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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 5):

/> the engaging organisation results seem to shatter the myth of the 'in control' freelancer – both are
completely contradicted with engaging organisations rating both the control and choice contractors
exercising over work as moderate (as again, this was measured on a 7 point scale from 1 being 'no
control/choice' to 7 being 'total control/choice). These results arguably call into question the
flexibility explanations above as well.
Figure 4: Online Survey Respondents Views of Control & Choices
N Mean Std. Deviation
Choice over wk 85 3.21 1.048
Control over wk 87 2.77 .985
Moving to the contractor interviews however and the perceptions of choice and control over work
were generally seen as a key reason as to why they were there. As one contractor said:
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The advantage of contracting is you have exceptionally more control of your activities.
Especially if you are more experienced you get to pick and choose a lot more of what you
want to do. So you can, when your contract ends you have the ability to reassess your
employment whether you want to stay there, which is ironic because they think they are
employing you but you are employing them all the time. (T12.G)
In fact, the overwhelming theme from all 25 interviews was that, even for the two cases where the
contractors actually expressed some dissatisfaction with their current contract/s, all were very
happy overall with the bigger picture they seemed to have of life – and where there current work
situation fit into this.
It is this apparent contradiction that leads us to the area where there was very strong agreement –
what makes a good contractor?
Who are the Best Contractors?
Our surveys and interviews both underscored several attributes of successful contractors. On one
hand, as Figure 5 below illustrates all of the 87 organisational respondents reveal strong real focus
on the importance of the transactional nature of the contracting relationship; contractors will only
do well if they have the ability to deliver high quality work on time and possess technical skills.
However, we also see the importance of "softer" skills such as confidence, social skills, motivation,
and negotiation skills. Contractors need to exhibit all the attributes of an entrepreneur, while
simultaneously providing the technical competence in order to fulfil the contractual requirements.
These independent and self-contained individuals place few personal and relational demands on
the organisation, while contributing to the organization's success.
Figure 5: Online Survey - Views of 'Good Contractors'
A similar picture emerged from our interviews. Although technical competence is certainly a
necessary condition for successful contracting, the contractors who we spoke to who had the
highest levels of satisfaction with their work and their lifestyle had high levels of two very specific
qualities - emotional stability and an internal loci of control. We look briefly at each of these two in
turn and provide evidence for their importance with excerpts from the interview transcripts from the
contractors.
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Emotional Stability
This personality trait can be described as the extent to which an individual is calm, self-confident,
and secure. This trait has been generally linked to higher levels of performance in most
occupations, including those with a higher orientation towards providing a service (Kichuk &
Wiesner, 1998). Our interviews provide further evidence of how this personality trait is important to
contractors' success:
"I used to think that it was a skill set that they were after, a particular amount of knowledge,
but now my understanding is that they are more after someone who can handle a high
pressure situation and be confident throughout the situation." (T1: Z2).
It is further important to note that contractors' emotional stability may be especially crucial in that it
may help them to withstand the usual stresses of job instability. Contractors not only face deadline
and resource-related demands as they complete their assigned tasks, but they also need to cope
with the possibility that they may be terminated at any time.
"... any contractor can have their contract cancelled with whatever notice that it says in your
contract and you can be shown the door just as any permanent employee so you have to
make sure that situation may arise, and how you cope with it. If you are so stressed about
thinking of the worst case scenario all the

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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