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Free of charge: The Forgotten Workforce

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A joint research project of Monash University and Entity Solutions, this report looks at findings about the attitudes to the work of freelance consultants and those that engage them. The research has focused on face-face interviews with independent freelance consultants working in the IT industry and, a survey of the businesses that engage them. (PDF file, 14 pages, 300 KB).

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Unformated preview of the document: 'The Forgotten Workforce' (Part 4):

over others, whatever
methods they do employ are generally seen as very important – with the one exception of prior
employees contacting which rated only a moderate level of importance, perhaps due to the
unpredictable nature of this as a reliable means of recruiting.
Figure 2A: Online Survey - The Importance of Methods for Recruiting Contractors
Preference for more informal methods, particularly based on networks and word of mouth were an
important theme of the contractor interviews – with a very, very strong focus on the need for the
individual contractor to work on their 'reputation' (with over half of the contractors actually using the
term reputation explicitly in their interviews). It is a finding which resonates well with George and
Chattopadhyay's (2005) research on contractors self identity where they found that organisational
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identification develops through both impersonal means, such as the organisations reputation, as
well as through personal interactions. While it has accepted that personal interactions are key
aspects in the meaning and the value of work to an individual, a study by Blatt and Ashford (2006)
suggests that those physically not part of the organisations, such as independent contractors use
different mechanisms – such as own self-knowledge and available cultural meanings. These
seems appropriate to many of the contractors we interviewed where the networks and word of
mouth which dominated their ways of finding work were often the explanation for their current
contract. As contractor T4.A explained:
The first contract I took I just phoned up a friend, you know, I 'phoned a friend Eddie', so I
knew about that and I sort of just did it. The other contracts I was at an interest group
meeting and I heard someone say they were looking for people, I happened to be looking at
that point in time. When this one comes to expire, I will probably be looking the month or so
before.
The value of word of mouth from having a good reputation was also explained by another
contractor as "word of mouth is a very good, is a very effective way because you are sort of almost
80% there, you have probably almost got the job". (T12.G)
A very strong, general dislike of Agencies as a means of findings work pervaded the contractor
interviews exemplified by 14J.T experience of searching for work:
the last one was through an agency which was the worst experience of my life. Why was
that? The interview process was so mismanaged that I had to take time off my current job
to travel to Melbourne to come for the interview and I would get there and they would say,
oh yeah, that was cancelled, they called us at 8 am this morning.
This moves us to the next item of the survey where, as Figure 3 reveals there is diversity in
reasons why contractors are pursuing this type of employment arrangement. According to the
organizations that we surveyed, there are several reasons apart from the simple financial benefits
often seen as the key motivator. Interestingly, contractors' individual preferences such as desire
for a flexible lifestyle, work-life balance, more stimulating work were rated highly as well but were
still seen as less important than contracting being an employer requirement. While higher earnings
do dominate, clearly engaging organisations see contracting is a desirable arrangement for several
reasons.
Figure 3: Online Survey - Views of Why Contractors Contract
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Each of these factors is again on a 1 to 7 scale on the Y axis reflecting a 7-point Likert scale where
1 is 'not at all important' through to 7 which is 'extremely important'. Figure 3A shows that while
the traditionally accepted motivation of higher earnings now clearly dominates, followed by
employer requiring it and an industry/professional norm, engaging organisations also see
contracting as a desirable arrangement for several reasons related to contractor preference,
flexible lifestyle and it actually being a career.
Figure 3A: Online Survey – Importance of the Reasons for Contracting
The contractor interviews provided a rather different view. Here, while higher incomes were
mentioned, after some questioning and often towards the end of the interview, by 23 of the 25
contractors, it certainly did not feature as the most important or only reason – and the factors of
flexible lifestyle and stimulating work were often discussed in the same sentence.
The next online survey item directly on the issues difference in views. Here, as Figure 4 reveals,

Unformated preview of the document: 'The Forgotten Workforce':  Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7, Part 8, Part 9

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