The New Meaning of Jobs and Careers
I grew up in a small town in central Florida with an economy driven, in large part, by agriculture – cattle ranching, farming, and citrus growers were the economic backbone of the community. Throughout much of my childhood, the adults I encountered either worked in family businesses where they’d stay for their entire working career, or changed jobs only a few times, staying with organizations for multiple decades. My dad’s work life included only three employers over the span of nearly five decades. I often think about how the impressions of career stability have shaped the way I have approached my career. Since finishing my undergraduate degree in the late 1990’s, I have only worked for two organizations. I doubt this pattern will continue for my kids because of the changing nature of work.
According to numerous sources, the trend toward long-term employment with a single organization is rapidly shifting. A recent survey published in the Atlantic suggests that nearly one-half of Millennials say they expect to move from company to company throughout their career, and Randstadt’s 2015 Talent Trends Report predicts that the number of independent and project-based workers will have an average annual growth rate of more than 6% over the next four years. The trend toward contingent work, in response both to the need for more flexible management of costs and the desire of younger workers to have more job mobility and flexibility, is creating a need for agility in strategic human capital and human resources management in organizations.
Commercial organizations, including Walmart and Unilever have begun adopting agile people practices to respond to the shifts in attitudes towards jobs and careers, but the Federal government is only in the early stages of figuring out how to create systems and processes that will take advantage of the benefits, while minimizing the risks associated with a highly mobile and transitory workforce.
As agencies begin to develop strategies for managing human capital in the emerging “gig economy” a few key steps should be taken to help create a more permeable boundary between public and private sector employment:
- Build strong relationships between HR and procurement staff – With a growing number of individual proprietorships and independent contractors, meeting future Federal staffing needs will require the use of a larger number of smaller contracts to acquire the services of individuals, rather than business (either large or small). As such, HR and acquisition professionals will both need an increased understanding of the overall strategic human capital requirements of the organization and the available methods for sourcing and acquiring the core skills needed to meet human capital demands.
- Create mechanisms for providing feedback to perspective employees – According to a recent study by LinkedIn, individuals are 4x more likely to consider your organization for future employment when you offer constructive feedback on their interview performance, but only 41% report receiving interview feedback. In a competitive talent market, with increased frequency of recruitment and project-based placement, taking steps to distinguish your organization from others competing for a similar candidate pool will be a valuable way to build a pipeline of talent to meet the demand for short-term work requirements. Providing constructive feedback to candidates is one easy way to improve your employer brand and attract more talent.
- Align job descriptions and qualifications with similar jobs in the private sector – A highly mobile workforce means workers will move in and out of Federal service much more frequently. To support candidate’s ability to transfer their job experiences between the public and private sector, Federal HR practitioners would be wise to create job descriptions that align with standard practices in the commercial sector so that interested candidates can easily map their experiences to the job requirements and demonstrate how their project-based work experiences meet minimum requirements.
There is little doubt that the definition of a career is changing and that in the future, agencies will increasingly need to rely on contingent and mobile workers to meet staffing demands. While the government as a whole has work to do to support this transition, individual agencies can take interim steps to clearly define the capabilities needed and determine how best to meet them to increase their chances of success.
Does your agency use individual contract or contingent workers? What challenges have you faced in sourcing, recruiting, and hiring individuals to fill critical, short-term roles?