers are continuing to automate and deploy principles of automation in all aspects of their business. They want to have an elastic workforce — one that enables them to hire contingent or on-demand labor for specific projects rather bringing on-board full time workers. Here are some things that employers consider:
They may be temporary, but are not “temps.” Temp employees come at a premium.
The temp arrangement has benefits for both workers and companies. Imagine getting days off by simply asking to not be called into work? Open this will impact a worker’s appearance of reliability, but good employers will understand the give and take.
The management of contingent workers is more complex and that is going to slow the adoption of the temp workforce by risk adverse businesses. The Monday-to-Friday is gone so managers have to actively understand when their workers are available.

The New Version Of A Temp

Contingent workers can be characterized as temporary employees — they are not full-time employees of a company and once their project is finished, they are gone. That lack of permanence can be troubling to some employees, but liberating to others.

Think of temps not as temporary, but as specialists. You may see your grocer everyday, but you only see your doctor once in awhile. The high-tech nature and complexity of today’s contingent or “on-demand” workforce.

Contingent staffers are those and many more types of workers, encompassing highly skilled IT specialists and consultants to light-industrial workers. This growing and increasingly multifaceted worker class is rapidly changing how companies fill jobs and the makeup of their workforce.

Rise Of The Contingent Workers

In 2014, the average share of contingent labor landed at 18 percent, up from 12 percent in 2009.

According to a joint study by Elance-oDesk (now UpWork) and the Freelancer Union, 53 million people — or 34 percent of the workforce — did freelance work in 2014.

MBO Partners’ most recent “State of Independence in America” workforce report revealed 30 million classify themselves as independent workers, either as “solopreneurs” who work independently as their only source of earnings, or “side-giggers” — those picking up outside assignments for extra income. That number is projected to grow to nearly 40 million by 2019.

Recently, supply management firm Ardent Partners released its “The State of Contingent Workforce Management: The 2014-2015 Guidebook for Managing Non-Traditional Talent.”

After polling some 200 HR, procurement, and finance executives, Ardent’s research underscores the rise of the contingent worker class. Specifically, the firm found:

  • 92 percent of enterprises indicated non-traditional staffing was a vital to moderate facet of their overall corporate strategy.
  • 32 percent of the average company’s workforce fell into the contingent or contract-based category.

By 2017, contingent workers, including independent contractors, statement-of-work-based labor and freelancers, will account for nearly 45 percent of the world’s total workforce.

Several factors have come together make a surge in temp labour. With that change, however, comes more complex technology and management tactics, as well as the possibility of legal and tax penalties if those contingent workers are not properly classified.

Who Is A Contingent Worker?

Fundamentally, a contingent worker has temporary role and not deemed to be a full-time employee of the company.

Such an individual can be placed by a staffing agency or hired directly as an independent contractor for a specified task under a statement of work (SOW) provision. When the work is done, they are done. Temp workers will work either onsite or work remotely.

Small or even large companies brought in to work on a definite project or product deliverable also fall within the contingent category, as do paid interns.

Many clients don't have insight into the scope of their contingent labor — or the cost. They need some hand holding and led to see the benefits of the gig economy.

Some employers think this is a new trend and they are stunned to find out how many temporary employees are working in their field today.

How to be Side Hustle Ready To Get Work

To be side hustle ready, the biggest thing need is a mental shift. The predictability of a day-job and its paycheque semi-monthly or every two weeks can be comforting, but you can do better. Temp agencies will commonly pay their temps weekly. That constant Friday surprise of money in the bank can beat the regular payday. A ongoing day job is replaced with the gig economy. In exchange for your boss being able to have you on speed-dial, they get you more hours and less dollars per hour. A side hustle will charge a premium for service. While someone may get paid $20/hr. times 40 hours week, a side hustle can pay $50/hr. for 10 hours per week of availability. In other words, make a little less for a lot more freedom. Those spare hours can be filled with other opportunities. Before long, 40 or 50 hours per week of work could yield that $50 or better per hour. Side hustles can be much more lucrative. Better still: some arrangements can include a retainer or a service agreement. That’s a set amount of money every month to pick up the phone or answer emails-- then more money to come if something actually needs to get done.

Chris Guillebeau coined the phrase, “side hustle” As he puts it: “More income means more options. More options equals freedom.“ Find a subset of a job that needs a specialist, then build the reputation to deliver on that. Take an idea, add some time, and the determination to see your dream through. If you can make it work, the financial rewards can be well worth your time.

A Win-Win

Side hustles can be a win-win for both a business and the contingent workers.

When the Great Recession of 2008 hit, plummeting revenues forced companies to lay off numerous employees. The work still needed to get done. An elastic workforce is a cushion for employers. As times improve, they can expand and bring in additional labor.

Few shops will be all temp or all full-time. They work best when they combine the fixtures with specialists.

For specialists, a temporary or contingent assignment frees them to work when they want; bring in some good cash; and then take time to pursue ventures and other interests.

In their view, they can manage their own careers without being tied to one employer, and possibly achieve that much sought after but somewhat elusive optimal work-life balance.

For example, a Javascript programmer raking in a hefty rate may decide to work for three to six months, then travel, return to secure another assignment.

A large number of people, particularly in IT and health care, do this. Both the employer and employee side are seeing some advantages. Workers in the knowledge economy are in high demand, especially in a booming economy where business are growing. Specialists want the flexibility, the higher pay, and they can offer the growing experience that comes from working with multiple companies.

Convergence On Contingent Workers

Technology has sped up the time it takes to find, interview, vet and hire employees. The average time to hire has dropped from 43 days at large companies of 1,000 or more employees using traditional staffing methods to three days. There's no shortage of work: it's about connecting employers and workers through a new relationship: the gig economy.

Employers can tap into applicants and temp workers online. No longer is a help wanted sign limited to the window or a newspaper. The whole world can see it. This rapid shift to online work holds the potential to speed up the hiring process and break down geographic barriers.

The Boomers moving into retirement are driving this phenomenon. They are adopting the new workplace dynamics to transition into semi-retirement or peddle their skills like they never have before.

Millennials have witnessed their parents lose jobs when companies merged or reorganized and have had a difficult time finding jobs themselves. They are jaded against what they see as the empty promise of a decent living. Millennials have little interest for a traditional full-time job.

Stuck in the middle: Gen X. Many Generation X households are hedging their bets. One of the family gets a full-time job; and one of the family is out there on contract.

The Battle For Talent

Employers are starting to figure it out. A contingent workforce presents a way to tie costs more closely with volume and budget. They are also able to do a catch-and-release of the elusive talent they need. Contingent workers may be work at a premium, but the cost is temporary and they earn their keep. Once the task is complete, the worker is gone — not only from the office, but the company’s payroll as well.

Working For A Staffing Agency

Anyone can run a side hustle by just making phone calls as accepting payment as a proprietorship. Many businesses may not react ideally to this informality. For those employers, the clear alternative is a staffing agency. They will handle the interaction with your employer, negotiations, billing and labour standards. Hiring a contingent worker isn't the same as hiring new staff, but the worker themselves is a regular employee of the staffing agency.

Staffing agencies (aka temp agencies) are in-tune with the labour market and which employers are looking for people. They will handle all of it and make it easier for workers looking to transition into the gig economy.

Where To Start?

The first first step is to get the skills you need. It’s no coincidence that you’re reading this on the Cinch Academy blog. We have a long (very long) list of online courses that can give a worker in the new economy a good start.

Get good at what you do. Specialize and then boast about your specialty. A specialist will have to cast a wider net, but luckily the Internet is global; and you can go global as well.