We like projects at the Women’s Learning Studio.
We have written in this blog before about their learning value for us to acquire new skills and opportunity to do important work and make a positive difference in people’s quality of life. But we could never have predicted the huge adoption of the short-term, project model of work for employers to recruit, hire, pay, and release highly skilled workers on the scale that is happening now. Project work is clearly in vogue and growing in popularity among companies of all sizes. We just learned about the Hollywood Project Model; are you familiar with it?
On a trip to Hollywood to advise filmmakers on financial topics, Adam Davidson, New York Times journalist, found himself on a movie set marveling at the speed and effectiveness of the work group. He observed in the NYT Magazine on May 5, 2015 that “The team had never worked together before, and the scenes they were shooting that day required many different complex tasks to happen in harmony: lighting, makeup, hair, costumes, sets, props, acting. And yet there was no transition time; everybody worked together seamlessly, instantly.” He described the “Hollywood model” for getting work done before him.
…A project is identified; a team is assembled; it works together for precisely as long as is needed to complete the task; then the team disbands. This short-term, project-based business structure is an alternative to the corporate model, in which capital is spent up front to build a business, which then hires workers for long-term, open-ended jobs that can last for years, even a lifetime.
Davidson went on to say that “Our economy is in the midst of a grand shift toward the Hollywood model. More of us will see our working lives structured around short-term, project-based teams rather than long-term, open-ended jobs.” His assessment is backed by numerous studies and companies relying on temporary help to do their work. Indeed, there is a growing number of intermediaries to match companies with high-powered talent to carry out mission-critical work that used to be done by trusted, permanent employees.
Accenture, for instance, is a Global Fortune 500 company specializing in management consulting, technology services, and outsourcing. Its 2015 report–“The Rise of the Extended Workforce”–by Yaarit Silverstone, Himanshu Tambe and Susan M. Cantrell, focuses on the “the rising tide of the just-in-time worker” noting that
Up to one out of three US workers today is temporary
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimate that employment services i.e., temporary staffing, will grow at twice the growth rate of the overall economy by 636,000 jobs in the next ten years
As much as 77% of the workers in the oil and gas industries are from outside the employee base
No one is immune to being replaced—top-level managers and executive teams are being replaced by super-temps in the C-suite for example
Contingent workers are well educated and specialized in project work
Accenture has a stake in the contingent workforce because of its outsourcing and HR consulting services; it’s no surprise then that it views the growth in the contingent workforce very favorably as do other employer/employee intermediaries writing for the Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Fox News, and the Wall Street Journal. They extoll the virtues of the “Rise of the Contingent Worker,” The Rise of the New Contract Worker,” and “Capitalizing on the Contingent Workforce” as often as they can.
The Accenture report authors point to workers driving much of this change. The authors attribute the growth in workers choosing short-term work over employment because it is more flexible, offers a wider range of skill and knowledge building projects, and is just as lucrative if not more so than traditional employment. They also acknowledge the allure of short-term contracts for retiring baby boomers, millennials, and two-income households that might want to achieve a different balance of work and family life. Project work is often very demanding and cyclical. After the intense project is finished, the money from the work pays the bills and allows one to resume a rewarding life with family and friends, sometimes for weeks or months at a time.
Accenture cites the following factors to make it easier for organizations and workers to choose contract or contingent work: more affordable access to health care, technology advancements that aid people finding work and working remotely, and “cloud talent sourcing” that enable organizations to “get on-demand, affordable, and global access to a dynamically scalable, shared pool of skilled workers over the Internet paid for on a transactional basis.” The Accenture paper also contrasts the “old” and “new” realities of the extended workforce. Here are a few dimensions from the paper.
The Extended Workforce: Old and New Realities
|Dimension||Old Reality||New Reality|
|Extended workers as a percentage of the workforce||Small percentage||Large percentage|
|Type of work performed by the extended worker||Primarily low-skilled, low-value||Increasingly high-skilled, high-value knowledge work|
|Reasons for becoming an extended worker||Involuntary reasons— Difficulty finding a job||Voluntary reasons—attraction to flexible work schedules and roles, ability to quickly develop skills, and access to interesting and varied work|
|Personal profile of the extended worker||Not well- educated; younger, non-professional||Increasingly well educated, all age ranges, professional|
|Reasons companies use extended workers||Address an immediate need||Gain agility and access to top talent|
|How the extended workforce is found||Through temp agencies||Through a variety of sources – including cloud-based platforms of freelance workers, online social networks, alumni/retiree networks, outsourcing providers, business partners, and crowdsourcing platforms|
Now that some of the new dimensions of the workforce are clear, what should we do?
THE SKY IS NOT FALLING BUT OUR LONG-TERM FUTURE MAY BE LESS SECURE. We accept that the nature of work has changed and will continue to change as more employers favor short-term income earning opportunities over full-time employment for their workers. We can look for jobs and we can also look for opportunities—paid and unpaid—that allow us to work in projects that matter to employers or organizations and to us as well.
NEED TO BECOME MORE ENTREPRENEURIAL. We must become more entrepreneurial in seeking work, doing work, learning from our work, and creating the next work opportunity. “Creating our own work will be the only option for many of us.” (Harold Jarche on “Post-Job Economy”)
INTERNET CHANGES EVERYTHING. We must make the internet serve our needs. What do we want potential employers to know about our ability to produce high-quality work quickly? What examples can we share that showcase our skills? Your digital footprint and imprint will become more critical in this kind of economy. We can also connect more easily to people and ideas than we ever have before.
MAINTAIN CURIOSITY & RELATIONSHIPS, GROW NEW EXPERTISE. Returning to Adam Davidson’s closing assessment:
The Hollywood model isn’t good news for everybody. It clearly rewards education and cultural fluency, which are not distributed evenly throughout the population. But the Hollywood model does suggest that the winners in the new economy will be much greater than just some tiny 1 percent. It will be tens of millions of Americans, many of whom won’t have advanced degrees in engineering, but will have curiosity, creativity and more tools available to help them connect with their audience, whoever that may be.
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If you are looking for work: Are you experiencing this kind of employment shift in your work search?
If you are a “permanent” employee, are you working more often with temporary experts and others to get work done?
What does everyone think about all this?
Featured image by OpenClips at Pixabay