Temporary employment: The 21st century mail room
Much has been made of the increased use of temporary or contract labor in post-Recession America. This comes as a surprise to many who were looking for a quick return to low unemployment and universal prosperity.
To those of us working in and around the workforce solutions industry, it’s much less of a surprise. We’ve noted this change for a while, and the results of our latest Annual Workforce Trends Survey support the use of temporaries as a more permanent part of the workforce.
However, it makes me wonder if this is more than just an increase in the numbers of temporary workers. Is it a real change in the way companies and job seekers think of temporary jobs? Is temporary work becoming the mail room of the 21st century?
By this, I mean that for many baby boomers, it was common to start low in an organization — for example, the mail room — and work your way up the corporate ladder. It was a way to demonstrate work ethic and build tenure with the company.
Today, with fewer jobs available, especially at the lower levels, and Generation Y seeking faster upward mobility, perhaps what we are seeing is companies and prospective employees using temporary assignments to start workers a few rungs up the ladder (or a few floors above the mail room).
It makes sense for both, as companies struggle to find and keep talent and unemployed workers consider lower-level, but not rock-bottom, positions to stay employed. Perhaps a temporary assignment nicely fits the “try before you buy” needs of the manager and the “get your foot in the door” needs of the worker.
So if you are a job seeker and haven’t fully embraced the possibilities of temporary work, perhaps you should see it as the door to the metaphorical mail room — the show-what-you-can-do room.
If you are an employer and are looking for that next diamond in the rough, maybe instead of looking in the mail room, you should pay more attention to the temporaries you have working for you today. Odds are, more than a few of them are thinking the same thing you are: ”This is working out really well. Maybe you (I) could do more here.”