Draw a Venn diagram. Label one of the circles “What I’m good at.” Label the next “What I enjoy doing.” The third reads, “What someone will pay me to do.
Where the three intersect? That’s your career, if you want one. It’s also the core framework hiring managers have in the backs of their minds when trying to staff their organizations.
They’re accustomed to hiring employees. They bring in contractors – independent workers, also known as members of the gig economy – for situations that call for individuals with a well-defined “sack o’ skills” for a finite duration.
Contractors are, that is, members of the workforce who have decided they won’t scratch their circle #2 itches through their careers. Their numbers appear to be increasing, very likely as an offset to those who prefer the traditional employment/career approach to earning a living.
Managers generally think of their organization as a social construct. When staffing a role, hiring an employee is their default, and for good reason. They want someone who will do more than just a defined body of work. Beyond that they want people who will pitch in to help the society function smoothly, who will provide knowledge and continuity, who find this dynamic desirable, and whose attitudes and approaches are compatible with the business culture.
Bringing in a contractor is, for most open positions, Plan B.
Which is unfortunate for hiring managers right now. The trend appears to be that if they want enough people to get the organization’s work done they’re going to have to make more use of contractors … and not only contractors but also employees who have no interest in pursuing a career, just an honest day’s pay in exchange for their honest day’s work – who want jobs, not careers.
A different approach to staffing to what we’ve all become accustomed to is evolving, one that’s more transactional and less interpersonal. Culture will be less of a force because contractors will spend less time acculturating than employees; also, the ratio of time working independently than in the team situations where culture matters most is steadily increasing.
In some respects it will be more expensive. Contractor turnover will be higher than employee turnover because that’s built into how the relationship is defined. The ratio of onboarding time to productive time will increase.
Managers who don’t want to head down this road do have an alternative: They can compete for those members of the workforce who don’t want to become independent. The law of supply and demand suggests that this approach will cost more. It will also mean thinking through how to make the work environment as desirable as possible.
One more factor, as if one was needed: The security ramifications of a more transient workforce are significant.
Bob’s last word: “Digital” refers to changes in a company’s marketplace that call for changes in a company’s business strategy in response. Digital is all about products and customer relationships.
The current restructuring of traditional staffing practices is the result of digitization, the rise of the remote worker digital technologies have enabled, and COVID-19, which accelerated it all. It’s the next digital marketplace transformation to which businesses must adapt, only this time the marketplace in question is the one that trades in labor.
Adapting to this nascent transformation of the employment marketplace is less familiar territory, but it isn’t different in principle. Strategists have always had to think in terms of where their organizations fit into an overall business ecosystem. Staffing has always been part of this overall ecosystem. It’s just that few business leaders, not to mention those of us who engage in punditry and futurism … anticipated how quickly and dramatically this ecosystem would morph.
Bob’s sales pitch: Ten years ago, when I published Keep the Joint Running: A Manifesto for 21st Century IT, “Digital” was still an adjective, “everybody knew” the rest of the business was IT’s internal customer, and “best practice” was a phrase people tossed around when they had nothing better to say.
Oh, well. You can’t win ‘em all. But even though Digital has been noun-ified, this book’s 13 principles for leading an effective IT organization are as relevant as the day the book was published.