The True Cost of On-Demand Talent

data point tuesday_500

WorkMarket has just published a new survey analysis, the 2016 Corporate On-Demand Talent Report. It’s got some really great information about “On-Demand” talent in our changing economy. And while a definition of “On-Demand” was never given, it’s clear that it means more than the traditional blue collar or retail “temp” definition. It clearly also includes professionals of all stripes who either prefer a more fluid and flexible on-demand employer-employee relationship, or who have been displaced and who can’t seem to find new, satisfying full-time employment.

Some interesting findings:

  • Nearly 17% — or 27 million workers – of the U.S, workforce is now part of the corporate on-demand economy

  • 88% of businesses are currently using an on-demand workforce

  • 46% of businesses are using on-demand labor for more than a year at a time

  • 42% of businesses are using the same professionals more than half the time

At 9 pages, the survey report is a quick and interesting read. The survey results are from an online survey of 1,037 adults that was fielded in November and December last year. The employers represented appear to be an appropriate cross-section in terms of revenue size and numbers of employees.

The results of this survey show an economy and workforce undergoing an even larger transition than we might have realized: more than 40% of businesses indicated their on-demand professionals comprised more than 30% of their overall workforce. WorkMarket suggests that employers are trying to shrink their fulltime workforces, with all the expenses and liabilities they entail, while trying to grow their businesses. This could mean a fundamental reshaping of the employer-employee relationship. Employers are considering how they can we grow their businesses while shrinking their commitment to their people, seems to be the message from this report.

This graphic is challenging for me:

WorkMarket 1

I guess my question is: what does flexibility mean? Does it mean having the ability to move people around when and where we need them? Does it mean being able to staff up and down during peaks and valleys? Or does flexibility mean being able to “rent” skills for as long as possible without calling the skills holders “headcount” and having to provide a full range of benefits? Is headcount a dirty word now?

Does lowering labor costs mean paying on-demand workers less than fulltime workers? Does lowering labor costs also mean not providing the full range of benefits to on-demand workers that similarly skilled and deployed full-time workers receive?

These findings are surprising to me because I’ve actually been noting a growth in the number of employers that are focusing on creating more human workplace cultures. Creating cultures that treat employees as full human beings, not just skills that clock in and clock out. The proliferation of data connecting better corporate performance with positive, employee-focused cultures seem to contradict these findings that suggest employers will go to great lengths to NOT hire full-time employees and be liable for them.

WorkMarket may have uncovered unintended consequences of the On-Demand economy. At least I hope they’re unintended. These survey results could turn our conversations away from the ever elusive quest for employee engagement to a more useful discussion about the changing nature of the employer-employee relationship in the U.S. If employers really do want skills flexibility more than they want a stable, reliable workforce to whom they are committed, we have only begun to experience the On-Demand economy.


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Filed under China Gorman, Company Culture, Data Point Tuesday, On-Demand Economy, Workforce Management, Workforce Planning, WorkMarket

One response to “The True Cost of On-Demand Talent

  1. Pingback: Three Star Leadership | Wally Bock | Leadership Reading to Start Your Week: 2/8/16

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