Until a few short years ago, if you were anything other than a full-time permanent employee at a respectable company, your Mum might have been tempted to change the subject when asked what her child did for a living:
“Ah, he does a bit of this or that, nothing stable, that I can see. I don’t know how he puts up with the pressure of not knowing where his next payday is coming from. I told him that he should get a proper job. He calls himself a consultant – he changes his clients as often as I get my hair done.”
Hurtful words from a Mother, but are they grounded in any sort of reality?
We all know that the world of work is undergoing a revolution. The concept of the “Portfolio Career” has burst onto the scene – it is a powerful force shaping the workplace for years to come. Individuals providing services as external contractors for a multitude of clients is the now the new normal. Companies will be able to pick and choose their talent and the consultants will create a diverse portfolio of clients across industries and even geographies.
The “part-timers” are taking advantage of previously insignificant loopholes, and these changes of activity are so significant that even governments are sitting up to take notice.
In the UK, a “consultant” or “part-time” worker can currently claim expenses for the travel to and from work (plus a host of other tax deductible goodies). This gives them a potential advantage over the permanently employed population, although many of them may actually be doing the same roles. This means that the government receives less taxable income, and it has got to the point where many expect them to clamp down on this benefit in their 2015 Autumn Statement. It is debatable whether they should be punishing the entrepreneurial masses that are driving our country’s economy forward, but you can be sure that the “voice” (and votes) of the “part-timers” will be a far greater share of the populace in the future.
The portfolio career will also change the way companies deal with their “suppliers”, and it will potentially give HR an external as well as an internal face. The portfolio careerists will not be employees, but many of them will nevertheless be representing the brand. The threat of dismissal will not hang so heavily over their heads in the case of underperformance, so different motivational levers will need to be found.
However, the biggest reason for development of the portfolio career (in my view) has nothing to do with business. It is enabled by monumental improvements in technology, but its driving force is the choice that has been out of reach for the 0800-1900 (with the commute) working masses for decades:
People want to choose when they spend time with their families and loved ones.
Don’t get me wrong, being a “portfolio careerist” is far from easy. There are stresses and strains the like of which no “normal” office worker will experience. However, the chance to see every ballet recital, every school play and every football match will sway the hearts of the nation every time. They are seeing their kids grow up, they are spending more time with their partners and they are accepting that a close work / life blend is better than a work / life imbalance.
I am privileged to work in a sector that is in the forefront of these changes and I personally see it as a force for good in our work-obsessed society.
Increasingly more people do think that it pays to be a “part-timer.”
Peter Giltrap, Director EdenGroup