According to a new national online survey of 800 employers, a slight majority (56%) believe having a full-time employee (vs. an independent contractor) is preferred when it comes to meeting "the ebbs and flows" in work volume.
At the same time, the survey, sponsored and developed by the Aspen Institute's Future of Work Initiative, the Markle Foundation, Burson-Marsteller and TIME, found that employers cite using independent contractors both for the flexibility of hiring talent with specific skills on an as-needed basis (90%) as well as for cost-saving purposes such as taxes and benefits (86%).
In the Workforce of the Future Survey, conducted by research firm Penn Schoen Berland (PSB), employers report that contract workers are less "loyal or invested." When offered the option, most (58%) believe full-time workers are preferred because they provide more value over the long-term – even with steeper up-front costs from taxes and benefits.
Bruce Reed, co-chair of the Aspen Institute's Future of Work Initiative, said in a statement that the survey clearly indicates the 20th Century social contract work model is changing, and no longer the lone path for employers or workers to take. But that requires a new "social contract," as many other experts and policy makers have said.
"While companies prefer full-time employees, more and more are using independent contractors to reduce costs, and two-thirds say providing those workers benefits is someone else's responsibility," he said. "We need a 21st Century social contract that works for everyone by making it easier for employers to share its responsibilities in investing in workers and easier for all Americans to take more benefits with them from job to job."
Markle CEO and President Zoe Baird explained that more than 80% of surveyed employers who leverage contingent workers do so because that workforce delivers the option of quickly adjusting to changing workforce needs or hiring people with specific in-demand skills.
That makes it even more important to ensure all workers have the skills they need in today's ever changing labor market, whether they are full-time employees or contingent workers, she added. "A more highly skilled workforce, one that can easily find pathways to train and retrain, is critical to enabling everyone to see themselves in the digital economy," she said.