Job Security Is Evaporating. Now What? 

By Thomas Lutrell | January 24, 2024

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Key Points

A person’s employment over multiple decades is a thing of the past, with workforce cutbacks and layoffs becoming almost commonplace.  

Independent work is changing, and more workers see it as a viable and preferred career alternative to traditional employment.

It’s time to acknowledge independence as a valid choice, even from the beginning of one’s career.

A person’s employment over multiple decades is a thing of the past. The notion of a gold-watch retirement has entered the realm of myth—to anyone in the younger generations of the workforce, such a thing borders on unbelievable. Instead, workforce cutbacks and layoffs have become almost commonplace.  

The Employed Entrepreneur

While a steady paycheck, benefits, and a nice clean W-2 at the end of the year can motivate an employee to stay, many traditional workers also live with uncertain job security, knowing that a layoff could happen at any point. Over time, people have realized they must be entrepreneurial about their careers to stay employed. This may mean marketing themselves within their company and interacting with managers and coworkers with a marketing mindset. Alternatively, it may mean staying plugged into the talent marketplace, with resumes always ready and responding to job posts that align with their career goals.  

Another Option: Going Independent

Much like long-term employment and gold-watch retirement, the idea of a person going independent only as a temporary stopgap is outdated. Independent work is changing, and more workers see it as a viable and preferred career alternative to traditional employment. It appears they have reason for this opinion. According to data in MBO’s own State of Independence research, two-thirds of the independents responding to our 2023 survey said they feel more secure working independently, double the percentage in 2011. Not only that—they report being happier (87%), healthier (78%), and wealthier (53%).  

Enterprises Are Increasingly on Board with Independence

With a need to respond effectively to the economic and social uncertainties in today’s business environment, enterprises are making strategic moves to increase their flexibility, agility, and resilience. Many are pursuing workforce optimization, strategically combining traditional and independent to achieve those goals and gain access to hard-to-find talent. MBO’s 2022 Contingent Labor report reflects this:  The average company surveyed reported that 28% of their workforce is contingent labor. Further, 67% expected their use of contingent labor to increase over the next 18 months, and 77% reported the same expectation within 5 years. 

Let’s Give Independence a Seat at the Career Table

Evaporating job security, workers making independence a career choice, and enterprises pursuing optimized workforces as a business imperative. With this reality, why does the perception of independence as “less than” traditional employment still exist? 

It’s time to acknowledge independence as a valid choice from the beginning of one’s career. Include the possibility of going independent in discussions between school counselors and high school and college-age students.  Design university business curricula that offer instruction focused on being an independent business owner. In enterprises, move independent talent acquisition from procurement to human resources functions (if they haven’t already done so). Establish recruiting and onboarding processes tailored to contingent labor. Offer opportunities for independent professionals to grow their businesses, for example, through training or by giving them projects that help expand their skills. 

While independent labor won’t wholly supplant traditional employment, it’s here to stay. Providing career resources and training centered on independence is a win. Enterprises will win by engaging contractors well-versed in doing business as independents. Workers will win by having more career choices, allowing them to choose the most sensible path for them.  


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