Has the Pandemic Changed the Way We Think About Contingent Work?


Pete Hamilton

Vice President and Managing Director, APAC

Pete Hamilton looks at the ways the contingent workforce could shape the future of work in APAC.

In APAC, the pandemic has impacted different regions in different ways, stimulating some areas of the economy while causing other industries to face tough challenges and rapid contraction. But Covid-19 has not just impacted organisations on a macro level; it has had a significant and lasting impact on individuals around the world. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), more than 2.7 billion workers have been affected by lockdowns or stay-at-home measures. The pandemic has rewritten the rule book on nearly every part of our lives and transformed work along the way.  

As we begin to see vaccine rollouts across the world, there is real hope for the future, but we can’t go back to where we were before. New ways of living also mean new ways of working and new ways of connecting with candidates and workers. I believe that the contingent workforce has a significant part to play in our shared recovery.

Contingent workers offer the flexibility and agility to respond to new challenges and take advantage of new opportunities. A survey of 800 global executives by McKinsey found that 70% expected to use more temporary workers and contractors in two years than they did before the crisis. Let’s take a look at how changing ways of thinking about the contingent workforce could impact recovery across APAC.

Contingent workers offer agility in recovery

Responding to crisis requires the capability to work flexibly and move quickly. Contingent workers provide the ability to fill skills gaps fast while providing flexibility to organisations and reducing risk. Many organisations with large contingent workforces – particularly across South-East Asia and India – have been well equipped to adapt quickly to the challenges driven by the global health crisis. A thriving contingent marketplace also offers new opportunities in regions where unemployment has risen quickly, helping workers expand their experience and grow skills through temporary roles.

Contingent work breaks down talent borders

Traditionally, access to talent has been driven by location, and organisations in less desirable places have had to pay more or look harder for the right people to grow their business. But a combination of a growing contingent workforce and rapid digitalisation has been game-changing. Suddenly, businesses have a global pool of virtual talent at their fingertips, wherever they are in the world. This doesn’t just have an economic benefit; for many organisations, it can promote diversity of thought and experience that powers innovation. It also offers benefits for workers, providing increased flexibility and allowing more people to work in ways that help them  live well.

Organisations are looking at contingent workers in new ways

Our most recent Workforce Agility Report found that that 70% of C-suite leaders in Singapore believe that mid-level positions will see the most growth for contingent workers. We are experiencing increased demand for highly-skilled knowledge workers on a contingent basis across APAC, with business leaders seeing huge value in being able to plug expertise into their organisations quickly. I believe that changing perceptions of the value of contingent labour are key to this seismic shift. Contingent talent is no longer seen as less valuable than traditional workers and this is changing how businesses engage the people they need. At KellyOCG, we are developing solutions that make it easier for all types of organisations to grow their contingent workforce. Our OCG GO MSP offers a fast, powerful MSP for companies with a $5-50 million talent spend. While our industry-leading Human Cloud solution helps talent leaders to tap into the best global talent platforms through a single easy-to-use tool.

The pandemic has accelerated change

None of the changes I’ve outlined above are new. They were all making steady (but sometimes slow) progress, depending on the region and industry. But the pandemic has thrown slow and steady out the window, bringing with it a need for immediate change. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said, “We’ve seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in two months” back in April 2020, and it’s a phenomenon that goes well beyond technology to how and where we work. Organisations have seen first-hand how important early adoption can be to their success, and this shift in mindset is here to stay.  

Contingent work is set to play a much bigger part in talent strategy than ever before. If you’d like to talk about your workforce challenges or explore outsourcing solutions, get in touch. I’d love to hear your views on the future of contingent work across APAC.


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