What the Rise of the Temp Workforce Means for HR and Internal Recruiters

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Pundits seem hesitant to acknowledge it, but the economy is getting better, if at a somewhat glacial pace. Unemployment figures have been trending downward for several months and job creation seems to be slowly on the march. While these figures paint a picture of an economy that’s taking its first tenuous steps toward recovery, they don’t address a growing truth about what kind of jobs are being created. Temporary and freelance jobs are among the fastest-growing segments when it comes to job creation in the United States. How HR departments choose to use this information can have a seismic impact on their business as a whole.

According to the American Staffing Association, for the third quarter of 2012:

“…the number of temporary and contract workers employed by U.S. staffing firms on an average business day was 4.3% higher compared with the third quarter of 2011. This is the 11th consecutive quarter of year-to-year staffing industry job growth since the recession ended mid-2009.”

Chances are good that your business is already on the bandwagon, using a greater mix of temps and skilled, specialized freelancers than you were in previous years. Rather than employing a pool of low-wage, low-skill permanent employees, maybe your company routinely hires batches of temps to complete tasks that require a lot of low-skill manpower. Perhaps you no longer have a static creative department, but instead outsource design and copy work to skilled freelancers. Whatever your business’s needs may be, it’s fast becoming the norm, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

For an HR department, this shift is likely to have two primary impacts:

1. More recruiting, but not in the traditional sense

Instead of painstaking searches to find the perfect candidate and then putting him or her through multiple rounds of interviews, the future is likely to see a greater reliance on freelancers who are brought in to complete a single project that falls within their narrow purview. Instead of finding the do-it-all marketing manager and keeping her for three years, you’re likely to find yourself searching for an exceptional email marketing consultant and putting him under contract for six months.

2. Less training and development

Permanent careers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon. There will still be those positions that stay relatively static, but they’re already becoming increasingly rare. Millennials are quickly embracing the concept of the “portfolio career,” meaning they do several part-time jobs at once across various verticals or industries. The result will be a future where many professionals get their professional development resources somewhere other than an internal HR department. This doesn’t mean that the days of the Learning & Development specialists are over, but it does mean they’ll have to adjust, just like the rest of us.

The future is an increasingly freelance one, and that can be a great thing for your business. But HR departments will need to think strategically about how these “have skills, will travel” professionals can benefit their organizations.

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