Contingent Workforce Advocates: Driving Cultures of Continuous Learning and Training

Emily Crookston
May 16, 2017
Successful companies understand that they must evolve to meet the demands of the modern business landscape. The need to adapt to today’s dynamic market economy has never been stronger. The competitive advantage of the contingent workforce has never been more obvious. The extent to which digital has changed the way businesses hire employees comes as no surprise. But what perhaps no one anticipated is the extent to which contingent workers have changed the way companies do business. Before we jump into the “why” and “how” contingent workforce advocates within organizations (AKA ambassadors of change) are ushering in a new culture of continuous learning, let's dive into a quick history lesson.

A Brief History of Work

The traditional concept of a job is a relatively new one. While people have always worked, it wasn’t until the advent of the Feudal system in medieval Europe that people started working for others. At that time, serfs lived on their lord’s land and did labor in exchange for protection. With the dawn of the Industrial Age, most jobs became menial and unskilled factory jobs. The challenge since then has been to create enough employment, while continuing to pursue technological advances that replace jobs. Today, technology and innovation fuel one another. Much work in the U.S. is knowledge based, rather than skilled or unskilled physical labor. Technology extends human knowledge and allows for increased productivity. Given the evolution of the concept of a job, leading companies understand the need to transform the workplace from the traditional office environment to a highly adaptable enterprise environment to meet the dynamic demands of the global economy.

Is Your Workforce Ready for Change?

The fast-paced and technologically dynamic global economy has incentivized leaders to think about work in modular ways. However, as they pursue a competitive advantage by implementing new technologies, many organizations face a skills gap. It's becoming increasingly difficult to hire experts with the skillset desired to keep pace with new strategies. As a result, smart executives put less effort into finding full-time employees with deep expertise in a highly specialized task and more effort into searching out other qualities, such the “ability to learn quickly” or “shift gears.” Besides providing direct ROI benefits, employees who can get up to speed on new projects and innovative software quickly have a positive impact on a company’s culture. These individuals come to the job with a wide range of technical skills, a willingness to work as part of a team, an openness to receive new training and a continually evolving skillset. The contingent workforce is largely composed of such self-motivated individuals. Rather than putting their leadership skills to work climbing the corporate ladder, they are out there working the new gig economy for all it’s worth.

Why Contingent Workforce Advocates Build Cultures of Training and Learning

For business leaders to truly understand the value of the contingent workforce, it’s important to understand why contingent workers are intentionally restructuring their lives and careers. Let’s explore their reasoning:

Better Work-Life Balance

There are advantages for individuals operating within corporate cultures of continuous training and learning. Far from feeling exhausted, individuals who thrive in such an environment are fueled by learning new things. In addition, in a culture where cross-training is the norm, projects can be more easily passed off to others when an individual starts to experience burn out.

Shape and Manage Careers

Many professionals choose contingent work because they want the freedom to control their own destinies. Let’s face it: No one enjoys playing office politics. And for smart individuals with the courage to step away from the more traditional corporate path, the sky’s the limit.

Learn and Master New Skills

People who naturally love to learn look for ways to create an environment where they can be continually stimulated and challenged. They will never turn down a genuine opportunity to work with a team and learn from other intelligent people.

How Contingent Workforce Advocates Do It

Now that we have a window into the psyche and motivations of the contingent workforce, let’s look at a few ways businesses across industries are working to grease the wheels of change. Online Resources: Many companies are investing in digital training platforms to build a single curriculum. Others partner with pioneering corporate training programs, such as Launchcode and General Assembly, to develop custom content and funnel graduates directly into relevant projects. For example, Shell Oil partnered with TU Delft to create a Massive Open Online Course or MOOC for employees to learn about geology. End-to-end Workforce Management Solutions: New data platforms like Oracle, Trimble and SAP can deliver important insights into workforce readiness. These new programs allow HR professionals to move away from managing people and into new roles optimizing an organization’s output. LEAN Startup Practices: Many companies that have been in business for years are embracing a startup mentality, adopting practices that startups have used to gain market share. Practices such as autonomy, flexibility and iteration can really jump start sales. For instance, Alaska Airlines has used a startup business model to complete projects with limited scope, like new sign-in technology for frequent flier lounges. Once the project launches, it’s passed on to other departments for follow through. On-Demand Workforce: According to an Intuit Forecast, 43 percent of the workforce in the U.S. is projected to be freelance by 2020. A new group of on-demand workers with deep technical skills allow companies to hire instantaneously and workers to earn a great living. There are many popular platforms that connect highly skilled independent contractors with businesses in need. It’s clear that innovations in technology and the explosion of the global economy have changed many aspects of the traditional understanding of work. Today’s labor force has more flexibility and more control over their time than ever before. It's only natural that contingent workforce advocates would also choose to build a new culture of continuous training and learning. Ready to learn more about how Catalant’s technology platform can give you access to the talent you need? Check out our interactive experience on working with The Catalant Network.  The Catalant Network

About the Author

Emily Crookston

Emily Crookston is the owner of the Pocket PhD ( and a contributing writer to the Catalant Technologies blog. She is a copywriter, former professor, and pocket resource for your business. When she’s not writing intensely, she’s most likely practicing yoga intensely.

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