5 Ways to Keep up with the Pixelated Workforce

By: | July 10, 2019 • 3 min read
Josh Bersin writes HRE’s HR in the Flow of Work column. Bersin is an analyst, author, educator and thought leader focusing on the global talent market and the challenges and trends impacting business workforces around the world. He can be emailed at hreletters@lrp.com.

Almost 40% of Americans now have part-time or contingent jobs, according to MBO Partners, a company specializing in the independent-employment market. Deloitte research found that almost two-thirds of young people are doing “side hustles.” And, according to ADP sources, the number of W-2s filed since 2000 has gone down by almost 4%, while the number of 1099s filed has gone up by 34%.


Such data, along with my own research, clearly show that workforces have changed, with companies increasingly relying on a variety of employees—such as part-time and temporary workers, contractors and freelancers.

I call this new independent workforce the “pixelated” workforce. Rather than viewing workforces as homogeneous (largely full-time, with one-size-fits-all approaches to management), we need to view employees as individuals (like pixels) who choose their own way of working based on skills, location, age and lifestyle.

Pixelated workforces are now impacting every segment of business. Many companies outsource the handling of sales inquiries or customer service to third parties. Pharmaceutical firms often outsource R&D and drug testing. Marketing organizations are probably the biggest users of pixelated workforces. For the most part, this transition has been a good thing. People who are experts at a craft can now ignore the politics of “climbing the corporate ladder” and just do the work they love.

The latest study by MBO Partners really drives this home. According to its research, independent workers generated $1.3 trillion of revenue in the U.S. last year, and 48% of U.S. adults are working or have worked independently during their careers. More than 80% of independent workers are doing so voluntarily, and 76% are highly satisfied with their choice of work arrangement.

Interestingly, job satisfaction among independents is now higher than that of full-time workers, and more than half of respondents thought working independently was less risky than full-time employment. The biggest issue faced by independent workers is the cost of healthcare.