Philadelphia, PA -- The contingent employment industry is traditionally a leading indicator of post-recession economic conditions and a reliable predictor of future employment trends. Cautious employers hire temps first, hedging their bets on the recovery, recognizing it is easier to scale back if demand doesn't materialize. This cycle is no different, say the contract staffing experts at MRINetwork, except this time employers plan to maintain a larger portion of their workforce as contract employees even once business recovers.
"Employers gained some valuable insights during the recession," says Tim Ozier, director of contract staffing at MRINetwork. "They learned to refocus on their core business, incorporate automation to increase operational efficiency, and eliminate non-essential services and staff," he says. "They realized that a smaller core workforce that was well trained and technologically astute was more effective and nimble than their pre-recession staff."
Those companies that successfully survived the recession will not be reverting back to the old model, Ozier believes. Laid-off workers are not being brought back to fill the same roles. Those jobs are gone, and new positions essential to the core business are being added. As firms emerge from the recession they are, of course, beginning to hire full time workers but they are also seeing a larger role for highly skilled contract workers who are engaged on an as-needed basis.
"Both companies and workers benefit," says Ozier. "Companies increase efficiency and productivity because they can hire quickly to meet production needs and down-size just as quickly when demand drops," he says. "Workers enjoy the benefits of a workplace characterized by project-based assignments, flexible hours, career mobility, and often higher rates of pay. But this nomadic work force signals a new reality that will forever change the way people view their work, their careers, and their relationship with their employer."
"For some time, information technology has employed the greatest number of contract workers," says Ozier, "followed by engineering and finance/accounting. Now we're seeing increases in the legal and clinical scientific arenas. We also expect to see more reliance on contract professionals for other positions that are outside of the company's core functions - marketing, advertising, payroll and human resources, for example."
Few people realize how large the contract staffing industry has grown. "The entire staffing industry in 2011 is projected at $113 billion," says Ozier. "Contract staffing is responsible for $88 billion of that total. And yet only 1.5 percent of all employees in the U.S. are contract or contingent workers. That number is higher in many European countries - near 5 percent - and is trending upward here."
Ozier has seen a decided change in attitudes toward contract employees in his nearly twenty years in the industry, particularly over the past five years. "The skeptical - or even negative - view of contract employees has nearly evaporated," he says. "Being branded a 'job hopper' in many fields used to mean your resume went to the bottom of the pile. Today, it hardly raises a flag, and the resulting range of experience and skill sets can sometimes even be seen as a strength."
The U.S. economy is still facing serious challenges, and the value of supplementing an existing workforce with skilled contingent workers cannot be ignored. "The economics work," says Ozier. "With a flexible and talented workforce that can quickly expand and contract depending on production demands, companies can compete more effectively than they have in the past."
Management Recruiters International, Inc., branded as MRINetwork (www.mrinetwork.com), is one of the largest executive search and recruitment organizations in the world. A subsidiary of CDI Corp. (NYSE:CDI), a global provider of engineering & information technology outsourcing solutions and professional staffing, the MRINetwork has 850 franchised offices in more than 35 countries.