For IT leaders faced with the challenge of prioritizing dozens of strategic and tactical issues, one important trend is emerging that deserves attention sooner rather than later: the expansion of the contingent worker.
The data has been mounting for several years, and it is now very clear that a significant percentage of the U.S. workforce in the future will be contingent workers. This is the new normal, not just a temporary artifact from the last recession. Smart IT leaders will understand this trend as it applies to their own businesses and will move aggressively to put in place the needed systems and tools to support this evolution.
According to the Aberdeen Group, in 2012 more than 25 percent of employees were contingent, and in 2010 Oracle reported that the contingent workforce is expected to increase to 40 percent by 2020. Whether as temporary employees, interns, consultants, contractors or outsourced workers, it’s clear that contingent workers could represent nearly half of the workforce within the decade.
There are many reasons for the trend: a lack of needed skills in the market, generation Y’s attitudes about work/life balance, and the growing number of baby boomers who will return to work after retirement. According to AARP, 60 to 90 percent of retirees will go back to work in some capacity.
Whatever the reason, IT leaders need to ask some fundamental questions about their readiness to handle this new workforce:
* How do we provision users across all the tools – both web- and premises-based – so they get productive as fast as possible?
* How do we quickly orient contingent workers to the organization and culture of our business so they can quickly become maze bright?
* What is the information architecture that provides appropriate horizontal (company-wide) information while offering the necessary vertical or functional information for particular assignments?
* When the company’s relationship with a contractor comes to an end, how do we ensure users are de-provisioned and company assets are no longer exposed?
* How do we create an open, consistent and collaborative flow of communication between employees and contingent staff in an environment of remote work and BYOD?
It is this last question that deserves special focus, given the rise in collaboration tools on the market, and here are a few items that may make sense to include in your checklist as you evaluate vendor solutions for communication and collaboration software:
Can they deliver voice/video collaboration no matter what device or location?
Can they deliver it when no corporate IT asset is used, for example, from a browser on any device?
Do they deliver secure collaboration that can be tied to a user profile—to quickly turn on and off capabilities?
Can they embed communications capability into the business applications you use most?
Do they leverage social technologies that enhance collaboration?
These are a few of the questions that will help identify the right solution for your organization. There is no turning back the tide of contingent workers– it’s clearly a trend that’s here to stay – so planning ahead to make those workers productive as quickly as possible allows IT to visibly support the company’s bottom line.
Ken Myer is an advisor, board member and interim executive to technology companies. He currently is on the board of directors at both Data I/O (www.dataio.com) and Esna Technologies (News - Alert) (www.esna.com.).
Edited by Ryan Sartor