Our board member, David Creelman, submits the following for your consideration. I wrote about WaaS, Workforce as a Service, recently. Is this the new reality?
In the current political campaign in Ontario, Canada, one of the candidates proposed that the number of temporary workers in any establishment should not exceed 25 percent of the total permanent work force. The candidate is unlikely to win, but what is the thinking behind this?
Jeff Nugent, managing director of Contingent Workforce solutions, says that there is still a perception that temp workers are somehow a second-class add-on to the “real” workforce. If they are second-class, a means of exploiting workers, then of course politicians will want to get involved. Yet when one actually looks at contingent workers one finds most are free agents by choice. They are often paid better than permanent staff, enjoy being removed from office politics and like the freedom of being, at least in part, their own boss.
For their part, many organizations hire contingent workers not because they are cheaper than permanent workers but because it is the best way to get the skills they need for a project. In these cases it is just a better match between the nature of the work and the nature of the available workforce. We have ended up in a fluid economy where people regularly change jobs. Contingent workers go from contract to contract, “permanent” workers go from job to job. Our thinking, or at least the thinking of some politicians, has not caught up with the reality.
So what do you think? Is it time to simply retire the concept of the permanent employee and the legislation that continues to enshrine the concept?
I just came across this very interesting presentation from Mary Meeker, a former Wall Street analyst and now partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkin. This 88-slide behemoth contains a lot of market data about the growth of mobile technology. More interesting, it asks a lot of questions about how this technology will continue to transform the way we live.
It won’t be surprising to many reading this post that retail, banking, book publishing, music distribution, entertainment, and many other businesses have already been radically transformed by the emergence of visionary disrupters who saw the opportunity presented by the internet beginning over 20 years ago. From Berners-Lee to Bezos to Jobs to Zuckerberg, the notion of an information superhighway has morphed from Star Trek fantasy to assumed convenience. (This may be urban legend, but I read somewhere once (though can’t find it on the googlemachine today) that the inventor of the first cellphone was inspired by Star Trek. Whether it’s true or not, I’m using the picture here because my 45-year crush on Captain Kirk remains unabated).
Check out slide #74. The supposition here seems to be that we are on the cusp of Workforce as a Service (WaaS). I haven’t heard that particular term before, but the notion of the internet-enabled freelance economy has been around at least since the 90’s when I first heard it. The idea is that those with skills that are in high demand can sell those skills in the open market on a temporary basis, rather than tying themselves down to a single employer. In 1999, when unemployment was 4.2% and employers were handing out BMW’s as signing bonuses, the idea of the freelance economy looked pretty attractive. In 2012, according to the Freelancers Union, nearly one in three or 42 million Americans is an independent worker. I suspect that number is driven as much by unemployment, under-employment, and employer strategies to manage expenses as it is by worker preference. On the other hand, the infrastructure to support telework also makes freelancing more feasible.
What do you think about WaaS? Is this increasingly the wave of the future?