Temp-ting Solution

When most people contemplate temp work they’re focused on typing 60 words a minute.  But a new breed of temp worker has emerged: the high-end, rich temp worker.

Writing in Harvard Business ReviewJody Greenstone Miller (a member of the Drucker Institute Board of Advisors) and her husband, Matt Miller, argue that we’re about to see a future of “supertemps”—top managers “who’ve been trained at top schools and companies and choose to pursue project-based careers independent of any major firm.” The authors think this sort of employee is “on the verge of changing how business works.”

“Traditional models of work are being upended by a convergence of the emerging desires of top professionals and the evolving needs of 21st-century organizations,” the Millers write.

Now, we don’t want to say that we found the article more persuasive simply because Peter Drucker is cited near the end. But we can’t say we minded it, either. The article recounts how Drucker considered high-end professionals to be “the future of outsourcing,” offering “intellectual capital on demand.”

That Drucker would hold such a view was natural. As a pioneering independent management consultant involved with numerous high-profile clients, Drucker epitomized the supertemp, jumping from gig to gig.

Drucker saw the business world increasingly encourage such an approach. “We see a growing number of companies working with contractors and temps, a rise in the number of joint ventures, a growth in outsourcing—all kinds of liaisons,” Drucker noted in Managing in the Next Society. “One prediction I’ve heard is that in a few years the people who are not employees of the organization for which they work, including government, will greatly exceed the number who are.”

In Managing in a Time of Great Change, Drucker was even more categorical: “It is time to give up thinking of jobs or career paths as we once did and think in terms of taking on assignments one after the other.”

What do you think: Is high-end temping a good way forward for our economy and society—and why?