Contract Staffing Across the Generations

multi-generational workersThere has been a lot of talk over the past several years about the four existing generations in the workforce and how the differences among them are challenging to employers. But as different as the generations are, there appears to be a common thread among workers of all ages: the need for flexibility in their professional lives as they try to achieve work/life balance. Contract staffing is proving to be a viable solution.

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A look at the general characteristics of each generation illustrates the unique reasons each group needs flexibility and how contract staffing helps them attain it:

Traditionalists (Born before 1947): Many Traditionalists aren’t in a hurry to quit working. Some can’t yet afford retirement, while others just want to stay active. Contract staffing enables them to semi-retire and work as little or as much as they desire. Companies are taking advantage of this by retaining or bringing in these experienced workers on a contract basis in a trend known as “Retiree Re-Staffing.”

Baby Boomers (Born 1947-1964): Baby Boomers are known for being very dedicated to their work to the point that for many, it has defined them. But as they reach retirement age, “They are not as committed to career growth as they were in the past,” says Amy Bingham, staffing industry veteran and managing partner of Bingham Consulting Professionals. “They are looking for flexibility.” Like Traditionalists, they need or want to ease into retirement, so retiree re-staffing is a good option for them as well. Contract assignments are often project based and less tied to a strict 40-hour schedule. Plus, retirees can take breaks between assignments to travel, spend time with family, or pursue hobbies.

Generation X (Born 1965-1977): There are a number of factors driving Gen Xers toward contracting. Many are juggling young families with work and are struggling to find the right balance. This applies to both men and women as more parents are sharing childcare responsibilities. Additionally, Gen Xers have been waiting for the Baby Boomers to retire so they can step up to the plate … and they are getting tired of waiting, Bingham says. That, coupled with their intense distrust of corporate America, has led many to choose a more entrepreneurial path. Contract staffing provides the freedom and flexibility they are seeking without forcing them to take on the risk of going into business for themselves.

Generation Y or Millennials (Born 1978 and after): Millennials grew up with technology, so they are very tech savvy and don’t understand why they have to be tied to a desk for eight hours a day. They are also particularly concerned with making a difference. They want to have fun at work, so much so that they may give up a good job with an established company to take a more “fun” job elsewhere, according to a recent Recruiter.com article. They consider themselves to be free agents interested in collecting multiple experiences over the course of their careers, Bingham says. This generation is even more entrepreneurial than Generation X.

As a result of these unique needs, workers of all generations no longer see contract staffing as a last resort when they can’t find permanent employment. They are choosing it as a lifestyle. Your clients who embrace this change will find that contract staffing can help them navigate some of their toughest staffing challenges. For example, many industries are struggling with labor shortages, often brought on by the retirement of experienced workers. The retiree re-staffing solution allows them to bring those workers back on as consultants on a contract basis.

Another example: Generation Y is often stereotyped as job hoppers who bore easily. These may not be the ideal characteristics of a full-time employee, but as a contractor, these young multi-taskers are the ideal people to complete projects and meet deadlines. Project-based contract assignments tend to be more fast-paced and make it easier for them to see how their work makes a difference.

Of course, the characteristics we discussed are generalizations that won’t apply to every person you come across. But recognizing these probable thought patterns increases your chances of connecting your candidates with the right contract assignments.

MORE: Millennial and Mature Workers’ Attitudes Align

Debbie Fledderjohann
Debbie Fledderjohann is president of Top Echelon Contracting Inc., the recruiter’s back-office solution. Find her on LinkedIn.

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  1. [...] There has been a lot of talk over the past several years about the four existing generations in the workforce and how the differences among them are challenging to employers.  [...]

  2. [...] Temp employment may have been the work of choice for school-age mothers and the unemployed a half-century ago, but today’s workers are embracing contract work for the flexibility, variety, and, especially for retirees, the supplemental income it offers. The four generations in today’s workforce each have different reasons for turning to temp staffing, writes Debbie Fledderjohann. But the common thread among them — Traditionalists, Baby Boomers, Gen X, and Millennials — is a desire for the kind of work/life balance that is too often missing in the lives of permanent employees. “Workers of all generations no longer see contract staffing as a last resort when they can’t find permanent employment,” Fledderjohann says. “They are choosing it as a lifestyle.” The Staffing Stream [...]

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