We're All Temps Now, And We Like It

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Whether employees like it or not, America’s workforce landscape is changing – edging away from the era of the full-time, salaried workers and closer to a freelance-and-full-time mix of staffers.

A study from the human resources services firm Randstad says “contingent” workers are becoming a fact of life at U.S. companies, edging out full-time workers in the process.

Workers aren’t exactly fighting, says the Atlanta-based firm, and in fact many contract employees are finding a higher job satisfaction than they did in their full-time, salaried days.

Is it the end of an era?

Randstad certainly thinks so.

The survey of 225 human resource executives and 2,035 workers shows 67% of U.S. firms using temporary or contract workers, and most of that group say there has been a “steady or increasing percentage” of such workers in the past few years.

Hiring managers view the shift as a critical one in tough economic times, telling study researchers a mix of contract workers and full-time workers allows them to be “nimble” when the economy is in turmoil.

So much so that 21% of hiring managers say they plan to increase the number of temporary staffers over the next year (39% say they will also add full-time, salaried workers to their staffs in that time).

"The recession produced such significant operational and financial duress for U.S. companies that the business model of the future will rely heavily upon the ability to be insulated from economic downturns. We live in a world now that rewards financial flexibility rather than fixed-cost business models, and agility and cost containment reign supreme," said Jim Link, managing director of Human Resources for Randstad US.

"What used to be viewed as a temporary stopgap measure, the utilization of a contingent workforce alongside full-time talent, is no longer a contingency plan. We believe this integrated staffing model will be fundamental to operational and fiscal success for the foreseeable future,” Link says.

What does this mean to American workers?

In a word, it gives them flexibility, too. Workers told Randstad their experiences as temporary workers were much more satisfying than they previously thought.

Specifically, 78% of temporary and contract workers surveyed rated their experience as “positive,” and 54% of contract workers said they strongly agree with the statement “I am paid what I am worth,” compared with 42% of salaried workers.

In addition . . .

  • 63% of temporary and 73% of contract workers rate their growth potential with their employer as good or excellent.
  • 86% of temporary workers and contractors agree their current level of job satisfaction is very good or excellent, compared with 73% of permanent workers.
  • 31% of contingency workers say they value their “flexibility of schedule,” while 28% say the money is better, and 21% say they like being “in charge of their own career.”

So is it a win-win for employees and employers?

Although Randstad’s data lead in that direction, it’s hard to say for sure. The lack of health insurance for contract workers bears watching, as does the lack of direct access to company pension and 401(k) plans.

That workers don’t seem to mind going the temporary route despite that is just as well, since that’s where corporate Americans seems to be heading.

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