Uncovering the New Face of the American Workforce: Part 8 of 12

1.6.2015, Written by Annie Wang

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 1.43.30 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 “Freelance Disrupts Full-Time” as the second of two disruptions which emerged from several shifts and affected a sea of change in the U.S. labor market. Increased disengagement and independent contracting not only disrupted productivity and traditional full-time employment at the office, it also impacted the expectation and practice of the way we work. Together, these changes combined to lay the groundwork for a new engaged workforce – one that changed the face of the American marketplace.



There is a very low level of engagement between companies and their full-time W2 employees, resulting in material costs of as much as $500 billion, according to estimates. There is one segment of the workforce, however, that has overcome these disengagement trends: the highly autonomous, competent and engaged freelance and independent contractor workforce. This segment is proven to be more engaged, more satisfied, and more committed to the success of the organizations for which they contract than their W2 counterparts. In short, the best employee you have may not actually work you; the best company to work for – in all likelihood – is your own.


Engagement factors like autonomy, competence and relatedness are strongly evidenced in the freelance and contingent workforce.


In the fall of 2014, Field Nation conducted a study of the contractors who had registered for free on its platform. This study measured engagement and complementary factors, such as how independent service providers view themselves.


The study revealed five key insights that each support the proposition that the freelance and independent workforce have the most autonomy and competence, as well as a high degree of relatedness in their daily work – making them the most engaged workforce in America.


Chapter Three: The New Engaged Workforce

Finding One: Freelancers Chose Freelancing

The first finding is that the freelance and contracting workforce has overwhelmingly opted into this independent lifestyle rather than feeling forced into it. 88% of respondents indicated that they selected the freelance and independent contracting lifestyle. Only 12% indicated that they felt forced into the role because of no other options at the time.



Furthermore, while moonlighting (i.e. supplementing their income through contracting while maintaining a traditional, full-time W2 job) is growing in popularity as discussed above, only 6% of respondents indicated that they were moonlighters. A surprising 94% of those who opted into the contracting lifestyle indicated that they did so because they wanted to better control their future, activate their talents and capabilities, or simply keep the choice and control of their career in their own court.


This first finding speaks directly to the autonomy requirement for engagement. The overwhelming majority of independent contractors started contracting and continue to do so, not because of external forces, but because of their own autonomy.



Coming Up: We reveal the second insight of Field Nation’s study on independent contractors which highlights the prominent levels of competence found in this professional market segment.