Moving toward a non-traditional work force

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Genevieve Roberts

CEOs and their recruiters may be more comfortable hiring workers on a traditional 9-to-5, 40-hour week schedule. But the trend toward hiring a “contingent work force” is increasingly becoming more popular — and vital.

As companies continue to face a shrinking qualified labor force, organizations that look to non-traditional ways of filling these critical roles will have an edge over those who don’t.  The Human Capital Institute notes that in North America, the placement and management of the contingent work force is a huge business and is time-tested and well-understood for both its economic and business value.  Researchers conclude the contingent work force is expected to grow at three- to -four times the rate of the traditional work force and will make up approximately 25 percent of the global work force by 2012. In fact, almost 30 percent of U.S. workers already fall into the contingent categories, which the U.S. General Accounting Office defines as temps, part-timers, contractors, virtual and on-call employees. More than 70 percent of employers retain the services of at least one kind of contingent employee.

Employers, particularly retail and service companies, like to use contingency workers to provide labor flexibility to meet demand fluctuations, to attract specialized talent and to achieve higher productivity.  Employees, researcher William D. Young notes, elect to pursue contingent work for reasons that are as varied as the work settings in which the work is performed. Some people see it as a route to permanent full-time employment. For others, it is a lifestyle decision that allows them to work when they want, for as long as they want. For others, contract work provides variety and challenge as they move among work sites.

Three key sources of non-traditional employees will be introduced in this article.

1. The Interim Executive
2. The Virtual Employee
3. The Nontraditional Schedule Employee

The Interim Executive

The “interim executive” is a way for a company to quickly tap into expertise for a senior-level role without having to make a long-term commitment.  For example, these executives may be tapped to turn around business for a failing company or perhaps one that just went through bankruptcy.  In this scenario, the interim executive is there to clean house and get things in order before he moves to the next role.  However, even small to mid-size firms can benefit from interim talent for other reasons.  An example is a firm that is growing and needs to create more people processes and infrastructure to support their growth. A company may consider hiring an interim human resources director, who can serve as its leader one day a week for a year or more. The situation is a win-win for all involved. The organization gets the strategic expertise it needs, and but does not have to absorb the burden of hiring a full-time employee. 

The Virtual Employee

In today’s work force, it is no longer unusual to have an employee telecommuting from home, even if home is across the country or the world. The “virtual employee” is an employee of the company that you may never see in person.  In some instances, they are even selected and hired virtually through the Internet.  An example of a firm offering these types of employees is Internships.com. Mason Gates, president of the company, noted there is a generational shift toward more experiential learning for students. And, as that demographic shift alters the world of employment, new ways of working with employees must be developed.  Gates added that at Internships.com “…we’re developing tools and services to assist every student, employer and educator to better understand and optimize the work opportunities of the future.”

Virtual employment arrangements often benefit both the employer and employee, but create a number of novel legal issues. Almost all agreements include a choice of law provision. That choice can prove critical where one state’s laws provide greater contractual protection to a party than those of another state.  So be sure to consult with your attorney on which state’s laws should prevail.There are some roles in organizations that are better suited for a virtual employee than others.  Virtual employees should be able to work behind the scenes and more independently.  Also, managers must set clear expectations up front and ensure on-going and clear communication throughout to ensure the employee is and stays on track.

The Nontraditional Schedule Employee

Workplace flexibility is the buzz word today not only for the Millennials graduating from college, but also for many women who are returning to work after starting families.  The strong desire for work/family balance is vital to these employees.  Companies who recognize and respond to these desires will have the opportunity to hire the best talent.

It is no longer safe to assume that every employee you interview wants to work Monday through Friday from 9 to 5.  Employees have lives outside of the office and often value a flexible schedule as much or more than pay.  Whitney Forstner, co-owner of Momentum Resources explains that her company, “…connects educated, experienced, and super-productive individuals with flexible, part-time employment opportunities —enabling moms to stay focused on what’s most valuable to them.”

Momentum matches companies in the Richmond and Northern Virginia areas with qualified and dedicated professionals by targeting a unique population that is not reached through other staffing firms or typical job boards.  They specialize in recruiting highly qualified individuals who want challenging, part-time work opportunities that are not available through traditional staffing firms.  Employers can save money on finding, recruiting and hiring talented part-time professionals through cost savings in overhead, training and benefits.

In today’s competitive workplace, finding talented, motivated and capable employees is critical for every organization.  Considering a contingent work force can provide employers with a timely and cost-effective alternative to the “traditional” employee.

Genevieve Roberts is managing principal at Titan Group LLC in Richmond. She can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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