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John Challenger: How the Gig Economy, Immigration, and Other Factors Are Reshaping the Job Market

As CEO of Chicago-based outplacement firm Challenger, Gray & Christmas Inc., John Challenger helps high-performing professionals transition to new jobs. At the i4cp 2018 Conference: Next Practices Now (to be held March 26 – 29 at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Scottsdale, AZ), Challenger will discuss the factors driving a job seeker-friendly employment market, and what you can do to keep valuable employees on board and engaged with your organization.  

“With unemployment hovering around 4%, employers must incentivize their current workforces to stay. Opportunities for advancement, mentorships, health and wellness benefits, competitive compensation packages, work/life balance, and meaningful work will help retain workers,” says Challenger.  

The way workers get things done is increasingly fluid as well, and that trend will only continue, he says, citing data from Intuit suggesting that gig workers will make up more than 40% of the overall workforce by the year 2020, for instance.  

Challenger says that the increased acceptance of independent contractors seeking short-term jobs provides workers with options, which won’t end with the consumer service sector.  

“When we think of the gig economy, we think of transportation and room rentals, but there’s no reason to think it will stop there. We might start to see freelance chefs, tutors, bricklayers, plumbers, accountants, lawyers, and other professionals who show up [to work] as needed,” says Challenger.  

Factors Shaping the Job Market

At the i4cp 2018 Conference, Challenger will share his thoughts on how the rise of the rise of the gig worker figures to affect the labor market in the months and years to come, and what sorts of positions will be most in demand going forward.  

In addition to sought-after software and app developers, the need for healthcare workers is certain to keep trending upward as well to accommodate an aging population. Employers will also increasingly seek out military veterans and the very translatable skills they bring to the corporate world—adaptability, supply chain management, and subject matter expertise, for instance.  

On the other hand, the immigration issue—still very much a political hot potato—will undoubtedly cast an air of uncertainty over many industries. As Challenger points out, Bureau of Labor Statistics data finds immigrants comprising close to 20% of the overall civilian workforce, with the BLS citing private households, textile, apparel, and leather manufacturing, agriculture, accommodation, and food services as the top five industries that immigrants (documented as well as undocumented) occupy at the moment.  

Stricter immigration policies could have a devastating economic impact if employers cannot find enough workers to fill open positions in these and other sectors, says Challenger. As of right now, he adds, “it’s impossible to gauge whether native-born Americans will be willing to fill these positions.” 

Ultimately, the challenge to augment the talent already in place remains for employers, regardless of industry or job type. At the i4cp 2018 Conference, Challenger plans to share exactly what to look for as you pursue the best and brightest.  

Says Challenger “employers should seek out agile individuals who have the ability to adapt to the ever-changing competitive landscape, to work collaboratively on teams, and to learn new methods and technologies quickly. An organization should be constantly assessing staffing needs—especially as technology changes the nature of how we work.”