The increasing diversity of “employment” relationships

Posted in: Bloggery

In a recent discussion with a group of HR leaders we were exploring the increasing diversity of employment relationships, and the implications of this diversity.

If you look around any organisation today, virtually all will have some combination of regular employees, employees working flexible hours – teleworking and hot-desking to varying degrees, contractors, interim project leaders, consultants and outsourced services, some to other countries.  Then there are virtual services:  sourced from the internet, designing websites, handling transactions, undertaking market research and so on.

How should we manage this diversity?  Should we invest a lot in regular employees, in terms of their attraction, development, retention and engagement, and then more or less handle the other categories of human resources in a more transactional manner, with limited investment in them of time and resources?

Might there be risks we are not then addressing, in terms of the loyalty of contracted staff, in terms of leakage of IP, or damage to customer relationships, or risks in terms of safety, if we neglect our relationships with the various categories of “staff” beyond those we employ more conventionally?

There is not a lot of research around as to the attitudes, engagement, loyalty and aspirations of those engaged on flexible or short-term contracts.   There is of course a fair bit written about how flexible employment relationships can support child raising, and the demands of dual working parents.  But how do contract staff really feel about their work, their futures and their client or host organisation?

Might we end up with two classes of “employees”, those, as one HR Director put it, on the “freeway” to development and nurturing and the others in the “service lane” receiving minimal attention?

It wasn’t hard to conclude that HR Directors now have increasing complexity to manage, but that every category of engaged human resource should receive attention and investment.  Some investment in the training and development of contracted staff – especially in helping improve their own business model – will be repaid many times over in retention and in going the extra mile.

Their needs might usefully be explored in a tailored engagement survey just for them – and some interests on their part surfaced in the process.

There is even the possibility that numbers of people entering regular employment (when it is on offer) now see their employment as a year by year process, with no expectations of enduring service beyond perhaps two or three years.  And that some contracted staff actually enjoy working in this framework – because the expectations of them are cleaner and their engagement is not encumbered with corporate politics and often unfulfilled promises of development.  The line between these categories of staff is increasingly becoming blurred.