What is the Contingent Workforce?

by wpengine on June 10, 2014 in News, Staffing, Workforce


US temp jobs rise in May, yet again. Each month, the number of temporary professionals in the workforce has been increasing and reaching new all-time highs. When the BLS released the employment numbers last week, they reported an increase that brings the total temporary workers to almost 2.9 million.

As temps continue to break records, it reminds us why we relaunched the Placers brand. When we brought Placers back in the summer of 2011, there were almost 2.3 million temp workers, and there has been a steady rise since, surpassing the pre-recession high in July 2013. The numbers may be back to what they were (and growing), but that doesn’t mean the staffing industry is the same as it was before the recession. While most people will still call us a temp agency, we consider ourselves contingent workforce consultants. But how many actually understand the basic difference between these two? Let me define the contingent workforce.


con•tin•gent work•er   /kənˈtinjənt ˈwərkər/

Noun: workers who have no implicit or explicit contract for ongoing employment, i.e. contract, temporary, outsourced, on-call, independent contractors, freelancers, free agents


The stereotype for temp agencies is that we place receptionists and administrative professionals to fill in for employees that are sick or on vacation. But as we evolve into the 21st Century, we find that technology, globalization, among many other factors have created a place for more flexible work. Staffing Industry Analysts confirms this stereotype is still alive in a recent article called, “Are you ready for 2024?”

Walk into a room of staffing industry professionals and ask: what business are you in? “Temp staffing” will be the response nine out of 10 times.  Only it’s the wrong answer. The right response is:  We are in the contingent space.

It’s no longer as simple as having full-time employees, with temps on call to fill in for PTO. Today company’s have an increasing percentage of flexible workers mixed in with their full-time employees. Companies employ independent contractors, consultants, part-time employees, outsourced employees, and freelancers in addition to their full-time employees and temps. In a recent survey, SIA asked companies what types of labor they are going to use more or less of over the next ten years. The survey says buyers plan to expand their use of high-skilled contingent workers, statement of work consultants, offshore workers and outsourced companies.

And with the rise of all these different types of workers, workforce management is now much more complex. There are laws to abide by, schedules upon schedules to coordinate, varying pay structures to process, and work to produce. As your company size increases, as does the complexity of planning your workforce. This complexity is why we no longer consider Placers as just a temp agency. As contingent workforce consultants, we examine the moving parts and makeup of your unique company to design an understanding and a plan for managing your complex team. Many times, large companies don’t even know what the makeup of their team is. In a similar attempt to understand their makeup, Google just released their company’s demographics. Gender and ethnicity aside, consider this: Do you know what percentage of your team is full-time, part-time, outsourced, etc.? Answering this question is a good place to start.

After understanding the current makeup, the discussion turns to figuring out the best way for your company to get the work done. What’s the most financially viable solution? What do you need to do to remain compliant as an employer? The complexity of figuring all this out is called Contingent Workforce Management, which Wikipedia defines, “the strategic approach to managing an organization’s contingent workforce in a way that it reduces the company’s cost in the management of contingent employees and mitigates the company’s risk in employing them.”

Don’t let the rise of temporary and flexible workers take over the management of your company. Take control of your workforce and plan for the ever-evolving world of work through contingent workforce management.

2 responses to “What is the Contingent Workforce?”

  1. […] the structure of work is rapidly changing and temporary work is on the rise, many people are asking if a temp position is […]

  2. […] for starters, this concept illustrates the shift from the employer to the contingent worker. In the past, staffing industries used to hard sell their services to buyers and then recruit […]

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