Subadhra Sriram's Blog

Natural Selection: The Growth of Professional Services, Temp Staffing

The industry has seen some interesting evolution. I wonder what Charles Darwin might have made of it?

To see it from my perspective--I have a special project for which I need a Web developer. I wasn’t sure whether to go with a temporary worker (via a staffing firm) or a professional services firm that would then handle my project under my guidance. I have been going back forth between the two options.

Then I took a look at some Bureau of Labor Statistics data that came out last week, and realized others shared my sentiments. The BLS data showed a big spike in professional services and temporary staffing employment. These were among the fastest growing areas of the economy.

So what does that indicate?

There are three models that consumers and companies are picking from when it comes to their contingent workforce needs.

  1. Getting a contingent via a staffing firm. Here, the temporary worker has no defined deliverable and has to be supervised. It is therefore your responsibility to ensure that this worker delivers. The temp is typically not a full-time employee of the staffing firm.
  2. Engaging a Consultant. The consultant is a full-time employee of the consulting firm and is billed on an hourly basis. He or she is typically more highly-skilled and requires less supervision than a temporary worker. Consultants also often work in established teams, so you may benefit from specialization on the part of team members. More expensive than the first option, but takes less of your time.
  3. Outsourcing the project. Engaging a firm (KPMG LLP, McKinsey & Company) to handle all aspects of the project. These workers are not closely supervised and have a set deliverable. By far, the most expensive of the three options, but also the least time-consuming.  You simply specify what you want, and pay when you get it.

At the end of the day, one chooses a model that works with one’s budget and comfort level. Companies often outsource projects that fall outside their core competency. Through experience and maturity, contingent buyers are evolving in their needs.  Likewise, we have seen a mirrored evolution among staffing firms, in which traditional staffing is still there, but alongside it are these other variants.  It has become the natural next step. The evolution toward project work is particularly notable in IT, engineering, legal, accounting and even industrial.

Using scientific idiom, the growth of these areas is a beneficial mutation that will continue because it aids survival. It will be passed on to the next generation of contingent workforce management professionals as they grapple with healthcare reform. Preliminary data from our Buyer Survey reveals that the ACA will result in many more project workers as this allows companies and their vendors to engage these workers without worrying about healthcare benefits.

If Darwin had been around, he would have referred to it as natural selection.

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