SIMON BROWN: I’m chatting now with Georgina Barrick, managing director at Network Contracting Solutions. They are part of ADvTECH’s resourcing contracting division – and I own ADvTECH [shares]. So that’s a very long disclaimer out of the way.
Georgina, I appreciate your time this morning. We’ve seen sort of shifts talk – a lot of talk in the US about the ‘great resignation’. We’re not seeing that happening in South Africa, but we are seeing an interesting shift, where you comment that a lot of people are moving to contract work rather than permanent positions. Is this around salary, is it around a better quality of life, and how significant is this shift playing out?
GEORGINA BARRICK: Morning, Simon. Thanks for having me. We certainly think we’ve seen a big uptick, probably in the last 12 months from about November last year, but particularly this year in the contracting business, in the number of people who are actually wanting to pursue contracting as a long-term career opportunity.
I think it has been driven by a couple of things. I think people are frustrated. If we look at what is driving the US great resignation, it’s definitely burnout, pent-up frustration in the entire Covid lockdown period. I think there’s also a backlog of resignations there and people are probably re-evaluating their lives and what they want to do with their lives going forward.
What that means, particularly from a contracting perspective, is that there’s a lot more flexibility. We have seen that there are people who do not want to return to the office and organisations are now where we are actually saying to people, ‘Hey, listen, please come back’.
Particularly in the IT sector, the dev guys, the Java dev, they just want to sit at home and develop, they don’t need to be in the office. They are deciding actually no, I don’t want to go back. I’d rather contract or freelance – which has always been around. I just think …we’ve seen a big uptick in the trend, and we are seeing in organisations the mix between permanent and contract work starting to shift. So where companies would have 90% permanent staff, and maybe 10% contractors to see them through difficult periods or very busy times, we are seeing that mix starting to shift.
Some of the clients we are talking to are starting to say that they think they’re looking at about a 60:40 split going forward – 40% of their workforce could be contractors.
Again, it’s a trend that we are seeing both in the US and in Europe.
SIMON BROWN: In a sense this is what the pandemic taught us, that we don’t need to be in an office. What it also taught us – you mentioned burnout there – it’s been a very tough 20 months in varying degrees, but pretty much tough for everyone. There’s suddenly a sense, and I see it with some of my friends, with like ‘Hang on a second, that work-life balance has never been right’. And folks are kind of taking control, I suppose.
GEORGINA BARRICK: Absolutely. I think they’re just deciding what they want to do with the after-Covid phase of their lives. I think it’s also being driven by the big uptick in tech. Organisations who were considering a more digital strategy were forced into it in the last 20 months, and there’s been massive innovation. If we just think of businesses, we see Pick n Pay has joined suit now, but we think of Shoprite Checkers and what they’ve achieved with their Sixty60 app – all of that requires development.
So a lot of the contractors, particularly in the IT space, are actually chasing tech. They want to work.
If we think about what was done at Discovery Bank as well, these are contractors who are chasing the latest and greatest tech and, when the project is finished, they’re on to the next one. It’s a lifestyle for them.
SIMON BROWN: It’s that flexibility. It’s that jump forward. This is just my first pandemic ever.
GEORGINA BARRICK: Mine too. [Chuckles]
SIMON BROWN: It’s the ability to leap forward. We’ll leave it there. Georgina Barrick, managing director at Network Contracting Solutions, I appreciate the early morning.