The senior living field likes to think of itself as high-touch, not high-tech. But it appears that one tech company is offering a labor management blueprint many operators soon may emulate.
The company? Google. Its solution? Hire as few full-time employees as possible. The result? Annual profits in the billions of dollars.
Not that Google is alone. The reality is that many companies now are hiring full timers as a last resort. Instead, they are first trying to automate, outsource or find independent contractors — whenever and wherever possible.
Google just happens to be really, really good at it. In fact, fewer than half of the people who now work at Google are full-time employees in the conventional sense. All told, Google has about 120,000 “TVCs.” That’s their moniker for temps, vendors and contract workers.
To be sure, it is not inherently wrong to use contract labor. Short-term deals for specific projects can be a win-win for both sides. Moreover, specialized businesses (such as cleaning services) often are a more efficient way to go.
But what happens when such hiring is done simply to cut costs?
Let’s face it, there are many costs operators wouldn’t mind losing. After all, things such as training, insurance and 401(k) programs do not pay for themselves. Plus there’s this little perk for managers to consider: Contract workers do not accrue vacation days – or qualify for medical leave. And they can be fired at any time.
But things can get murky. For example, should contract workers be allowed to participate in holiday parties? Or career advancement programs?
Here’s my take: By choice or necessity, senior living is going to find itself hiring fewer of what we used to call full-time employees.
Yes, the shift likely will save money. But it also will create some ticklish issues for a sector that prides itself on treating people with dignity and respect.
And if you don’t think a two-tiered labor system won’t result in smoldering resentments or worse, just wait.