Free Agency: New Market, New Model, New You? by Ryan McShane


The traditional workforce of full and part time employment is shifting to one of seeing more free-agency taking place, in which workers are hired on a project basis. Are job seekers and employers ready for this new “free agency” type of relationship dynamic?

First, much of the “why” for the shift from a traditional workforce of full and part time to one of a more project-basis realizes much of its momentum from employers seeking cost containment. That’s right! It comes down to basic economics. Why hire in a full time capacity if you only need the work completed during a portion of the year or hire full time if the work is project-related and time bound? In other words, why pay for more than you need when hiring.

Why hire in a full time capacity if you only need the work completed during a portion of the year.

The new paradigm of hiring based on short term –project-based assignments may be beneficial to employers and job seekers but, it is not without its challenges for Human Resource professionals, employers and job seekers alike.

As with anything new, there is an adjustment period, in which all stakeholders toil to refine and define their respective roles and position him/herself accordingly.

For employers the challenges include offering just enough compensation and benefit resources to attract the best and therefore maximize the return for the organization’s human capital investment. Implications are such that, employers may need to examine their compensation and benefits structures to accommodate the new relationship paradigm. Typical compensation and benefit offerings are likely to increase to compete with employers and attract talent, as well as balance the fewer healthcare benefit offerings that are likely to dwindle due to rising costs.

Some such companies even offer perks of onsite daycare, laundry service, and even unlimited vacation to attract talent. Yes, unlimited vacation! Think about it. As long as the employee does the job he/she was hired to do, what does it matter how often he or she goes on vacation. The work is done, the work is done.

Free agency implies change for the job seeker.

Employers take heed, if you are not already equipped to source, recruit and retain in this manner, knowing that most of your upper level management will turnover in the next 5-10 years may provide the needed motivation to make a change.

The time is now employers, to perform an assessment of your turnover risks, conduct attitudinal surveys and analyze your current workforce structure to determine if it still meets efficacy and stakeholder needs and whether project-based hiring is a viable tactic to ensure organizational efficiency and productivity.

With benefit costs rising and global competition for talent ready to heat up, hiring based on specific time bound needs is an ideal choice enabling employers the flexibility to respond to the market place and still meet stakeholder demands.

A second condition promoting a “free agency” model of project-based hiring comes from our largest demographic, the boomer population; a group that is no longer interested in working the 9-5, and a 40 hour work week schedule. Many boomers are retiring only to return to the workforce for money, active engagement or just to give back and do something they love but, on their terms and schedules. (Note flexibility is also a factor that rated highly for millennials in their consideration of employers, making flexibility it a competitive factor indeed for employers.)

Free agency implies change for the job seeker, as well. The job seeker not only must market him/herself as a job seeker but also as an entrepreneur, who can work independently as a contracted employee. Marketing yourself with in this new “free agency” model must now encompass both their functional and entrepreneurial skills and competencies; demonstrating leadership, project management, delegation, team work and team leader roles.

Economics is a common driver of workplace conditions and the “free agency” phenomenon is no different.

Seeker, identify how the role will operate within the prospective employer’s current structure and speak to how your skills match those expectations. Free agency, again in this case, offers the job seeker flexibility of not being confined by the traditional employer/employee relationship. Seekers who enjoy diversity of roles or require a great deal of flexibility in their schedule, may want to consider a project-based role.

Economics is a common driver of workplace conditions and the “free agency” phenomenon is no different. Free Agency and the workplace flexibility derived from a project-based relationship may influence employers to consider a shift away from a traditional workforce for a model that benefits organizational response time to market conditions and positions them to attract the best talent in the industry through strategic examination of workforce trends, demographics and tools supporting progressive human resource practices and just in time leadership development. However, in order for the shift from traditional workforce to “free agency” to take place in a manner that creates competitive value for organizations and job seekers, both employers and employees must be prepared to consciously create a new relationship paradigm based on mutual value. That new model and approach is called, Conscious Capitalism.

To find out more about Conscious Capitalism and how their principles speak to accommodating this and all future work-based trends, I can be reached at 410-688-5054.

Ryan McShane, Human Resources Officer for Baltimore County Department of Aging, VP/COO for Marc3Solutions Leadership Development Consultancy and Principal & Founder of HRevolution, LLC, a Resume Writing and HR Consulting firm.

Professional affiliations include serving as President of Chesapeake Human Resource Association (CHRA), Member of UMBC’s Instructional Systems Development (ISD) Advisory Board, Chair of the Baltimore County Chamber’s HR Exchange Committee. Member of the Boomer Council, an advisory council focusing on civic engagement and mature workforce strategies.

Ryan is passionate about creating a new way of learning, working and living based on Conscious Capitalism Principles of Higher Purpose, Conscious Leadership, Conscious Culture and Stakeholder Orientation.

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