One morning a few months ago, I found on one of the online job sites, an employer in my hometown, Louisville, Ky., wanting three articles written by 3 p.m. that day. Three fully-fleshed-out, multi-source articles - "No cutting and pasting!" it warned - and for a grand sum of $5 total. As a writer, I was shocked to see that 18 people had actually bid to get this job.
That fully illustrates the fear of workers everywhere when they read that temporary jobs might be the new "normal." My colleague Ann All posed that possibility for IT nearly a year and a half ago, and analyst David Foote has noted this continuing trend in recent job reports, commenting:
There is no question that consulting firms and systems integrators are benefiting from external staffing augmentation decisions by lots of employers, plus their increasing interest in managed services and investments in cloud computing as an alternative to acquiring technology skills in house. Among the nearly 2,300 employers we closely track in our own proprietary IT labor research, this shift has given them greater flexibility and faster response times for capitalizing on business opportunities.
Gary Swart, the CEO of oDesk, wrote at TechCrunch:
The reality is that the traditional employment model has dramatically shifted and evolved. The "regular" job market may never make the comeback that so many job seekers hope to see, and this makes people anxious. The uncertainty associated with adopting a new model is often uncomfortable, but, in this case, it doesn't have to be - never before has global talent been accessible in such a quick, lean, and scalable way. ...
The tremendous growth of online work has changed the way businesses hire talent and structure their work forces, allowing them to build teams that cross borders, time zones and skill sets. But it also yields opportunity for people around the world to tap into global demand that far outpaces the needs of local or even national markets.
In the Work 3.0 model, people are no longer limited to the jobs available within commuting distance. Graphic designers in rural Tennessee have the same access to jobs as graphic designers in New York or London. This elimination of geographic boundaries can refresh perspectives and development in new and interesting ways. It also means that individuals have the freedom to choose which projects interest them most, as well as when, where, and how often to work.
In a post at Harvard Business Review, writer Rita McGrath makes the point that many "regular" jobs have serious downsides and this new way of thinking has some upsides. One of the commenters mentioned this a way to provide work for stay-at-home parents, military spouses and others. McGrath wrote:
Many of the assumptions about society that we take for granted are based on the notion that relatively stable employment relationships are the norm. When will our thinking catch up with the new reality?
So far, many of the benefits of this new way of thinking seem to favor employers. The word "lean" is used a lot in articles such as these. With the potential for recruiting talent from a global market, there's always the potential to go for the lowest price. As in all things, the lowest price often comes at a great cost. Workers will still be looking for a living wage. And on the most basic level, you still get what you pay for.