HR’s Role in Our Future Workforce…

Take a look at these recent stats (especially if you work in HR 🙂 )…

  • Just over 40% of the US workforce is made up of contingent workers. This is expected to grow to 50% by 2020*
  • Australia’s contingent workers as a percentage of total worker population is at around 30% of the labour market**
  • Since November 2013, there’s been a 43% increase in the number of advertised temporary, contract and casual job vacancies***
  • There’s been a 17.7% YOY increase in demand for temporary, contract and casual workers in Australia***
  • Australia has experienced a 64.8% increase in contingent job opportunities in professional services (including ICT) in the last 12 months***
  • Up by 55%: the demand for contingent workers in Australia, across retail & wholesale jobs throughout the past quarter as we near the festive season ***

Mind blown?

These data points are just a tiny peek into what’s happening in the workplace today. The impact of this shift is reverberating across all levels of organisations, and few industries are immune.

One absolute consistent, irrespective of organisation or industry, is the impact on the role of HR.

The most obvious impact, is the need for HR (and in-house recruiters) to pivot their approach to talent attraction & engagement, so they can cut-through to an increasingly transient talent audience.

But firstly, where’s the change coming from? Well…. It’s a market shift that absolutely is not one-sided: so, not the just workers driving this change. Rather, organisations are also finding value due to…

  • talent shortages in some skills categories are increasing organisational usage of contingent workers
  • contingent workers provide short-term, expert skills, enhancing that of existing on-staff workforce
  • the use of contingent workers helps contain labour costs
  • in an ever-increasing digitised world, the rapid rate of change in business, is well-suited to the use of contingent workers

Okay, back to HR.

The differences for HR, in attracting, engaging & re-engaging contingent workers are absolute. Unlike FTE’s who typically seek longevity (1, 2, more years), a growth trajectory, and stability (granted amongst many, many other factors…) contingent workers have taken greater control of their careers and their professional pathways, especially at the higher-end (so, we’re not talking low-skilled gig workers here).

So from the communications, to the negotiations, onboarding, rewarding and feedback, a significant shift is in order.

Most pundits say ‘treat contingent workers like they’re full-timers’ when it comes to the care, attention and – in particular – engagement bestowed upon them. And yes, there’s absolute validity in that call, but with the very crucial caveat that taken too far, these contingent workers may well become ‘deemed employees’ by the tax department or other statutory body. Hence, HR needs to draw a line in the proverbial talent management sand, to ensure clear demarcation of FTE’s to contingent workers, whilst making sure the latter are engaged, satisfied and productive.

In addition, HR’s role is universal. From ensuring the right cultural and employer brand positioning is projected to market (external), to managing the culture and preparedness of the business for a change in the workforce dynamic (internal), the c-suite are expecting to lean upon HR to manage these underpinning elements that keeps hiring & talent pipelines well & truly alive, as times change.

Finally, and again at a macro-level, HR must move with the times. Not only with what’s happening internally with respect to the speed of change e.g. business growth, and managing the workforce accordingly, but also that which applies to the industry and economy in which they operate. In Australia this is even more valid when it comes to contingent workers, over other parts of the world. Here, it’s professional skills like sales, IT and engineering where more & more contingent workers are to be found. Unlike other parts of the globe where the rise of these workers rests heavily with Uber drivers, Airtasker workers or other unskilled labour.

In summary, there’s a big job for HR, to prepare for a different, more dynamic, consistently-changing workforce. In fact this change is already here. So old-school HR need to think about stepping up to capitalise on this exciting time.

* US Government Accountability Office
** Archer Solutions
*** Kinetic Super Contingent Workforce Index