Portfolio careers hailed as flex alternative

8528725328_7c6b52809e_oThe majority of business leaders believe that portfolio workers will achieve mainstream acceptance in the workforce within the next decade. However, HR departments are less convinced.

A KPMG survey published today found 63% of business leaders believe portfolio workers will be widely accepted, while only 50% of those in HR agree. Portfolio workers differ from freelancers by having contracts with different companies simultaneously, with guaranteed work from all in any given period of time. The model is commonly seen with non-executive directors.

KPMG surveyed executive boards, HR directors and recent graduates. Just over a third (35%) of Generation Y respondents understood the term ‘portfolio workers’ but they felt that they were simply freelancers by another name (78%), as did three quarters of the senior executives (76%) and the older respondents (74%).

However, 57% of HR directors and 65% of C-suite executives said a well-articulated and effective portfolio worker strategy could be a source of competitive advantage within the talent market.

David Knight, associate partner in the P3 (people powered performance) team at KPMG, said: “There is certainly a need for organisations to be able to switch on and off their workforce in line with demand without incurring financial liability, though flex within the workforce currently isn’t easy or effective. Combine that with a push from younger generations to work in a different way from their predecessors, and it highlights the need for better use of the workforce. Our research shows that this form of employment can become the norm in ten years’ time.”

Knight added that the freelance model means workers provide additional capacity typically at higher rates than those commanded by permanent employees, sometimes creating resentment. Portfolio working is a “more commercially and socially beneficial model”, he said.

However, 51% of HR directors agreed that the biggest challenge is that there are not enough employers offering the portfolio worker option. Client confidentiality and fears over loss of intellectual property was also high on the list for business leaders, with 46% of the C-suite saying it was their biggest concern and 51% of HR directors putting it second.

“For this system to work, employees need to be able to build up an acceptable personal portfolio of jobs meaning that a broad employer footprint is needed. Scale will be vital to moving a good idea into accepted convention,” said Knight.

“The report shows that there are genuine concerns over confidentiality and IP. Of course, sensible governance is needed in constructing the framework to enable this way of working to be established as well as a regulatory environment that balances employee safeguards with workforce innovation. The research suggests organisations are willing to take up the challenge and this could generate a snowball effect.”

Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/42386632@N00/

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