The emergence of a flexible and liquid workforce is changing how businesses can innovate for the future. A major trend of the gig economy is the growing demand for expert level (rather than entry level) contractors and freelancers.
What is the Gig Economy?
The term gig economy usually evokes thoughts of people that have opted out of traditional 9-5 jobs to join the ranks of Uber, Lyft, or TaskRabbit. These gig jobs allow someone to make a little extra cash while pursuing other passions or education. This type of work and its respective technology-driven platforms have been revolutionary and have generated a lot of buzz.
Expert-Level and Educated Gig Workers Join the Gig Economy
But the gig economy is also changing how highly educated professionals make a living. These professionals, with degrees from leading schools and experience at top firms, have joined the freelance workforce in increasingly high numbers. According to “The State of the Independence in America” by MBO Partners, the number of hundred-thousand-dollar-plus earning independents continues to grow for the sixth year in a row.
So, while there is no doubt that what we are seeing is a rise of the use of contractors, what is really interesting is where we are seeing the biggest growth come from—senior management and the c-suite. In our research, 47% of executives state that they are looking to hire contractors to fill management and senior executive roles—even c-suite contractors.
Businesses Demand Contractors with Degrees and Experience
Our research also found that the two most important criteria businesses have for contractors are: specialized degrees (35%), and more than a decade of experience (29%). Harvard Business Review dubbed this new class of worker the “supertemps” (CFOs, general counsels, HR executives) stating that, “they’re increasingly trusted by corporations to do mission-critical work that in the past would have been done by permanent employees or established outside firms.”
Speed is a Critical Factor in Contract Work
One major benefit of a contract executive is the speed with which they can make an impact. Training and onboarding programs are often designed as 90-day programs. Companies are not always willing to invest in that significant of a ramp up period for employees. On the other hand, a contract executive with a specific job to get done can be effective after only a few days. With projects often measured in weeks, not months, speed is a critical success factor.
Specialization is Required for Contract Work
Another key driver behind the growth of contract work is the need for specialized skills. With the disruption factor at an all time high, skill requirements change rapidly. Companies are experiencing a skills gap, especially in new technologies. In a recent report, McKinsey Global Institute found that “40 percent of US companies state that they are having trouble filling necessary positions.” Our research found that while contractors are being sought across the board, IT over indexes compared to other practice areas.
Considering the pace of work today, and more specifically the pace of change that is driving demand for new skill sets, leveraging highly specialized and senior level executive contractors is not just desirable, it is mission-critical.
If you would like to learn more, download out our most recent ebook,
"The White-Collar Gig Economy"