HUMAN RESOURCES | The Rise of the Supertemp

Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller

Full-time, permanent jobs with large organizations are quite possibly an artifact of a particular moment in economic history — about 60 or 70 years ago. For elite executives and professionals, such jobs are now in many cases far less attractive than independent, project-based work, say the authors, who are “supertemps” themselves. Independent professionals are making inroads in law, consulting, and even management roles, sometimes earning more than they did in their previous positions while escaping 80-hour weeks, endless internal meetings, and corporate politics. And they’re achieving a gratifying work/life balance.

Corporations are learning how best to tap the supertemps’ skills; organizations may soon come to look less like pyramids and more like jigsaw puzzles. Intermediary firms that broker independent talent are growing rapidly. But social biases against temporary work persist. And — especially in the U.S. — the health care and tax systems are unfriendly to project workers.

Rising numbers of highly paid independents will be motivated to overcome those obstacles: Health coverage could become portable; tax rules could be rewritten. The result would be not just more-rewarding careers but a more innovative economy.

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