August 01, 2016

New Thinking Creates New Standards

In 1965, Dick Fosbury introduced a new style to the athletics event of the high jump, the Fosbury Flop. Over the next few years, this became the dominant style of the event and remains so today. Fosbury’s new way of thinking created new standards in the high jump, allowing jumpers to clear a 2.4 M high pole. Throughout history and in all areas, there are examples of how new thinking and innovation creates new standards.

In today’s world of work, the on-demand economy and the increasing use of contract workers is creating new employment models that could very well become the standard methodology of the future.

The Growing Contingent Workforce and the Need for a New Social Contract

There is no denying that the very nature of work is shifting. Economists say that work is becoming more fluid, as single workers become less reliant on a single firm for one long career. While this presents opportunities for new kinds of work arrangements to emerge and dominate the landscape, it also poses a threat to the safety nets that have been built into the traditional employment relationship.

A new survey by Burson-Marsteller examines how companies are coping with new employment models such as the growth of contingent and contract work and the on-demand economy. Key findings from the survey included:

  • Employers are beginning to recognize the benefits of new workforce trends, and independent contracting and the on-demand economy workforce are becoming essential parts of the workplace, presenting cost and scalability benefits and threatening the traditional employment model.
  • Companies have doubts about the continuing applicability of the traditional employment social contract, as new workforce trends are causing these firms to re-evaluate that social contract due to the evolving relationship between employers and workers.

The survey, which sampled 800 employers, found that the majority currently use independent contractors, and also believe that the social contract should be reformed for this category of workers, who generally don’t have access to the same types of benefits as permanent employees.

According to the survey, more than 80 percent of the companies that utilize independent contractors say they enjoy the benefits of being able to quickly adjust the size of their workforce, save money on benefits, and tailor the worker to a specific type. However, more than half of the employers also said that contingent workers are not invested or loyal as employees and that they’re harder to retain.

Nearly 70 percent of the employers surveyed said that the social contract should be reformed as more Americans shift towards making a living through alternative employment models. A similar number also believe that businesses, rather than government, should determine if the social contract for a contractor resembles that of a full-time employee.

Discrepancy between Benefits Offered to Full-Time Workers and Independent Contractors

Workforce of the Future Survey

Source: Workforce of the Future Survey, Burson-Marstellar

Ultimately, the survey concludes that the short-term benefits of a new employment model of contingent workers and the long-term value of full-time employees are at odds in today’s economy. As the employment model changes, there is also a need for the employer-worker relationship to evolve.