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U.S. Department of Labor Futurework
  Trends and Challenges for Work in the 21st Century
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Flexible Staffing Arrangements

A Report on Temporary Help, On-Call, Direct-Hire Temporary, Leased, Contract Company, and Independent Contractor Employment in the United States

Susan N. Houseman
August 1999

8.4 Accessing Special Skills

Sometimes employers use flexible staffing arrangements to access workers with special skills. As technology has become more complex, it is believed that firms increasingly will tap workers outside their regular workforce for their specialized knowledge. Evidence on the importance of this factor from employer surveys is mixed. In the Upjohn Institute survey only 10 percent of those using agency temporaries and 16 percent using direct-hire temporaries and on-call workers cited this factor as important. The figures reported in Abraham (1988) from a survey of BNA members, are similar, except a higher percentage of employers using on-call workers (34 percent) cited special expertise as a reason for using this type of worker. In contrast, in her survey of 21 very large firms, Christensen (1995) reports that 67 percent of those using agency temporaries and 76 percent using direct-hire temporaries cited specialized skills. In addition, 67 percent of the firms cited specialized skills as a reason for using independent contractors. Acquiring specific expertise was the second most commonly cited reason for using "contingent" workers in the Conference Board member survey (48 percent); contingent workers were defined quite broadly to include direct-hire temporaries, on-call and hourly part-time workers, independent contractors, agency temporaries, and leased employees in that survey. In their survey of 1000 employers, Kalleberg, Reynolds, and Marsden (1999) report that 46 percent of those using agency temporaries or contract company workers cited special skills as a very important reason for using these arrangements, and another 17 percent cited special skills as a moderately important reason for using these arrangements.

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