Weekly Wrap: Hiring in 2012? Temporary Is the New Permanent

Temporary is the new permanent.

Earlier this week, The Wall Street Journal talked to Tig Gilliam, chief of staffing company Adecco North America, and Mr. Gilliam confirmed what just about every workforce manager and executive has suspected for some time: temporary hiring — and temporary workers — are here to stay even as the economy slowly improves.

As The Journal put it:

Gilliam, the head of Adecco SA’s North America Group, anticipates more temporary hiring in professional sectors from employers that are unwilling to take the chance on permanent employees, and believes U.S. firms have reached maximum productivity levels. Even a minor uptick in demand, he says, will lead to a hiring spurt.”

Lets deconstruct that paragraph, because there are two notable insights Gilliam is giving here:

  • Employers are still unwilling to take a chance on permanent employees; and,
  • He believes American companies have reached their maximum productivity levels.

In other words, the productivity boost so many organizations got from recession-frightened workers doing whatever they could to hold on to their jobs has peaked. There’s no more juice to squeeze out of that orange, and since businesses still aren’t ready to commit to hiring full-time staff, they will need to continue to tap the contingent worker market for their needs.

In other words, according to staffing expert Sig Gilliam, temporary IS the new permanent, at least as it pertains to workplace staffing heading into 2012.

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Why does he believe that companies still won’t hire permanent workers? Here’s a little of his insight, as told to The Journal:

WSJ: Historically, temporary hiring indicates that soon we’ll be entering permanent hiring, but you said that may not be the case in this period. Why?

Mr. Gilliam: If you look at the [current] economic cycle in terms of the temporary reaction to the recovery, it’s better than average. If you look at it in terms of permanent job growth, it’s less than average.

Companies have been able to get to levels of productivity with the staff they had that they didn’t expect, and they’re looking to rely more on flexible resources than permanent because they don’t want to go through the layoffs again.”

Although we’re still getting a lot of mixed signals about the economy — like the rise in employees voluntarily quitting their jobs for new work —  it’s hard to dispute Tig Gilliam’s prediction that given the lack of strong and compelling economic evidence to the contrary, employers will continue to largely look to temporary workers to fill their hiring needs.

Yes, if this sounds like 2011 all over again, well 2012 may be the new 2011. Sort of like temporary becoming the new permanent.

Of course, there’s more than just the latest trends on hiring temporary workers in the news this week. Here are other HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of HR and talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Another tech deal: Salesforce buy Rypple. In case you haven’t gotten enough tech acquisitions and consolidations, Salesforce announced yesterday that it is getting into the HR software space with its purchase of Rypple. According to Toronto’s Globe and Mail newspaper, “Salesforce.com Inc. … is getting into the human resources game, in a move that raises the stakes in its fight to take market share from rivals SAP A.G. and Oracle Corp … The provider of web-based software for managing sales, customer service and marketing … has agreed to buy Rypple, a Toronto-based company which manages corporate goal-setting, feedback, recognition and coaching. … The acquisition is the first step in an effort to build out a line of web-based human resources software for corporations, the company said.”
  • Drug testing to qualify for unemployment benefits? As if the approval rating for Congress wasn’t low enough already, look at what one Georgia congressman is trying to push into law — mandatory drug testing in order to qualify for unemployment benefits. According to The New York Times’ The Loyal Opposition blog, “Representative Jack Kingston, Republican of Georgia, has introduced an even more extreme bill that would make drug testing mandatory to receive unemployment benefits (instead of enabling states to make the decision on their own). Representative George Miller of California rightly called the bill “just another attempt to demonize the unemployed, most of whom have no job for no fault of their own.”
  • How do you spot a bad boss? According to Forbes, you can do during the job interview (I bet Mel Kleiman has something to say about THAT!). The keys are watching for things like pronoun use (who knew?) and if they seem distracted or not. Forbes says, “There are many ways to try and combat the effects of a bad boss, including confronting him or her directly to work towards a productive solution, suggesting that you report to another supervisor, or soliciting the help of human resources. But none of those tactics guarantee improvement, and quite often, they’ll lead to more stress. The best solution is to spot a bad boss — before they become yours!”
  • When a recruitment executive sticks foot in mouth (and throat). You never, ever want to be this guy: according to London’s Sun newspaper, “A recruitment executive was looking for fresh work himself last night after he emailed “f*** off” to a job hopeful — and it went out to 4,000 people. Bungling Gary Chaplin was axed from his £200,000-a-year (about $310,000 U.S.) post at a top headhunting firm after his expletive-riddled reply turned him into an industry laughing stock.”

John Hollon is managing editor of Fuel50, an AI Opportunity Marketplace solution that delivers internal talent mobility and workforce reskilling. He's also the former founding editor of TLNT and a frequent contributor to ERE and the Fistful of Talent blog.