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Self-Employed Research: White-collar professional contractors IPro Index

October 2011

Independent Contractors Australia engages in and monitors research on self-employed people. We organized a major desk audit of available research which we released in July 2010. This was conducted by Monash University with Roy Morgan Research, and was sponsored by the Commonwealth Bank. We're puling these research findings together to build a consolidated profile.

IPro Index

The IPro Index, an initiative of Entity Solutions and conducted by Monash University, looks at white-collar professional contractors. The longitudinal study is examining the attitudes and motivations of the self-employed.

2011 Report: Released in September (see summary below).

2010 Report: (see summary below).

2011 IPro Index: Summary

The statistically representative survey of Australian contractors found that:
  • 89 per cent are often or always proud of the work they do;
  • 89 per cent are often or always happy when working intensely;
  • 84 per cent are often or always enthusiastic about their job;
  • 82 per cent are often or always immersed in their work;
  • 99 per cent feel they can generally handle whatever comes their way; and
  • 98 per cent feel prepared for most of the demands in their jobs.
Far from being "pushed" into contract work by a lack of permanent employment opportunities, contractors are attracted to this form of employment by its "pull" factors, says Tui McKeown the research coordinator.

Contractors are also much more committed to the organisations they currently engage with.

Half of all contractors say:
  • their client organisation has a great deal of personal meaning to them;
  • they would be happy to spend the rest of their career working for their current client organisation; and
  • they feel as if their clients' problems are their own.
Tui McKeown urges human resource managers to "engage with this workforce more and learn from them, and start thinking just a little bit more creatively about who we need, what we need and why we need them".

2010 IPro Index: Summary

Here is a small selection of some of the findings:

Lifestyle choice
'Working as an IPro emerges as not only a preferred lifestyle but also one which offers a sustainable way of working. It is well established in the academic and practitioner literature that there is a strong and positive relationship between being in a desired work arrangement, job satisfaction and superior performance. This is again, a very positive result for organisations engaging IPros.'

'The view of IPros which is emerging is of highly competent and self aware individuals who are generally very comfortable with their choice of vocation.'

Client commitment and relationship
'...the results confirm that many IPros do in fact experience a sense of commitment to their current client organisation.'

'...there may be potential for a reassessment as to just what the client/IPro relationship can deliver.'

'IPros feel their current client organisation values their contributions, cares about their wellbeing, and honours its promises to them. These results support the view that, when managed effectively, the IPro-client relationship will foster mutual trust between the parties and thus match the objectives and commitments of the IPro to those of the organisation.'

Market awareness
'When combined with the heightened levels of market knowledge required to be an IPro, we can perhaps extrapolate that this population is more aware than most of the unemployment rate and potential financial consequences due to the nature of their employment arrangement.'

41 per cent said they would keep working if they won $10 million in the lottery.

Upsides and downsides of being self-employed
Here are some comments:

  • I control who I work for and what I do for them. My loyalty survives while the contract lives. I have no expectations for their loyalty to me.
  • I'm not stuck in toxic workplaces - moving around doesn't look bad on the CV if you are a contractor.
  • It provides me opportunity to work on variety of applications, technologies and people to gain professional confidence in handling challenges in work.
  • Variety in work, learn a lot about different business processes and domains. Get to know different people.
  • I do not have to become embroiled in company politics, restructures, outsourcing, cancelled leave, failed career paths and other frustrations associated with permanency.
  • Short termination clauses breed uncertainty.
  • Sense that my contract could be terminated at any minute - out of my control.
  • No sick leave or annual leave and you can't plan any personal long term goals, as employment is never guaranteed beyond the contract.
  • Having to move on just when you've settled into a great team. Also, when unemployed long enough to have run out of resources, Centrelink has no understanding of how we work.
'It seems that even when discussing the negatives, the view we have developed in the ESII of the self aware and conscientious worker persists.'

Organisations developing better relationships with self-employed people
What's needed is:
  • Clearer expectations and planning, so there's no ambiguity around expected performance ...
  • Be clear and honest in relation to contract terms and renewals. If renewing a contract, do so in good time before expiry of previous term so there are no gaps between terms.
Age Discrimination?
The majority surveyed say they have not experienced age discrimination:
  • As a full-time employee yes, but as an IPro no.
  • No, I believe IT contractors will be less age-discriminated in the coming years as experience becomes more valuable to organisations.
Some felt there was discrimination:
  • Yes - there is certainly some discrimination, but more toward engaging more mature IPros due to the misrepresentation from younger IPros.
  • Yes. As a very young contractor who has had to lead various teams, many managers above me feel I'm not able to do what I've listed on my CV until I prove myself.

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