Career Mobility by the Numbers

Career Mobility by the Numbers

January through March is a peak time of employment mobility and career transition, whether forced or voluntary. During the holiday season families and businesses take stock, measure performance, reorganize, budget and retool for the coming year. Employees reflect on their careers.

As we enter 2015 many barriers to career change have been lifted. The recovery in housing and personal equity levels, the urban core revival with affordable housing and lower transportation costs, and access to affordable, non-employer healthcare insurance plans favor employment mobility.

The pace of employment mobility is definitely rising. According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker’s tenure with a company is 4.4 years, but for the workforce’s youngest employees it is half that time. Increasingly gone is the 40-year career with one-employer. Lean and agile companies now outsource services and use part-time and contingent employees to compete in a globally competitive world.

But employees have also responded by taking more control over their careers.  They can manage career risk by continuously learning.  And statistics show that more than ever before they are starting new businesses or working on a project basis in virtual teams via the internet and sharing economy.

The contingent workforce of freelancers, independent consultants, and solopreneurs has exploded in growth nationally. MBO Partners, who tracks this phenomenon, reports current growth to 30 million solopreneurs and “side-giggers”, up 12.3% since 2011, and representing over 25% of the US workforce today, growing to 40% by 2019.

Contingent workers create $1.1 trillion in total income and $150 billion in contract non-payroll expenses. Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are relatively equally represented in the mix. As reported by Emergent Research and others, this employment sector is motivated by three primary factors:

1. Control over the kind of work they do

2. Flexibility to determine when and where they work

3. Autonomy to work in the way they believe the best

Self-employment is easier and more affordable due to Internet connectivity, cloud based software and storage, and new personal and business services platforms. Self employment is the path to what Emergent Research’s Small Business Labs calls a “portfolio career”.  In their 2014 Top Trends report, they note, “It’s increasingly clear the traditional career path is no longer available to most workers. In its place people are creating new career paths by creating two types of portfolio careers: (1) moving back and forth between traditional employment and self-employment; and, (2) creating multiple sources of income from different activities (part-time jobs, freelancing, renting rooms on Airbnb, etc.) instead of having a single job.  We believe the shift to portfolio careers is structural and will continue to expand even as the economy improves and traditional jobs become more plentiful.”

For individuals with “domain expertise”, or a high degree of knowledge in a specific field, websites like LinkedIn, Odesk, Elance, Guru, Thumbtack and Google + PartnerUp make it easier for freelancers to advertise credentials, create teams, and source project based work on a national basis.

All of this is reflected in the rise of coworking spaces or shared workspace that provides fully equipped professional workspace via membership plans versus long-term leases.

Desk mag’s annual survey of coworking spaces reports that coworking spaces appeal to independent workers by providing a business address, like-minded entrepreneurs, social connection, learning opportunities in technology and business skill development. They also report it’s more productive than working from home or coffee shops.

In 2005 there was one coworking space in the USA.  Today there are over 1,000 locations with 500,000 total members. Dramatic growth will continue, fueled by a contingent and mobile worker population projected by the International Data Corporation to be 1.3 billion strong by the end of 2015.

Do these trends apply to Winston-Salem and Forsyth County? YES. Since 2011, we’ve seen 1,900 new business incorporations per year in Forsyth County with the majority employing 1-4 employees. In 2014 alone three new coworking enterprises opened in the Triad region.

This growing sector is important for our community to play in the new economy.  It requires the infrastructure, the technology skills and access to capital resources tailored to micro-businesses and new business starts. We believe Winston-Salem should support and increase its economic development focus on this sector.

About the Author

Peter Marsh is a principal and co-owner of Workplace Strategies Inc., a facilities planning and design firm in Winston, Salem, NC, and he is a co-founder of Flywheel, a coworking space in the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter.