Part 1 of 2
Presidential candidate urges remedy for Americans working harder and earning less
On February 4, White House hopeful Jeb Bush addressed the issue of employment concerns during his speech to the Detroit Economic Club at the Cobo Center – a venue, not incidentally, which serves as ground zero for a foreclosure crisis set to hit thousands of Detroit residents. “If Americans are working harder than ever, earning less than they once did, our government and our leaders should step up, offer a plan, fix what’s wrong — or they should step aside,” he said. Bush made an argument that speaks to a bipartisan understanding. However, his supportive rhetoric stopped far short of offering up such a plan or discussing how his administration would fix the problem. What he did demonstrate was a legitimate grasp of the situation — unemployment isn’t the prevailing issue today; it’s underemployment, longer hours with fewer financial gains, worker dissatisfaction, burnout and stagnating pay.
January jobs report, one chapter in a more complicated narrative
The job market strengthened in 2014, and the momentum seems to have carried over into the early part of this year, as indicated by promising January employment data. Economists forecast that employers added 237,000 jobs last month, bringing the unemployment rate down from 5.6 percent in December to 5.5 percent today. Jobs, or least job openings, inarguably have made a comeback. We are witnessing a glut of openings across industry sectors. Yet here, within all these encouraging figures, lies a tale untold.
Despite the positive news, full-time opportunities failed to reach the November 2007 high-water mark by two million. Part-time jobs, conversely, attained historic highs at 6.8 million. Median wages remain lower than before the Great Recession. Last month, average pay actually fell. As the Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey (JOLTS) data revealed, the job opportunities being created exist in sectors where wages can barely support individual workers, let alone working families.
Yes, there are more open jobs being posted. Yes, unemployment is falling and more Americans are back to work. Sort of. They’re not working at the same levels or compensation as in times past. And what’s not being illuminated by the economic forecasts is that more and more working talent aren’t content with their current situations. They’re burning out, job hopping and looking to transition to other opportunities. Which, perhaps, means the trend of open jobs will continue – jobs that may not get filled, or which, when filled, will create new openings elsewhere.
In past articles, we’ve discussed the opportunities available to workers and businesses in contingent labor relationships, particularly as opportunities to succeed in what has been a festering or flat economy over the past six years. Today, we’re going to take a bolder stance. In the first part of this series, we’re going to suggest that it might be time for America’s working talent to consider leaving their full-time jobs in favor of freelance, contract, or temporary assignments. And for businesses, we’ll illustrate in the second part of this series why staffing curators are essential to the process, and how they can connect contingent talent to the right employers.
While economists talk about budgetary deficits, labor experts are worrying about happiness deficits
In a joint study by Forbes and CareerArc, in which 675 HR professions were interviewed, the team found that 45 percent of workers felt burned out and didn’t have time for important personal affairs. According to Jobvite’s 2015 Job Seeker Nation Study, 45 percent of workers who expressed satisfaction with their current jobs also admitted that they were also considering new ones.
In Glassdoor’s Employment Confidence Survey (Q4 2014), the company learned that “more than one in three (35 percent) employees report that they will look for a new job if they do not receive a pay raise in the next 12 months.” And as many economists have noted, meaningful increases in salary aren’t likely to occur. This has also accounted for a rise in job hopping. What was once perceived by employers as a lack of employee stability or loyalty is today being touted as a strategic career-advancement tactic by leading workforce analysts.
Based on a recent Accountemps survey, respondents endorsed job hopping as a proven way to secure higher compensation. Other perks included the ability to gain new skills, the chance to experience diverse company cultures and, most importantly, the ability to gallop through advancing career stages at a faster clip.
Across the pond in Britain and New Zealand, university researchers discovered a strong link between job dissatisfaction and the transition into freelance or temporary work. Talent who, when interviewed, suffered high levels of anxiety and displeasure from their current positions were 76 percent more likely to choose a freelance lifestyle. And 81 percent of those who did said they were satisfied or very satisfied with their new roles.
The benefits of contingent labor are obvious to businesses. Yet the notable catalyst to the flourishing presence of complementary talent in the modern workforce is the talent – not the organization. More companies this year – 46 percent over last year’s 42 percent – will enlist temporary and contract workers. And that’s happening because more talent are throwing off the shackles of full-time arrangements in favor of elastic assignments that provide them with more time, flexible scheduling, new skills and experiences, and even more money from having multiple clients and greater influence in negotiating rates.
Around the world, this attitude is spreading. Wolfsburg AG, a premier staffing company in Germany, sends more than 10,000 temps to work each year. Actively relying on contingent labor has given the Wolfsburg region the honor of boasting the lowest unemployment rate in the country. Beyond that, the talent themselves say that contingent work provides them with more diverse jobs, more opportunities and a better quality of life. The flexible labor market has created quality jobs.
It might be time to quit your day job and embrace a contingent lifestyle
Is it time for a change? A different change, not just switching employers to perform the same role for a new company that may offer the same stale culture? Here are some red flags that could signal the need to consider a fresh start as a more independent, complementary worker.
You’d prefer order to chaos. Although the panic caused by the start of the Great Recession has subsided, the mad dash to recover and push ahead has replaced it. Either way, today’s company cultures can be defined by high levels of anxiety, scrambling and disorder. The buzz word is “innovation,” yet it doesn’t always have a clear or functional definition. Talent find themselves struggling against last-minute decisions, poor direction, ambiguous or shifting visions, internal drama and ill-conceived project plans. Workers are jostled from department to department, told to switch priorities in the middle of projects and receive only lateral promotions, which lead to more responsibilities for no hikes in pay. Others simply leave, distributing their workload across the remaining employees.
Talent understand that economic disruptions, market fluctuations and new developments happen on occasion. However, when the daily business culture becomes characterized by crisis management, damage control and putting out never-ending fires, the personal lives and the health of workers suffer. Moving toward a freelance or temporary lifestyle puts the control back in the hands of talent. They choose their assignments, negotiate their rates, set their schedules and get to “test drive” organizations. If a company extends a full-time employment offer, contingent workers are in the ideal positions to make the best career decisions.
You’re on the road to nowhere. The Great Recession pounced on U.S. businesses like a bogeyman from under the bed, bringing with it fear. Insecurity became baked into every aspect of the employment relationship. Businesses were afraid of losing what footing they had, so they froze raises, halted promotions, stopped hiring, and some resorted to layoffs. Employees felt it too. They weren’t going to risk losing their positions by asking for more money or opportunity. Sadly, this has engendered a sort of Catch-22.
Now that the economy is recovering, many companies are still operating the same way, fearing to sacrifice the upward momentum they’re gaining by increasing overhead. Retention, however, is no longer as safe a bet as it was a few years ago. Talent today know they have more options, particularly as self-employed freelancers, contractors or temps. They’ve survived and adjusted to market conditions with tightened belts. Now they seek more stimulating work, advancement opportunities, freedom, and compensation. The contingent labor market has emerged as one of the most powerful employment forces across industries, and it offers top talent all of these benefits and more.
You’re not a Luddite. The 19th century followers of Ned Ludd earned a place in history for destroying industrialized textile machines. Today, Luddites are emblematic of any anti-technology movement. Meanwhile, we’re in the midst of ongoing technology revolutions. Millennial talent are drawn to pioneering companies that embrace and champion new advances in technological innovation. They have no desire to be held back in the past or to stagnate as the world rushes by. They are competitive, eager to contribute and consumed by the spirit of invention. The lack of resources and direction actually makes them more creative problem solvers: they ingeniously devise ways to do their jobs properly by using the scant materials available.
As more organizations encourage employee innovation, insight and the design of unique solutions for recurring issues, these professionals become top performers for the right employers. And they’re turning toward contingent working relationships. They are captivated by the allure of free agency, especially Millennials who seek control over their own vocational destinies and career paths, rather than being “tied down to one employer for their whole careers.” They desire challenge and variety with differing projects, environments and objectives – the ability to contribute and make a positive impact.
You can’t get no respect. It’s often difficult to forget the past. It’s part of the human condition. Unfortunately, this can manifest itself in unintentionally negative ways. During the recession, when everything went south, employees who were once listened to or considered influential had to stop and man the pumps with everyone else. Once the storm passed, company leaders began to search for a new crop of workers, with “fresh perspectives,” to help them grow and move ahead. Sadly, it became easy to associate the failures of the organization, even when they arose solely from external circumstances, with the people who were there during the downturn. It’s a matter of being in wrong place at the wrong time.
To keep the wolves from the door, some leaders may have increased their reliance on micro-managing formerly autonomous talent, believing the additional layer of control can staunch the damage. In the end, however, these practices accomplish little more than stifling growth, contributions, the freedom to innovate and the morale of top talent. The good news is that plenty of organizations are actively engaging independent experts, such as contractors and freelancers, to help them solve business challenges. Sure, they may have those resources in house, yet they’ve decided that a new crop of workers needs to be sown. Talent who feel bogged down and underappreciated could be stars someplace else, responsible for their own successes and vocational destinies.
So how do businesses find these freewheeling supertemps? In the second part of this series, we’ll look at how elite staffing curators bring everything together.
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