We are always said to be living in hard times, whether or not times are really that hard. Economically, many people feel desperate to get a job. Rest assured, there are many jobs available. It’s just a matter of whether anyone would want the majority of jobs solicited.
Whether the problems with the economy are real, the fear of such has given rise to the growth of the temporary job market. Temp jobs have always been easy to get, but by now they seem to be a test of how far workers are willing to go for a paycheck.
There are currently more than 17,000 staffing companies with 14 million staffing employees contributing nearly $130 billion to the U.S. economy through temporary and contract staffing services. In April, the US added 1,600 temp jobs among 230,000 new jobs being created.
Temp agencies don’t have the best of reputations and certainly people shun them without trying out positions which may turn out perfect. However, times have changed somewhat. The good news to this is that staffing agencies themselves have become more viable businesses of their own. Many offer health insurance, time off, and other perks to keep their own workforce to outsource to other agencies.
On the surface, this can be a win-win situation
Employers are able to maximize payroll by having employees for as long as needed and no more. They also get to “test drive” workers to see who might be a good fit for the company. They can scale back on their own training and scouting programs, letting the staffing agencies take care of the dirty work. Temp services are a tool of flexibility.
For employees, temp jobs can be a great situation leading to a permanent position, or to get experience to work up to a dream job. Some like to work on their own schedule and terms, so the ability to say, “yes, I’ll take this job” or “No, I don’t want to do that” gives the feeling of freedom.
However, for both the employer and the employee, temp jobs are, at best, a lackadaisical approach to solving workforce issues.
As demand is exploding for jobs in IT and healthcare already, further complications with the ACA, HIPAA and electronic medical records are creating even more work. And a good number of these jobs are being supplied through temp agencies as well. But how will temp workers be able to solve serious concerns such as advanced electronic security to protect against HIPAA violations, much less basic healthcare?
Bad as it may be, healthcare staffing isn’t actually a problem yet. By 2029, when the last round of Baby Boomers reach retirement age, there will be over 71 million Americans over 65 years of age, a 30 million jump in under 20 years, plus the number of people with multiple chronic conditions is expected to be as much as 37 million (from 8.7 million now). No matter exact numbers, a lot of people are going to need health care.
But are those people going to need temporary health care?
People with chronic health issues need permanent health care, not something temporary. More importantly, they need qualified professionals that can deal with issues quickly and painlessly. A major problem, along with so much of the workforce reaching retirement age, health care professionals themselves are nearing retirement. From the statistics in the above resource, the median age of nurses is 46. There are already over 100,000 nursing vacancies and 90 percent of long term care facilities already can’t meet demand. This will be a huge gap to fill even without future concerns. The healthcare industry may have a problem now. By current pace, it will be unmanageable in 20 years.
IT companies frequently employ contractors for specific, short term projects as do many other companies that need short term, flexible hiring. With all the industries that are affected by computer technology, this should be a major concern.
No matter what the job position, lack of experience or qualifications should not take a back seat to filling a vacancy. Staffing professionals now insist that using temp labor provides highly skilled and qualified candidates.
Think about the reality of such a situation. Does a person become experienced after years of performing well in the same field, or are they trained and educated, prepared specifically for the next job that a temp agency has available? There are inherent assumptions that must be made for the latter to be true.
There is an assumption that millennials are educated, which CBS differentiated from skilled. That’s the first flaw. Millennials are all graduating from college, but graduating from college now doesn’t mean the same thing it meant 20 or 30 years ago. A college education is roughly similar to a temp job in the way that it churns out people as products. People with multiple degrees can struggle to show any marketable skills. CBS also pointed out that despite being tech-savvy, millennials also are not adept at problem solving in tech-related environments.
In short, more “resume data” does not equal more education or experience.
Some personal anecdote, I got into my current field by going through a temp agency, which was touting me for nothing that I ever studied in school. I wasn’t experienced at all in office work, other than technically having been employed as a teacher for three years. Nonetheless, the staffing agency thought I was a perfect fit for several office positions.
When it comes to people sliding into jobs, there is no guarantee that the worker is experienced. There is a discrepancy between a company trying to meet quotas and keep processes in motion more than there is a serious move to find solutions for the workforce.
This is a double-edged sword. Certainly, we cannot have too many labor shortages that lead to people being overworked. But we also cannot have too many unqualified people in the workforce. That leads to people getting hurt and, frankly, negates the cost-effectiveness of hiring short-term workers.
Overworked people are frequently exhausted and unable to perform. Managers and business owners should probably care about employees sleep habits more than the employees themselves. Lack of sleep is just as disorienting as drugs or alcohol and has been at least partially blamed for major disasters such as Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Exxon Valdez crash. Over 100,000 car accidents per year happen due to sleep deprivation. Last year, an overworked, underslept Walmart truck driver plowed into Tracy Morgan’s limo, killing one of his cohorts and costing Walmart millions. Overworked people obviously should not be put into situations where they cut corners and just drift through their duties. Besides, what stability is there in workers that expose themselves to the numerous other health dangers that come with unhealthy lifestyles?
This is what happens when unqualified or underprepared people are put into positions they can’t handle. Organizations expect an employee to care about their job as their first priority in life. As such, organizations should also give some dedication back to that employee in terms of full time, permanent, secure position worth going to bed for every night.
Such major accidents, all preventable, ar a by-product of a system that puts under qualified people in the workforce. This makes for a scary scary future.
Online labor exchanges have been the new face of temp jobs for freelancers in the tech field. The strategy was touted by Gigwalk’s then-CEO Bob Bahramipour, “You can hire 10,000 people for 10 to 15 minutes…When they’re done, those 10,000 people just melt away.”
The problem with this scenario is that, of course, people don’t just melt away, nor should an employer expect them to. Ostensibly, the employer is going to have more work for them to do in the future. And if that employer wants quality, predictable work, they need a steady employee or contractor.
There’s no doubt that temp workers are good for the economy, but the questions always is…is what’s good for the economy good for people? Is it good for the staffing workers that would rather have steady permanent work? Is it good for the employers that need reliable employees? Does the net result of the economy put us in a better position than what we had for an economy in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, for example?
Most importantly, for the consumers, purchasing the products and services, particularly in the healthcare industry where the marketplace is flooded with incompetence and dissatisfaction already, is this situation good for anyone? Business may need the increase in temp workforce growth. However, the workforce absolutely does not need it. This isn’t to say the workforce should abandon temp job offers. If there is something that really speaks to a person, they should give it a shot. But to expect that any economy will stay strong just for the sake of the economy itself is a bit shortsighted. To expect temp labor to get us there is beyond foolish. It’s irresponsible and, when considered as a viable means to an end, is a nail in the coffin of the American workforce.