Most of us have felt the economic downturn in one fashion or another. The impact on employees has varied from low morale coupled with heightened stress and anxiety to outright loss of employment. For most of us, this is the worst economic crisis we have experienced. As the recession continues, employees who felt that the downturn will only a last a year or two are starting to realize that we find ourselves in a multi-year correction to the economy. The combination of the severity and duration has led to higher levels of anxiety, stress, depression, and uncertainty. Consequently, stress related physical and mental illnesses are manifesting more readily in the workplace.
It is hard to pick up a newspaper or other periodical without finding at least a small article on the impact of the downturn on the workforce. What appear to be less covered are the changes that are occurring organizations outside of the financial realm. Organizations like individuals under stress respond by attempting to minimize uncertainty, increase flexibility, and create alternatives. If you ask an employee that is fearful of keeping his or her job what would diminish his or her anxiety, options are key. If the person knows that he or she can leave their current employer and find complementary work, then the employee can better deal with the change. Similarly, an organization as a living organism needs to know it has the potential to survive and better align itself with its environment.
What have we seen the last few years as organizations have evolved?
- More acceptance of future change
- More concentration in contractors
- More hybrid staffing models
More Acceptance of Change
The idea of an unofficial contract between the employee and employer has been deteriorating for several decades. This change has manifested in the increase in the average number of jobs that an employee holds as well as the diminishing loyalty shown by employees and organization alike. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has found that the typical worker has tenure of approximately four years. As we move from possessing a fairly consistent workforce that remains with an organization for an extended period of time to one that constantly brings in new talent and loses others, we need structures, processes, and expectations that match that level of change.
More Concentration in Contractors
Even in the downturn, organizations still compete for specialized skills in the marketplace. Moreover, as the economy recovers the best resources will be taken first. Fluctuations in availability and quality make the difference between success and failure. The need for more flexibility in times of greater scarcity, diminished capacity in human resources due to cost cutting, and higher levels of uncertainty all have increased the value of contract labor. A higher level of acceptance of contractors enables the third change: hybrid staffing.
More Hybrid Staffing Models
Numerous futurists predict that the way we work is changing and will be dramatically different as little as 20 years in the future. As we move toward more flexible and cost effective means of staffing, hybrid staffing models will become the norm. Over time, organizations will employee less traditional employees and supplement with contractors, fixers, and project specialists. Contractors will provide longer term resources, but will provide a more flexible solution than a traditional employee. Fixers as a more cost effective solution than consultants will go from organization to organization working to address specific, yet critical needs preventing an organization from realizing its full potential. Project specialists will make up project teams needed to implement new systems, processes, or products when an organization only needs those expertise for a finite period of time and recognizes of having the best and brightest available during implementation, but not retaining the resources after completion.
The move from the traditional approach to flexible and creative staffing arrangements will free organizations and employees alike. However, we all will need to change the way we look at our value, position, and future.