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The Temps Will Take Over!

According to the latest Future of Work report from PwC, 20% of the UK workforce will be made up of temporary and contracted staff by 2022. This is quite a significant statement, and if correct may well cause difficulties for whichever government presides over the situation. Achieving the fullest employment possible is such an important political holy grail that you can imagine the calls to action from the opposition benches. Is it the end of the permanent employee as we know it?

Organisations now need to make their their staffing patterns fully responsive to market changes so many are building a core permanent team, complemented by temporary or fixed term workers as needed. Companies like Nike now view this type of staffing model as a critical addition to their nucleus of permanent employees. They are seeking to develop a strategic approach and manage the global workforce and all employment costs as a whole.

According to the PwC report only 14% of UK workers want to work in a traditional office environment in the future, whereas about a fifth of workers say they want to work in a ‘virtual’ place where they can log on from any location or use collaborative work spaces. The one in five workers across Britain, America, India, Germany and China who do not want a 9-5 routine are interested in working from different locations and being able to log on from anywhere. Some want to get away from the ‘continuous employment’ model and move towards working on a series of shorter projects so that they get the satisfaction of completing an assignment and also feel they’re maintaining control of their lives.

Some suggest it is due to the change in the family unit, others say it is the increased number of people going to university who have got used to projects lasting a few years and then moving onto something new. Perhaps it is just part of the progression of society. Or it may be that we’ve all got used to rapid and regular change. Perhaps it’s become part of the psyche now.

So what does this mean for companies? For some it will take a lot of getting used to. Those companies that thrive on integrated teams working in an office where they can have proper face to face discussions to share ideas and check vital points (a Skype call is never quite the same),and staff members who are carefully nurtured to fit the company’s standards and ethos, may struggle to make it work. It could cause problems for workers too, for example, employees on a series of short-term contracts may not make proper provision for their pensions.

PwC are adopting the same idea of a structure for the future: a small nucleus team embodying the philosophy and values of the company, with other project-based workers coming and going and working in different locations. The difficulty is making sure that the short-term workers are a good match for the requirements of the role.

That has always been the great challenge of recruitment, and trying to find skilled, motivated workers who will accept and promulgate the company ethos in the time involved can be even more difficult.

As a global company PwC can see the advantages of the small core plus contingent worker approach and are very upbeat about it. Jon Andrews, UK HR Consulting leader at PwC, said: “Workers will be more likely to see themselves as a member of a particular skill or professional network, rather than as an employee of a particular company. People will be categorised and rewarded for having specialist expertise. Project-related bonuses could become more common as people have a personal stake in the organisation’s or project’s success. We expect many contractors and partners will adopt ‘e-bay’ style ratings of past performance to help land the next contract.”

Change is happening at a tremendous speed and perhaps PwC’s findings aren’t all that surprising. Many of us are already starting to change traditional patterns of working and the awareness of the desirability of flexible working has been with us for some time. The key is to look at the trends in technology to see how they can be harnessed to work for you, give full consideration to your organisational objectives and how you will achieve them, including the sort of workers your company hires, and plan for the future. Think through options to help you determine what could work you, and think about the best places to source the type of temporary workers you need.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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