There was a time not that long ago when contract work was exclusively thought of as the kinds of short-term, highly specialized projects for which you’d hire consultants. If you needed a solution for a particular business problem that you couldn’t solve on your own, for example, you’d hire a team of external consultants to do the job. And while that still holds true, the definition of contingent work has since grown to be much broader.
Today, most of us also lump part-time and gig work in with the contingent workforce, making it a massive segment of the labor force. According to a 2015 report from the US Government Accountability Office, as much as one third of the US workforce is made up of project-based specialists.
But it’s not just the definition of the work arrangements that has changed, so too has the nature of the actual work. In fact, you might be surprised to learn about all of the different functional areas in which companies are now hiring people on a contingent basis. Whether it’s for market and competitive analysis, pricing and promotional strategy, supply chain management, or any number of other areas, companies are increasingly turning to independent workers to meet their business needs.
Business Development, Data Science, Market Research and More
Today a growing number of businesses leverage the gig economy to supplement their own workforce and ensure that it’s as flexible and responsive as possible. Some large companies estimate using as much as 30 percent of their procurement budgets to pay for a contingent workforce, while 51 percent of executives plan to increase their use of independent specialists over the next three to five years.
What exactly are all of these workers doing? Let’s take a look at some specific examples that illustrate the breadth of the types of engagements they’re being hired for:
Business Plan Development. Some companies need help developing sophisticated business plans to support their various initiatives. This might include clearly articulating the value proposition of the project, working through a variety of operational and sales and marketing issues or putting together detailed financial information, including details such as monthly cash flow projections.
Primary Research. Whether it’s conducting phone interviews to gather market data, leading focus groups or engaging in B2B voice-of-the-customer research, there’s a clear need for research support. Since a lot of that work tends to be project-based, contingent workers are often a perfect fit.
Data Analysis. Employers generally have tons of data, but to make sense of that data, they often turn to external data analysts, who can help them interpret and build it into analytic models. Here too, companies need a highly specific skillset for particular short-term projects.
Marketing. Some companies need help with everything from updating their brand identities and digital footprint to creating compelling copy. If you don’t have a large internal marketing team to take on the work, getting the specific help you need, when you need it, makes a lot of sense.
Software Development. Software developers with specific coding experience and expertise are often in high demand to work on short-term bespoke projects such as developing new apps, upgrading platforms or adding new functionality to existing software products.
Strategy. Just about every company needs strategic help at one point or another. Getting an external perspective can be incredibly valuable. And while adding a full-time strategist onto your payroll may not be in the cards, bringing one in for a particular project can make a lot of sense.
Presentation Development. From cleaning up standard PowerPoint decks to creating the scripts and visuals to accompany a TED talk, companies are always looking for ways to better communicate their ideas. If you don’t have these skills in-house, the good news is that you can get them on demand.
Workplace Agility Is on the Rise
While there are a number of factors that fueled these changes in the workforce (i.e. the decision of top business talent to break the 9 to 5 mold, digital transformation and the emergence of business marketplace platforms), one of the underlying factors was the recent global financial crisis that left many unemployed and struggling to find full-time jobs. To make ends meet, many professionals began to seek out part-time or project-based work. At the same time, employers that were keen to manage labor costs began to embrace the idea of using a contingent workforce to help support their business. For many it has since become a preferred way of doing business.
In today’s highly competitive world, your company needs to be ready to pivot on a dime. While you still need full-time employees, supplementing them with on-demand knowledge workers, who can bring in different skills and areas of expertise to the table when you need them and how you need them, can go a long way toward making that possible. If you’re looking for a cost-effective way to add more skills and flexibility to your team, a contingent workforce may be the way to go.
The Catalant platform can help you increase your workplace agility and find the right talent, at the right time, for your need. Browse through the interactive experience highlighting some of our Industry Experts to learn more about the people behind the projects.