Uncovering the New Face of the American Workforce: Part 7 of 12

12.17.2014, Written by Annie Wang

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 1.44.31 PMThe world of work is changing. The new face of the American workforce and an increasing portion of the international workforce is more independent, engaged and better able to deliver results, services, and products than the traditional monolithic corporation.


To get a better understanding of this shift, Field Nation conducted a comprehensive analysis of the three areas that have combined to form the nexus of this new reality of work: the shift away from traditional employment and towards contract expertise, the disruption of work as we used to know it, and the newly engaged workforce.


Last week, we discussed “The Disengagement Disruption” as the first of two emerging disruptions that occurred from several shifts which affected a sea of change in the U.S. labor market. These disruptions impacted the expectation and practice of the way we work, with increased disengagement disrupting productivity at the traditional office.



Chapter Two: The Disruption

Freelance Disrupts Full-Time

Today it is possible, profitable and preferable to be both a career contractor and to hire contractors to provide products and services for an established business. The shift in the evolution of communication and collaboration technology not only made the opportunity for independents to find and engage local prospects a possibility, but also allowed enterprises to locate expertise wherever their business took them. The economic climate of the early 2000s and 2010s, combined with the success of outsourcing experiments, paved the way for businesses and individuals alike to reach profitability for choosing the freelance route. The transcendence of the individual expert over the organizational reputation and the emergent culture of passion also made it preferable for people to focus on doing what they love and for the enterprise to engage them in an elastic expertise model.


Today, more than 53 million people in the U.S. are performing freelance and independent contracting work. In 2006, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that roughly 31% of the workforce was contingent or freelance; in 2014, that number is more than 34% and is projected to grow to over 40% by the end of the decade. This growth offers a clear evidence of a shift.


The barriers to work and to starting up a business have also been decreasing at the same time that interest in and the opportunity to freelance is increasing. According to a recent Freelancer’s Union study, the top two barriers to starting a freelance career are the ability to find work and the ability to have a steady income. Online jobs marketplaces and work platforms are breaking down the barriers to starting a business and disrupting the way we work by offering a combination of deep matching capabilities and project and mobile management technologies while still covering payments, reporting and training necessities. These platforms are also breaking down the barriers to not only find work, but maintain consistent job opportunities by providing matching and expertise location services, as well as complementary systems designed to bring together talent supply with talent demand in a relationship-centric commerce graph.


The combination of the rise in on-demand expertise, matchmaking and collaboration management technologies, and the increasing focus of business on driving down costs while maintaining or elevating production and quality, has created the ideal conditions where the growing talent supply, increasing demand, and new technological capability disrupt the traditional business model.


The result of this disruption are evident across all segments of the economy. From travel to transportation, desktop to datacenter, project management to point-of-sale service, there is a new, highly engaged way of doing business.


Coming Up: After looking at the five shifts and two subsequent disruptions affecting today’s workforce, the lack of engagement companies have with their full-time W2 employees continues to plague the corporate world financially. There is one segment, however, of the workforce that has overcome these disengagement trends – the freelance and independent contractor workforce. This workforce has been proven to have the most autonomy, competence and relatedness in their daily work which makes them the most engaged workforce in America.