The Contracted Workforce As The New Paradigm?

January 25, 2011 at 10:52 pm 1 comment


Babette Ten Haken
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Understanding the value of your employees (aka, “human assets”) and recognizing where there are gaps is essential to fulfilling your business goals and strategic objectives.  The workplace is changing, that’s for sure.  The economic downturn of 2008 resulted in downsized companies and a burgeoning pool of individuals available to keeping companies functioning – and profitable.

Evaluating the WHO of your business by aligning personnel with the WHAT you are trying to achieve is becoming a bit of an art form.

The architectural and engineering community has a long tradition of ramping their workforce up and down to meet project demands. Nothing new here. The accordion-like nature of the employment paradigm within this community has long been juxtaposed against a business model and employee expectations of  establishing a lifelong career with a company.

Now there are a lot more folks available to be deployed on a contractual basis on behalf of your company.  These are the folks who, perhaps, never were going to be lifelong company men or women for one reason or another. Yet they haven’t gone quietly into the night. Rather, they are very available and can become valuable, albeit transient, assets against a timeline or a project deadline.

I am quite certain that when these individuals entered their career path,  they never considered the changing face of the workforce of 2010 and forward. And then there’s the consideration that the newbies entering the workforce in 2008 were well aware of the difficulty it might take to land, and retain, employment.  While some are still waiting to become company men and women, others have joined the rank and file of the contract work force.

The fact is, the status quo has changed. The workforce paradigm is shifting. There is an entire career path consisting of project-oriented deployment. There is an entire workforce of experienced, deployable individuals – and newbies – who have come to understand that even if they are employed for the duration of the project, their success does not ensure a permanent position as reward for a project well done. The economic realities of their company may never permit permanent employment.

The paradigm of the mature, contracted workforce can play to their strong suit: some of these individuals will never be around long enough to be disruptive, which may have been their undoing in a former place of employment.  Having a resume of contracted projects may prove to make a stronger statement about their capabilities than a resume that is perceived as a track record of failure: no more than three to five year tenures with multiple companies.   While this type of individual is not unique to this time in history, the numbers of such individuals may be.

The problem is that the business model paradigms and the cultural paradigms into which the contracted workforce is placed remains based on outmoded mindset and structure.  I mean, how can you go from contracted job to contracted job without benefits? How can you describe these transient assignments to your advantage as a means of showing the value you provide to an organization?

For the time being, things are tremendously out of sync, aren’t they? Even when permanent employment is offered, no one is quite sure how long it’s going to last.  The cultural / societal infrastructure hasn’t quite caught up (or even begun to deal) with the reality of the contracted workforce.  And yes, we could and probably should discuss and debate this inequity for a long time. Not exactly the employment model, or career goal, that many individuals in the current workforce were brought up –  or taught –  to target.

If you have gaps in your ranks, give great consideration not only in how you will fill them but with whom.  These folks are hardly “stop gap” personalities, some having substantial careers under their belts. And if you are considering a career focused on filling gaps in the employment ranks, on an ongoing basis, don’t think of yourself as “less than,” but rather, an individual who is perhaps – in most instances – “more of” what is called for in the changing paradigm of the workforce of the future.

Something to think about, isn’t it?


Entry filed under: Civil Engineering Issues, Civil Engineering Jobs, Civil Engineering Resumes, Employee Retention, Human Resources, The Workplace.

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