The impact of the global financial crisis is still being felt in some sectors, even all these years later. However, it is possible that the most significant structural change will occur in those sectors that are now experiencing significant growth. Technology, healthcare and biotech to name a few are now experiencing exponential growth, as other industries continue to suffer. An interesting scenario has arisen however, as businesses in these sectors report a change in the way they employ, and engage staff.

As economies around the world became fearful, mass layoffs were common. Many businesses elected to fill positions using temporary or freelance staff, which proved to be a good strategy when there was limited opportunity, even for uniquely skilled talent. None of this was particularly surprising, as moving employees to temporary contracts, or paying them on an hourly rate in tightening economies is a common-sense practice based on simple supply and demand – there aren’t many jobs so we can set the terms. The interesting part is, as various industries improved, and organisations attempted to rehire on a permanent basis, many found that employees weren’t interested.

Where previously, contracting and temporary employment was in the guardianship of recruitment firms and temping agencies, now, individuals act as their own agent, using online portals and cloud-based accounting programs to bill their employers, usually on a higher rate than a full-time employee. This also means of course, that an individual employee can have more than one job, and in many cases double or triple their earning potential.

The technology industry especially, has had to adapt their thinking in line with this new employee ethos. Where previously, employee and human resource strategy would be based around headcount, and specific in-house expertise, now businesses are forced to look for new differentiators and to formulate strategies in order to become less reliant on individual practitioners. In essence, this makes the “best of the best,” difficult to hire, unless using an old-fashioned “golden handcuffs” style of package.

It seems unlikely that this new order will change, as when there are industry slumps, employers will be hesitant to offer full-time roles, and the cycle is doomed to repeat itself. Even forward thinking businesses who attempt to hire en masse during tough times will likely see an exodus to more lucrative contract positions as the market improves. The new way of doing things requires new strategies and corporate recruiters and HR teams will have their work cut out for them in attracting and retaining the right people.

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