Learning & Development

The Changing Nature of Work

The labor market has undergone many fundamental shifts over the course of human history. The transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture, the transition from agriculture to widespread factory work, and the shift from industrial labor to the information economy represent some of the most important headlines in this millennia-old trend.

Employers and HR professionals shouldn’t assume we now live in some kind of post-history, monolithic normal that will remain static. Indeed, the way employees work and even what’s considered “work” or who’s counted as an “employee” continue to change.

future of work

The Rise in Contingent Work …

According to data presented in the Future of HR report by McLean & Company, contingent work in particular will continue to change the relationship between employer and employee. “Compared to rates before the pandemic, organizations’ contingent worker population has increased by 56%,” according to the report.

“Meanwhile, contingent software developers and healthcare workers rose by 214% and 65%, respectively. This trend is likely to continue with the growth of technological platforms that enable employees to act upon more fluid conceptualizations of work. The market for global freelance platforms is projected to reach $18.3 billion by 2031, expanding at a compounded annual growth rate of 15.1%”

While contingent work can offer both the employer and employees greater flexibility, that flexibility isn’t always ideal. When it comes to employers, the concern is that contingent workers just won’t stick around as long as traditional employees.

… And the Loss of Loyalty and Longevity

The McLean & Company report notes that employees are fairly evenly split when asked how economic conditions might impact their contingent worker status. It found 51% of contingent workers who responded felt confident in their work stability despite a potential recession, while 45% reported they would consider leaving a contingent work assignment early if economic conditions became unstable.

The changing nature of the U.S. and the global labor market is nothing new. Change is a natural part of the interplay between employer, employee, government, and other players. The key for employers is to stay up to date on what emerging trends may be on the horizon and adapt accordingly, especially as these trends threaten employee engagement, productivity, and retention.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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