Social, political, economic and demographic change is completely transforming the world of work and the way we engage and manage people in the workforce. The fact that change is occurring rapidly and at an increasing rate is probably not news to many people. But understanding the implications of such vast changes to individuals and organisations is vital to success in the new economy.
The forces driving such change are many and complex but at the core is the transformation of the global economy from its previous predominantly agricultural and industrial constitution to being increasingly service based.
Driving this transformation has been a revolution in technology which has broken down communication barriers across the world giving us the power to connect with different people, in different networks, wherever we are, at any time of day or night; a phenomenon which reveals a vast new range of possibilities for both organisations and individuals, changing people’s expectations of how these two can and should engage.
What we are seeing as a result is a paradigm shift in our preconceptions of work and its role in our lives; its purpose and value. We observe that today an individual is typically no longer loyal to ‘the firm’ but to their particular set of skills. A more fluid labour market means most people will work for multiple organisations—sometimes more than one at a time—during a typical career.
Individuals place increased value on freedom and flexibility; the ability to pursue their personal interests and finding fulfilling work while balancing family life and leisure.
At the same time, in a globalised economy, with greater levels of competition, the ability of an organisation to remain flexible and scalable is directly related to its sustainability and profitability. Organisations have long realised this but never has this been truer than today, as the world experiences a financial crisis now proven, beyond doubt, to be the most significant since World War II.
A significant by-product of this changing world has been the rise of independent contractors, also referred to as independent professionals (IPros) by Entity Solutions. Currently comprising 1 million of Australia’s labour force, the independent contractor segment is a significant and growing sector of the country’s workforce.
Get to know independent project workers
IPros are often entrusted with critical new projects, yet they operate at arm’s length from their clients and are afforded a remarkable degree of freedom in how they complete that work.
What few companies seem to realise is that employing an IPro is the same as establishing any other new relationship. The more you understand about the attitudes and motivations of your IPros, the better your ability to develop relationships of mutual benefit.
In mid-2009 Entity Solutions partnered with Monash University and conducted a survey of more than 370 Australian IPros to learn about the trends, issues and attitudes arising from their contracting work. This landmark survey is called the IPro Index, and is now in its fourth year.
The survey revealed that, generally, IPros are enthusiastic, immersed and happy at work and are satisfied with their independent working life. It also showed that many IPros are very open to engagement with their clients. They feel attached to their client organisation, identify with client problems and, given the right encouragement, are more than willing to go the extra mile to deliver quality results.
Know your IPro character traits
According to the 2011 survey results, IPros feel very positive about their work: 87% report that they are satisfied working as an IPro and 91% are satisfied with the kind of work that they do.
Pride in their work is almost a defining trait. They are happy when working intensely, and bring enthusiasm and energy to their tasks. Their sense of personal wellbeing is high. The independent way of working also builds confidence. Ninety-nine percent rated ‘slightly true’ to ‘completely true’ that they can usually handle whatever comes their way and 98% rated ‘slightly true’ to ‘completely true’ that they feel prepared for most of the demands in their jobs.
IPros choose to engage in professional contracting because of the sense of freedom, variety of work and perceived ability to earn more. Push factors such as being laid off, fear of job loss, difficulty in finding work and the tight labour market play no role for the majority of IPros. This is important because it means that IPros begin their consulting life with positive expectations.