The gig economy is back — even for execs


Contract or “temp” employment used to be viewed as a means of supplemental income: a side hustle to an average day job, or a way to pay the bills while searching for full-time work. Now, gig work is back in style, and more workers want in on the flexibility — including C-suite executives, Korn Ferry recently reported.

The gig economy surged when older millennials, born in the 1980s, began rejecting the one-firm careers their parents had, according to Korn Ferry. Although they are currently midcareer, older millennials have switched jobs 7.8 times on average. Baby boomers are also using temporary work to keep busy during retirement, and Generation Z appreciates the flexibility that comes with contract labor. 

As temporary work grows in popularity, its influence is spreading to the C-suite. Interim executives are becoming more likely to be tapped when a leader departs, Korn Ferry reported. This gives organizations like health systems, which urgently need leadership in a rapidly changing industry, more time to conduct their searches for full-time replacements. 

Sixty percent of executives predict that the number of interim workers at their companies will “substantially increase” within the next three years, Korn Ferry reported. In a period of economic instability, temporary labor can mean less commitment and cost than a permanent worker. But there are downsides to contract labor, too. Since they lack benefits, many contract workers demand higher pay — which can trickle down and lead their permanent counterparts to ask for matched salaries. In the healthcare industry, this is visible in travel nurses’ paychecks, and their controversial effects on health systems’ finances. 

For better or for worse, contract labor does not appear to be dying out anytime soon. Fifty-eight million U.S. workers now consider themselves “independent,” Korn Ferry reported — an estimated 36 percent of the total workforce. 

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