The era of a ’job for life’ is largely consigned to history and organisations are increasingly leveraging the expertise of gig workers to augment and complement their teams. Gig workers, in return, are building so-called portfolio careers that enable them to multi-skill and expand their opportunities.

As the world of work changes, so too do traditional models of careers. This phenomenon couldn’t be clearer than with the rise of so-called “portfolio careers” which are providing the chance for workers to access multiple revenue streams while presenting organisations with new opportunities, but also challenges, in attracting, retaining and harnessing top talent.

In the past, an employee commonly held a single position with a single organisation, with that role usually being full-time, or if not, part-time or casual. However, with the growth of the gig economy, the casualisation of the workforce in Australia, and an increasingly uncertain global economic outlook, a new working style has emerged where several jobs are undertaken at the same time—the portfolio career.

Along with changing labour market dynamics, Australian organisations are also evolving to a more project orientated way of working, which is also contributing to the growth of this new type of work. Where once firms insisted on full-time commitment, they are now becoming more amenable to flexible and alternate arrangements with more focus on set outcomes that lend themselves to the execution of projects which is further adding to the shift to portfolio-style working.

What Today’s Portfolio Career Looks Like

Simply put, a portfolio career is a working style where workers combine several streams of income to make the equivalent or more than by undertaking traditional full-time employment. This is often by a mix of part-time work, freelancing or working as a consultant.

For example, it’s not uncommon for workers to mix consulting with part-time work while developing their own service or product and doing contract gigs. According to experts in the field, the biggest theme when it comes to this emerging working style is so-called “self-management”, which gives workers power over when and how much they work, and pricing.

More Aussies Jumping into Portfolio Careers

While there are anecdotal reports of such work arrangements from employers, recent data has starkly revealed that portfolio careers are rapidly on the increase across Australia.

Indeed, official data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveals secondary jobs, where a person is working one or more other jobs outside their main job, lifted to an all-time high of more than one million in the December quarter of 2018.

What’s more, the data reveals that secondary jobs now represent more than 7 per cent of all jobs worked in the Australian economy, making it clear that it’s a trend that employers will genuinely have to grapple with in relation to a growing segment of the labour market.

Indeed, the trend towards portfolio-style working looks only set to increase, with 2019 research from New Economic Journal suggesting that the average 15-year-old  Australia will today likely work 17 jobs over five careers in their lifetime, making essential for them to  “build a portfolio of skills” that can equip them to thrive in this new world of work.

Portfolio Careers Can Benefit Workers and Employers—and Projects

For individuals, the benefits of portfolio careers have been widely discussed, with advantages including the ability for highly-skilled professionals to secure a range of assignments from a variety of organisations, leading to the possibility of higher remuneration with flexibility.

However, for businesses, there are also advantages of this emerging form of work. Some of these include—particularly in a time of increasing economic uncertainty—staffing projects with a finite timeline and engaging specific skills needed immediately for a short duration to achieve the desired project outcomes.

How to Get the Most out of Portfolio Workers

For firms, in a time when the job market is rapidly moving to flexibility and multiplicity, the increasing popularity of the portfolio career is something they can no longer ignore. The question then becomes: how can organisations properly leverage this new type of worker?

While little research has yet been done in this space, some initial points appear clear. First, organisations need to be equipped to cater to, and nurture, workers that are splitting their time between several jobs. In practice, this means organisations need to ensure they are accommodating remote and flexible working options. Remote work — whether completing tasks from home or a co-working space — will often be the only arrangement that makes sense for portfolio workers to undertake given they are constantly juggling multiple tasks.

Second, portfolio workers often have a breadth of skills that are not often possessed by someone operating in a single job. For organisations, this makes them a versatile asset, which can be harnessed by an agile organisation to fill and this is often best achieved by the organisation taking a project approach to delivering business outcomes as opposed to a static BAU approach.

Additionally, the rise of the portfolio careerist puts extra pressure on HR processes, making it a must for organisations to keep up to speed. Increasingly, it’s incumbent on organisations to have an HR and payroll system that can adequately assist with contractor management and that is also capable of managing employees that hold multiple positions in one organisation.

As project specialists, we develop fit-for-purpose strategy and project assurance.  Contact us here to find out more about how we work with your teams or call 02 9098 6300.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...