Get used to temporary: Contract hiring set to grow in 2011

Kansas City StarDecember 30, 2010 

Welcome to the "adhocratic" work force.

Not familiar with that term?

It describes an evolution in the job market: As the economy recovers from the recession, more and more workers in the 2011 labor force will be hired on an ad hoc basis, teaming up in work groups created for a specific reason for a specific period of time.

"And we'll see even more of this in the future simply because it's enabled through technology and the kind of work we do," says Brian Mennecke, a management information systems professor at Iowa State University.

"Spot markets for labor will be more common because the type of work people do now is often very fluid. Companies need the right labor at the right time."

In a CareerBuilder survey released Wednesday, 34 percent of hiring managers said they'll hire contract or temporary workers next year, up from 30 percent this year and 28 percent in 2009.

Research by The Human Capital Institute indicates that one-third of the U.S. work force is now composed of non-traditional "contract" workers, sometimes referred to as freelancers, free agents, contingent workers or temps.

The institute says the pool of these workers, who often are part-time, is growing at more than twice the rate of the full-time work force.

Throughout the recession and the faltering recovery, temporary help — one measure of ad hoc employment tracked by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics — was one of few employment sectors that scored month-to-month job growth.

The trend has been building. From 1990 to 2008, the bureau said in a report, employment in the temporary-help services industry grew from 1.1 million to 2.3 million and came to include a larger share of workers in higher-skill occupations.

The ad hoc worker doesn't only get temp jobs through employment agencies, though. Many market themselves and move from job to job on their own.

Another labor bureau study found that about 1 in 9 U.S. workers is self-employed.

Mennecke noted that recent information-technology graduates at his university were more likely to be hired on a contract basis in contingent or just-in-time jobs. He said the young workers like the flexibility and higher base pay that can come with contract work.

It's not just entry level, or even midcareer, job hunters who are joining the adhocracy.

Increasingly, top-level managers and executive teams are being shaken from established bureaucracies, replaced by temporary CEOs and troubleshooters brought in for their expertise in solving specific problems.

Also, a fast-paced world requires quick innovation, and bureaucracies often inhibit change.

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