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By Susan Hornbuckle

susan hornbuckleThe employment landscape has changed. Long gone are the days when employees remained at a company for decades, earning a pension, then eventually retiring with a gold watch. Nowadays, employees stay, on average, a little more than four years at a single employer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

In 2018, the median years of tenure with an employer for men and women 16 years old or older is 4.2 years. This number has remained largely consistent over the past 10 years. Age does make a difference. {mprestriction ids="1,3"}Median tenure for men and women ages 16 to 19 was less than a year. Conversely, median years of tenure for men and women over the age of 55 is 10.2 years. Point being, these stats indicate that, on average, workers of all ages do not stay with employers long term.

This reality means that all jobs can be regarded as temporary. While most jobs are categorized as full-time, permanent positions, the expectation by most employers and employees is that the “permanent” part of the job description is rarely realized. This observation isn’t just semantics. More workers than ever hold temporary or free-agent jobs. Whether they do it by choice or necessity is less relevant than the fact that contingent working has become a viable alternative for many people. A poll conducted by NPR/Marist earlier this year found that 1 in 5 jobs in America is held by a worker under contract. 

With the historically low national unemployment rate, the lack of skilled labor and an inability to fill their open positions now threatens many employers’ productivity and profitability. To solve this problem, more and more employers have found that the best candidate is frequently a freelancer or an independent contractor. That means employers must be open to engaging all work styles (e.g., full-time, temporary) to recruit the most talented jobseekers.

      Temporary staffing companies have seen this play out in an increase in their placement volume. According to the American Staffing Association (ASA), U.S. staffing companies employed an average of 3.10 million temporary and contract workers per week in the first quarter of 2018, representing the highest number since the organization began tracking this data in 1992.

On the employer side, a 2018 industry study of 2,100 worldwide talent managers across multiple industries and career disciplines found that 72 percent said that using free-agent talent gives their team or organization a competitive advantage, and 60 percent use free-agent labor to bridge a talent or capacity gap.

The rise in the number of people working in temp positions points to a shift in the way people engage with work. Simply stated, permanent work doesn’t work for everyone. This mindset change redefines what is meant by temporary work for both jobseekers and employers. Independent work styles enabled by temp work provide today’s workers and forward-looking companies with added flexibility, growth experiences and an easier way to tap into the evolving workforce. 

Employers must respond to this mindset shift about how some people want to work because it already affects how they recruit temporary workers. Some factors are clearer than others. Pay, for example, is increasing.  Positions that may have once been $10 per hour to start now require a minimum of 30 percent to 50 percent higher per-hour rate, even for unskilled labor. Job qualifications are another area companies are examining. Employers that require a high number of qualifications will miss out on good candidates who end up working for competitors that evaluate job seekers on their fit with the company culture and possess “close enough” skills, then train them to fit the requirements of the position. Time-to-hire is critical, too. Employers who spend more than a handful of days vetting candidates will lose them to timelier job offers.

Temporary staffing agencies can help employers navigate this new world of work that entails tailoring a corporate culture to meet work habits and needs of a workforce that spans five generations. It starts with the hiring process and extends into operational benefits. Besides looking at a candidate’s qualifications during the interview stage to assess if they’re a match for the position, staffing agencies deliver time and cost savings to employers by removing the financial overhead that comes with recruiting, running background checks, evaluating and hiring candidates, completing paperwork and processing payroll or benefits for employees. There’s something more, though. Temporary staffing agencies offer data and analytics that validate the effective use of temp workers. These analytics can include insights into talent pools, compensation, worker productivity, and much more.

The use of analytics will encourage employers to abandon old ways of thinking about their workforce plans and strategy, and help them embrace the value offered by staffing agencies and the independent work styles that come with incorporating temp workers into their workforce.

For employers that are wondering whether temp workers may fit into their staffing mix, here are a few guidelines to help: If finding qualified candidates has become too time-consuming, if candidates regularly choose other employers due to compensation or time-to-hire issues, or if new hires have difficulty adjusting to the culture or workplace, then it may be time to consider a partnership with a temporary staffing agency to assist in creating and implementing a workforce-development plan. And likely, it will include temporary workers that are drawn from large applicant pools, which increases the chances of finding high-quality candidates.

Susan Hornbuckle is the Utah territory vice president for Kelly Services and oversees its staffing and business solutions operations with a focus on staffing for accounting and finance, administrative, aerospace and defense, education, engineering, information technology and light industrial and manufacturing.{mprestriction ids="1,3"}