Close site search

Simply start typing to search Changeboard and then press enter

Portfolio working: an employment model fit for purpose?

Posted on by from KPMG

New research from KPMG on the future workforce reveals an appetite for more flexible working models. Is 'portfolio working' the answer?

Dealing with workforce pressures

The sharp rise in workers hired on zero-hour contracts that guarantee no minimum hours of work or pay is a concerning trend, demonstrating the continued financial pressure on employers.

Even with economic growth, firms are increasingly resorting to temporary work contracts or just demanding more work from fewer people. This creates job insecurity and pushes down wages.

The time is ripe for a new and innovative employment model that addresses business needs and is socially acceptable and sustainable. Portfolio working could be that model. 

The rise of the portfolio worker

A nascent form of employment most commonly seen among non-exec directors, portfolio workers differ from freelancers by having contracts in place with a number of different companies simultaneously, with a guaranteed number of hours of work from all during any given period of time.

Our latest future workforce research shows there is certainly appetite from the boardroom for more flexible working models. Of the business leaders surveyed, 63% felt that portfolio workers will gain mainstream commercial acceptance within the next ten years. Yet, those responsible for hiring them – in HR – are less convinced, with just 50% suggesting portfolio workers will be an acceptable face in business. 

Will it catch on?

A recent survey of executive boards, HR directors and recent graduates showed that there is a need for organisations' management teams to be able to switch their workforce 'on and off' in line with demand, without incurring financial liability.

Some 57% of HR directors and 65% of c-suite executives said a well articulated and effective portfolio worker strategy could be a source of competitive advantage within the talent market. 

‘Not a freelancer’

The need for workforce agility is being driven by the unpredictable nature of the market and increasing competition.

It’s telling that the business leaders interviewed did not even seem to be familiar with the concept of portfolio working, even though it’s a term that's been around for a while.

Just over a third (35%) of Generation Y respondents understood the term ‘portfolio workers’ but 78% felt that they were simply freelancers by another name, as did three quarters of senior executives (76%) and older respondents (74%).

The freelance model has always been about plugging in additional capacity on an ad hoc basis and often at premium rates that are typically higher than those of permanent employees. But this has the potential of creating resentment across the wider workforce.

The portfolio working approach is a far more commercial and socially beneficial option, but it seems UK plc is still a way off recognising and offering this employment model. 

Steps to success

For the trend to establish, HR directors (51%) agreed the biggest challenge is not enough employers offering the portfolio worker option. Client confidentiality and fears over loss of intellectual property were also high on the list for business leaders, with 46% of the c-suite saying it was their biggest concern and 51% of HRDs saying it was second from top.

For this system to work, employees need to be able to build up an acceptable personal portfolio of jobs meaning that a broad employer footprint is needed. Scale will be vital to moving a good idea into accepted convention. And with concerns over confidentiality and IP, sensible gov ernance is needed in constructing the framework to enable portfolio working to be established, along with a regulatory environment that balances employee safeguards with workforce innovation.

The research suggests organisations are willing to take up the challenge and it could generate a snowball effect. We may see the portfolio worker mindset being adopted at pace which could lead to interesting times ahead.

Related articles


KPMG UK people director, Colm Coffey, explains how to create a high performance culture.

 

David Knight

By David Knight

Content by email

Thanks! You have been subscribed to receive emails about the following subjects.

Get more with Changeboard

Changeboard is a global HR jobs site, career advice resource and events platform to help HR and recruitment professionals find the perfect job to progress their careers. We're here to help you change the way you work.

Register now

Changeboard Magazine

Changeboard is read by more than 22,000 senior leaders in print and 85,000 online.

  • Get Changeboard Magazine
    online

  • Get Changeboard Magazine
    on mobile

  • Get Changeboard Magazine
    in print

Subscribe to Changeboard today for:

  • Engaging and relevant decision-support content
  • Exclusive interviews with CEOs & HR leaders
  • In-depth profiles, case studies & insights from progressive senior HR & resourcing practitioners
  • Stimulating career advice, delivered in bitesized chunks to help busy professionals advance their careers efficiently.
Get the Changeboard magazine
Get Changeboard Magazine
Loading

Job search saved

Your search has been successfully saved.

Register or log in to manage job alerts.