The Evolution of the U.S. Workforce From Solidity to Liquidity


Long gone are the days when you joined a company out of school with an expectation that 35 years hence you would retire from the same company – or, at the very most, have worked for maybe no more than three or four different companies throughout the span of your career.

Many forces have come to play over the past decade which have caused a major paradigm shift in the structure of today’s workforce and that moving forward.  These include technology, the millennial generation and the economy.  The result:  it is projected that 43% of the US workforce will be freelance in 2020/1.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics has reported that millennials overtook the majority representation of the workforce in 2015 and forecasts that this highly technologically savvy generation will make up 75% of the workforce by 2030.

Millennials have greatly impacted the shift in the face of the workforce from the supply side, demanding more flexibility and fluidity in how and where they are prepared to work.  On the demand side of the equation, technology and the economy have been the driving factors.  The rapid insertion of technology into every aspect of business today has required whole new skill sets on the part of the workforce and because technology is constantly changing, new skillsets are being required and demanded on an on-going basis.  However, the economic downturn in 2008 created a complacency amongst corporate America.   As unemployment grew and the market became flooded, companies operated on the basis that there was an oversupply of people.  However, they did not have to deal with the challenges their recruiters were having – endless and frustrating hours wading through the resumes of hundreds, if not thousands of irrelevant people.  They accepted if a bad hire was made, “well that happens,” and there were plenty more out there knocking on the door looking for work.  They did not understand that there were insufficient matching criteria being employed to ensure a good match – not stopping to think about the cost of turnover and lack of productivity that was negatively impacting the bottom line.

However, the bottom line was and continued to be important as budgets were being cut and cost savings sought at every turn.  The highest line item on a company’s balance sheet is its employee costs – salaries, insurance and taxes.  So more and more companies started to turn to a “project based” operational model.  Bring qualified and skilled individuals in on a contract basis for the term of the project and not employ them on a full time basis.  The effect on the bottom line was immediate and the trend to hire a contingent, liquid, or contract workforce took off.  Today, according to a recent article published in Forbes, the U.S. contingent workforce is at 40% and, as previously cited, projected to grow to over 43% within the next three years.

And the economic recovery is now putting an additional slant on the availability of qualified and skilled professionals to fill positions within an organization, especially those that require higher level skill sets particularly in the technology arena and whether on a contingent or full time basis.  We have become an “on demand” society where what’s needed are new hires who can hit the ground running having precisely the right skills and experience.  

It is becoming increasingly important that companies employ the best of breed HR tools and service solutions to be able to quickly identify and source, assess/match exactly the right people for each job or project on an individual basis.  The old adage of throw as many resumes at the wall and hope that one sticks just does not work in the new fluid and fast changing workforce environment.  Companies can no longer take short cuts and hope it works out when they make a new hire.  Making the wrong decision is costly, retention of highly invested staff is key, and budgets no longer allow for search firms to do the “matching” for them. 

The leveraging of technology has made many advances in the sourcing of candidates but old fashioned and ineffective multiple postings to hundreds of job boards only generate thousands of unqualified resumes. Outdated keyword matching may disqualify some, but cannot effectively match an individual to a specific position or project. 

Fortunately, there are emerging companies which are bringing together both structured and unstructured data to truly enhance the matching process between candidate and job, raising the bar in being able to identify exactly the right candidates for each unique opening.  Thus, there is hope in the works that will address the evolving needs of today’s workforce and fast changing corporate demands, replacing outdated and ineffective job posting boards, job matching services and recruitment tools. 


/1 Source: Intuit Forecast: 7.6 Million People in On-Demand Economy by 2020,” Intuit press release, August 13, 2015.)

The author:  Indra Turnbull has been involved with the development of technology driven, digital solutions for the recruitment industry for over 15 years.  As the founder and chief visionary officer for WorkForceConnexion,  Indra and her team have now developed a cutting edge digital solution platform that is positioned as a disruptive force in the recruiting space. Using innovative algorithms and deep learning analytics WorkForceConnexion enables hiring companies to improve employee selection and retention with lower overall HR expense.