Chapter Listing | Return to 1997 Topical Index


Overall, there is no systematic evaluation within firms about the consequences of using contingent workers on either organizational processes or final outcomes.  Accordingly, when asked about outcomes, most participants in this study commented on what their frustrations were with using this kind of worker.

Entrepreneurial firms are more likely to express the view that contingent workers are primarily interested in monetary remuneration and may hold back in terms of the knowledge that they share with the firm.  In addition, these firms fear being held economic hostage by contingent workers who can exact higher rents because of the firm's dependence upon them.  While this is a fear expressed in several entrepreneurial firms, none of the firms in which interviews were conducted ever experienced this situation.  Overall, though, entrepreneurial firms experience mixed outcomes from contingent work use.  All firms interviewed have hired some contingent individuals to be part of their full–time team.  Thus, contingent work was an effective means to bring in full–time talent that can be difficult to attract.  Some other firms found that the quality of the contingent workers they used was questionable.  But without exception, these firms were able to quickly dismiss these individual and bring in replacements.  In sum, these firms experienced some frustration with the level of participation within the organization.  And when a contingent individual left, the organization faced the issue of how they were going to fill the knowledge gap that results.

Non–entrepreneurial firms express frustration at violations of expectations:  either contractors feel entitled to a full–time position after working on contract or they may leave in the middle of a project.  Because non–entrepreneurial firms have specific expectations about the role of contractors, they are frustrated when the contractor does not fulfill them.  This type of firm does not express frustration with how contractors participate within the organization.  This may result from the relative isolation in which contractors work in non–entrepreneurial firms.  When contractors leave the firm, there is frustration because the quantity of resources to complete a task is disrupted;  they are less likely to lament the loss of a vital piece of knowledge.  While none of the participants in this study specifically addressed this issue, I propose that there are two possible explanations for this.  First, there is less reliance on contingent workers as a source of key knowledge, so there is less chance to suffer this kind of loss.  Second, contractors working in core areas of a non–entrepreneurial firm may fear leaving during a project because of the potential harm a large, well–connected firm could do to the reputation of the individual contractor.

Top of page | Chapter Listing | Return to 1997 Topical Index

1997 Babson College All Rights Reserved
Last Updated 03/21/98