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Is It Time to Join the Contract Workforce?

Contract Worker

The contract workforce has grown rapidly over the past few years, and experts project exponential growth in the near future. According to a January 2018 NPR/Marist poll, 20 percent of US workers are contract workers. A 2017 study by Upwork and Freelancers Union projected that more than half of the US workforce will be freelancing by 2027 if the growth of the contract workforce continues at its current pace.

These freelancers include people who are doing contract work in addition to a full-time job, those who are freelancing but would prefer a permanent position, and those who are solely contract workers by choice.

What Is a Contract Worker?

Contract workers—also known as contingent workers, gig workers, consultants, and freelancers—work for a company for a set period of time or on a project basis. Contract workers are not full-time, permanent employees of the company they are working for and do not receive benefits from the company. Contract workers may work as 1099 freelancers, which means they are fully responsible for managing their own taxes and buying their own health insurance. Or, they may contract through a recruitment agency, in which case they are considered an employee of the agency during the period they are working.

Often contract workers are individuals with high-level, specific skills. For example, a company may need a front-end developer to create a new app for their business, or a senior executive to offer expertise during a period of rapid business expansion.

Is Contract Work Right for You?

The number of people making the decision to work on temporary projects, rather than in a permanent position, is growing. According to the Upwork and Freelancers Union survey, the number of worker respondents who say they are freelancers by choice rather than necessity rose from 53 percent to 63 percent between 2014 and 2017.

But entering the realm of contract work is a big decision and there are important things to evaluate before taking the plunge. These aren’t broken down into pros and cons because what one person would put in the pro column, another would place firmly in the con column. Here are some of the key considerations:

The Work Ends

As opposed to a permanent role within a company, contract work has a defined end date—when the contract expires or when a project is completed. Your engagement with a company may be long, sometimes even more than a year, but it will eventually reach its conclusion. Many people thrive under these circumstances, such as those who enjoy varied work or relish the challenges that come with each new project. But others do their best work when they have the time to settle into a role over the course of months and years with the same company.

The changeable nature of contract work also comes with a higher level of instability than full-time employment. There is no guarantee that another role will be available when a contract ends. For those who have trouble budgeting for the long term, contract work can be challenging, and the steady paycheck of a full-time job may be preferable. Effective contract workers recognize and prepare for the ‘feast or famine’ nature of their work. They become the COO of a business of one and make choices that help them bridge periods of light employment.

Flexibility—Within Reason

Many dream of being a contract worker finishing up a full day’s work while sitting on a tropical beach somewhere. While this may happen from time to time, for the most part this image is a fantasy. Contract workers must show up and get the job done in a timely manner, or they are unlikely to land the next gig.

The flexibility of contract work can vary significantly. If the job allows you to work from home, as a contract worker you may be able to set your own hours, manage family responsibilities that come up during the day, and complete work at night. But whatever work you are responsible for during the course of a week or over the course of a project must be completed successfully, no matter where or when it happens. Be aware that staying in frequent communication and being available to offer input or problem solve is critical when working on a project remotely.

Other contingent positions will require your presence in-office every day during the contract period. In these instances, the flexibility rests in the temporary nature of the position rather than in your ability to complete your tasks anywhere and anytime. If you need to take a break after a contract expires, you can make that call.

Test Driving Careers

Joining the contract workforce is an excellent way to explore roles that can elevate your technical or leadership skills, or to transfer your skills to other industries. In any one permanent role, there are only so many opportunities to upskill or try something new. Your freedom to pursue new projects also depends upon room in the company budget and decision makers who share your vision—variables that aren’t always in the offing.

But offering your skills in the contract marketplace allows you to dip your toes into work you’ve wanted to try, but haven’t been able to thus far. A site-specific logistics manager, for example, may take on a logistics coordinator role that covers multiple territories. You can also take your skills with you across industries, such as a pharmaceutical sales rep exploring sales positions within the tech industry.

Stellar contract workers are fast learners, adaptable, and strong communicators. If you can hit the ground running when faced with the new and the challenging—and enjoy the process to boot—then contract work may be a great fit for you.

 
 
 

How Virtual Reality Is Used in Hiring

Virtual Reality

When you think about virtual reality, chances are gaming and entertainment come to mind first. But the technology has actually been in use for decades as a training tool for pilots, astronauts, military personnel, and surgeons. Now, as the cost of VR headsets and 360 degree cameras declines, innovative uses for the tech are proliferating—including in the realm of talent acquisition. Here are some ways companies are leveraging VR technology to recruit, hire, and retain top candidates:

Workplace Tours for Candidates

Helping candidates imagine themselves in a particular workplace is an important element of the recruiting and hiring process. It’s particularly meaningful for highly competitive roles, for example in the tech sector, where most candidates are already employed or fielding offers from other companies in addition to yours. With VR technology, candidates can take an immersive tour of a workplace, as well as peek into the company culture. Online ecommerce company Jet.com, for example, uses VR to let candidates sit in on a meeting with their CEO, tour their busy offices, and check out the vibe at the happy hour for employees.1

Many companies are bringing VR headsets with them to career events and college job fairs to increase traffic to their booths, as well as to give candidates an authentic inside look at their organizations. After a VR introduction, candidates who take the next steps in the application process are more likely a good fit for your company.

Introducing the Job

Similar to the virtual workplace tour, VR can give candidates an immersive experience with specific roles. This is especially helpful in positions with a higher-than-average turnover rate. Misunderstanding the day-to-day realities of a particular job contributes to employee churn, and VR can help clarify the position better than any job description.

German railway company, Deutsche Bahn, was an early adopter of VR tech to help attract Millennial and Gen Z workers when it was preparing for a wave of retirements in 2015.2 With VR, prospective candidates could closely follow employees doing different jobs within the company. While the realities of the job were off-putting to some, the talent who continued tended to be more promising and were more likely to stick with the hiring process.

Virtual Reality Skills Assessments

Skills assessments are not new, but VR takes them up a level. Jaguar Land Rover uses the technology to find talented software engineers and mathematicians by asking them to solve puzzles in a virtual garage. The puzzles are designed to test the key skills needed for specific positions, and engage with tech talent who may not have considered working for a car company. Candidates who perform well on the puzzles are immediately invited to jump ahead a few steps in the hiring process.

One day soon, virtual reality is expected to put a valuable spin on the interview question, “What would you do when faced with this situation?” Within a virtual environment, candidates for specific roles will be asked to solve problems common to the position. A company can also ask talent to demonstrate important soft skills, such as communication with co-workers and customer relations.

In LinkedIn’s 2018 Global Recruiting Trends report, 28 percent of 9,000 hiring managers surveyed said VR skills assessments were among the most useful candidate recruitment innovations.

Reality Check

While VR technology is becoming more widespread, the percentage of people who own headsets of their own is still small. This isn't an issue when companies provide VR headsets at career fairs, but requiring candidates to supply their own for interviews or skills assessments can keep promising talent from continuing with an application.

Like all valuable recruiting technology, VR is only one piece of the puzzle. There is no substitute for in-person interviews, an actual workplace walkthrough, and real handshakes. But VR is an early hiring touchpoint that shows promise in attracting candidates who are suited to the job, and enjoy your company culture.

Need assistance sourcing and hiring candidates? Contact us.

________________________________
Sources

1 Crook, Jordan. “Jet Uses Samsung Gear VR To Recruit New Candidates.” TechCrunch. Web. 27 Oct. 2015.
2 Dixon, Lauren. “This Firm Uses Virtual Reality to Recruit. Should Others Follow?” Talent Economy. Web. 13 March 2017.

 
 
 

Virtual Workforce Trends: Taking Work out of Office

Remote Worker

In any given coffee shop on any given day, it is easy to spot the virtual workforce with their laptops open and headphones on to help minimize distractions. Telecommuters. Remote or virtual workers. Work-from-home employees. Digital nomads. All of these terms refer to talent who accomplish some—or all—of their work at a location that is not a company office, such as a home or at a café with a WiFi connection.

Virtual work isn’t new, but the number of people working out of the office has increased dramatically in recent years. Not surprisingly, increased remote work coincides with the rise of smartphones and other mobile tech that allow people to take the office with them wherever they go. Additionally, collaboration and messaging tools—think Trello and Slack—have become so sophisticated, virtual work can happen in real time.

Research by Global Workplace Analytics and FlexJobs found the number of US employees working remotely increased 115 percent between 2005 and 2015, going from 1.8 million in 2005 to 3.9 million in 2015.1 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 22 percent of the US workforce did part or all of their work at home in 2016, up from 19 percent in 2003. Among workers with advanced degrees aged 25 and older, full or partial remote work reached 43 percent in 2016.2

Now that it’s no longer an option for a lucky few, the pros and cons of full- or part-time remote work are under scrutiny.

On one side are those who contend it has a positive impact on productivity, employee engagement, and the bottom line. According to a 2017 Gallup survey, employees who spent some time working virtually were slightly more engaged than those who worked remote or in-office 100 percent of the time. Partial remote workers were also more likely to feel their job offered learning and growth opportunities.

On the flip side are those who contend remote work negatively impacts collaboration. In the past few years, several high-profile companies began scaling back their virtual workforce. In 2017, IBM rescinded the remote option for thousands of employees, and before that, Bank of America and Yahoo called their workers back to the office.  

But the virtual work option isn’t going away anytime soon, with experts predicting an expansion of the remote workforce over the next few years. Companies should consider carefully whether and how they'll leverage virtual employees, and then develop virtual work policies unique to their organization. Some businesses struggling to draw highly skilled talent may attract better candidates with a remote option. Others may improve employee satisfaction with a partial work-from-home option.

Whether you’re considering adding telecommuters to your staff for the first time, or refining your existing remote work offerings, these are some of the top virtual workforce trends to understand:

Remote Work Is Growing Across Industries

According to a 2017 study by IT solutions company Softchoice, 74 percent of 1,000 office workers surveyed said they would leave their job for another that offered the option of more remote work. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace—in-depth polling into what matters to employees—“flexible scheduling and work-from-home opportunities play a major role in an employee's decision to take or leave a job.” To draw top candidates in a tight talent market, employers are taking note.

Tech companies embrace the remote work model, and other industries are finding that telecommuting and flexible work options improve candidate attraction and employee engagement. According to Gallup’s research, the finance, insurance, and real estate industries significantly increased their virtual workforce from 39 percent to 47 percent between 2012 and 2016. During the same time period, the computer, IT, manufacturing, science, engineering, and retail sectors also increased their remote workforce.

Virtual Tech Hubs and Incubators

In virtual hubs and incubators, employees work from where they are with teams across the globe. These hubs, which can exist exclusively online or within shared workspaces, are proliferating around the country. No longer must tech companies establish a footprint in Silicon Valley to draw top talent. The talent market is tight across industries, but it’s fiercely competitive within the tech sector. For many startups, a brick-and-mortar office in a city with a deep tech talent pool isn’t in the budget. With a virtual hub, they can access exceptional candidates anywhere in the world, and a team of developers can work seamlessly within web-based hosting services, such as GitHub and Bitbucket. Similarly, tech giants can cast a larger net for developers and software engineers who aren’t willing to relocate. Employers large and small also save money on salaries when their remote workers live outside of expensive tech hubs, such as San Jose and New York City.

Flexible Remote Policies

The most effective telecommuting policies aren’t all or nothing. Gallup’s research found that fully remote and fully in-office workers report the same low level of engagement, with only 30 percent of these employees actively engaged at work. A mix of time spent collaborating with colleagues in the office and working remotely seems to make the most positive impact on hiring. All employees with some remote work flexibility were more engaged than those without the option. But those who worked remotely three to four days a week had the highest engagement levels—from 60 to 80 percent engagement.

Ideally, a company’s remote work policy includes wiggle room to allow for individual preferences. Some employees are likely to feel isolated or out of the loop when they work from home, while others will be adept at navigating collaboration tools so they feel connected and in the mix.

Working remotely is fast shifting from a nice-to-have perk to a non-negotiable option for employees deciding where they’d like to work next. Even if your company isn’t prepared to offer a remote option, it’s important to consider how it might fit with your organization in the near future.

Need help recruiting your virtual workforce? Contact us.

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Sources

1 Vasel, Kathryn. “Working From Home is Really Having a Moment.” CNN. Web. 21 June 2017.
2 "On Days They Worked, 22 Percent of Employed Did Some or All of Their Work at Home in 2016." TED: The Economics Daily. Bureau of Labor Statistics. United States Department of Labor.

 
 
 

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Hudson RPO

Hudson RPO (recruitment process outsourcing) manages the people, process and technology associated with recruitment on a full service (outsourced), hybrid (co-sourced) or project basis. A global force in talent acquisition solutions, Hudson RPO designs, implements and manages custom RPO programs for mid- to large-cap, multi-national companies.