Why Contract Staffing Makes Sense

According to P&S market research, the global GIS job market is set to grow from around $9 billion (2016) to $17 billion by 2023. Public sector and geospatial work are expected to make up the bulk of this growth. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that the fields of cartography and photogrammetry specifically will continue to boom with a growth rate of about 19%.
Other applications that will continue to be in-demand in a range of government and business settings include ARC GIS and AutoCAD, surveying, land assessment, environmental assessment work, urban planning, and visualization.
With such a high demand for GIS specialists, department managers, hiring managers, HR departments, and leaders in other Geography-related, engineering and tech fields may continue to struggle in their search for qualified, competent staff. With much of this work being project-based, employers and job seekers can expect to see many of these positions advertised as contract work.
If you are a GIS specialist who is on the fence about hiring or being a contract worker, you’ll want to consider the following.

The Benefit of Contract Staffing for Employers and Employees

CNN recently reported that the “gig economy” – people who work independently as freelancers or contractors, rather than full-time employees – now makes up about 34% of the workforce, and this trend is expected to continue. Despite the fact that contract work is gaining in popularity, it still has a bad rap for some employers as well as other contractors.
Contract staffing today has many benefits especially in a field such as GIS, and a qualified recruiting agency will be able to match businesses with contractors in Geography-related fields. 

It’s important for both employers and workers in this field to have a clear understanding of what contract work entails and how each side can frame the working relationship to create a growth opportunity that benefits both parties.

The Nature of the Work
There are many reasons why contract staffing just makes sense for employers in the field of Geography and GIS, not the least of which is the general nature of many of the projects that take place in this area.

From a business organization standpoint, many of these jobs are project-based and somewhat separate from the core functioning of the organization, so they are suitable for individuals and small teams who don’t require complete working knowledge of the organization to effectively carry out the tasks.

Data-gathering projects like surveying or environmental assessments often take place primarily in the field and would generally comprise the front-end preparation of bigger projects or initiatives. The somewhat externalized nature of these types of sub-projects may make them well-suited for contract work.

Many GIS contracts are created in the case of a last-minute type of need or a call for expertise in a highly specialized area. Employers in this area often have a need for qualified staff in the GIS sector, often on short notice and for specific projects. In this light, contracting can work well for both parties as employers have the opportunity to bring in professionals who demonstrate a clear understanding of the scope and nature of the job, which current employees may not have.

Focus & Flexibility  
Many professionals choose to freelance because they enjoy the freedom and flexibility of working with different people and organizations, they want to diversify their time and earnings, and they have a broader opportunity for both learning and networking.

Fee-based, independent work projects can also be motivating for contractors who thrive on setting their own hours and working independently. They may simply have a greater appreciation for the work if they have the type of lifestyle that demands flexibility, and therefore be more engaged in their work.

For employers, having a qualified GIS professional capable of devoting 100% of their focus to a single project — rather than asking current staff to multi-task or work beyond their job scope or qualifications — can be an extremely effective way of moving forward on a given project.

Less Risk
Managers and HR specialists are already familiar with the fact that the normal hiring process can strain resources. Between multiple interviews, training, onboarding, policy reviews, medical coverage, and paid sick time (just to name a few things), hiring W-2 employees can take up a lot of energy and time.

And even though a short-term position may appear less secure (and therefore riskier) for contractors than a permanent position, it can save them a lot of time and energy too. For instance, it can take a lot of time and energy to apply and interview for a job that they may not be positive they want to stick with if they aren’t familiar with the company. Contractors can also mitigate their own time/money costs by taking on more than one job at a time.

Testing & Forecasting
Short-term contracts are excellent opportunities for “trial runs,” both with regards to the work itself as well as to see whether or not the contractor is a good fit with the rest of the team. They are also excellent opportunities for contract workers to demonstrate their expertise in a relevant context. Temporary jobs can turn into permanent jobs, and having a chance to test the waters gives each side a chance to get a feel for how they work together.

Hiring a contractor can give employers an idea of what type of expertise is available in the big picture while helping them to forecast and control long-term costs. For instance, if they know that they can hire a team member last-minute at a set fee to get a project completed two weeks earlier than expected, they can then factor this staffing strategy into their annual budgeting, include it on funding proposals, and possibly even bank on a better return on investment.

Why Contract Work Can Seem Risky for Job Seekers
Since about 75% of contract staffing, today is project-based, many of today’s GIS professionals are accustomed to accepting a string of short-term but high-impact contract projects. For those accustomed to working as freelancers, this is the norm.

But some of the risks that companies negate by hiring contract workers (e.g., no obligation to provide medical coverage) essentially get passed along to the workers themselves – so that the less risk the company takes on, the more risk the employee could be taking on. This is why some experienced professionals may still view contract work as less desirable than permanent work, which can pose challenges for organizations looking for qualified professionals.

Here are a few reasons why contract work may be seen as risky or less attractive for job seekers:

  • Contractors may feel the potential to be left out or discriminated against if they are not covered by the same policies as employees or not included in company activities
  • Contractors may not be considered for promotions
  • Contractors typically are the first to be laid off
  • Contractors do not typically get vacation pay, medical benefits, or a range of other benefits
  • Contractors may feel more vulnerable and less secure because they are not protected by the Employment Standards Act or possibly other company policies that guarantee protection and equal treatment (e.g., Sexual Harassment Policies)

How to Make Contract Work More Desirable for Job Seekers
Given the possible risks and drawbacks that a contractor could experience, it’s important that employers consider developing contracts from the outset that address potential drawbacks or fears.

Examples include:

  • Including a clear temp-to-perm option on the contract if the nature of the job is that there should be ongoing, relevant work
  • Specifically, designated compensation in lieu of sick or vacation pay
  • Employers can be clear about the nature of the position and that they would be willing to supply a reference or referral should they be happy with the work completed
  • Employers should be clear in the contract that the same policy standards apply to the contractors as the rest of the employees
  • Making an extra effort to include contract workers in (relevant) staff activities and initiatives

Independent contractors – especially highly specialized GIS professionals – will continue to be in-demand. This is why it’s so important that employers go the extra mile to make sure that they feel as comfortable as possible within the confines of a given contract.

In Conclusion
For employers, finding a contractor with the right skills and aptitude for a given position needs to be a top priority. Likewise, finding a job that offers a growth opportunity and ample financial compensation is key for GIS professionals. But beyond these basics, each must have a solid grasp on whether a given agreement will truly be a win-win. Overall, a contract-based relationship can offer both parties a considerable amount of flexibility and freedom (and therefore job satisfaction) when it is approached in the right way.

Employers will find that they may have a better time finding contractors when they pay close attention to the contract and clearly address areas that freelancers may have doubts about.

This not only fosters trust but also will offer more opportunities to really explore whether the relationship would work in the long term, either for a contract renewal or in a work-for-hire scenario.

It may seem daunting to jump into a search for a qualified GIS technician or specialist — that’s why you can use a staffing agency instead of taking on the hiring yourself. If you’re looking for a reputable staffing agency, get in touch today for a free consultation and let us match you with a professional or organization that exceeds your expectations.