The Fractional Future

“The World is Changing” is an old expression that has probably always been true. The forces that drive socio-economic change are as diverse as technology, popular culture, and politics. The rate of change seems to be increasing as technology and the global economy continue to advance. The approach to work will also continue to adapt to business and lifestyle changes.

If you were to ask the average professional in the first half of the 20th century what their career goals were, you would likely hear, “I want to retire with the same company I started with and retire on my pension”. Fast-forward to today when the average job tenure is 4 years. Many would argue that companies were more loyal in the past; nowadays layoffs are far more common, changing employees’ attitudes towards their loyalty to a company. Regardless of the reason, this change in approach has changed on both sides. The shift in 2020 to remote workers and a number of layoffs has further changed the view of employment from permanent office-based to remote shorter-term.

This change from life-long loyalty to workers changing jobs an average of almost 3 times a decade is still evolving. In fact, with the “recent” advent of the “Gig Economy”, the length of employment for some has shifted to temporary contracts and project-based work scopes. Sites such as UpWork and Fiverr have made this freelance approach to work easy. While they may lack attracting and filtering for the highest level professionals in their given fields, there is a solution that takes this into account.

Fractional Executive (COO/CFO/CMO/CPO) and Fractional Department (Finance, HR, Operation, Supply Chain, Marketing) startups are on the rise. I believe this approach will be the future for large portions of professional work requirements. Companies are able to contract a professional with a long, verifiable history of results in their chosen fields to get the results they need. The fractional approach allows the client company to further reduce its commitment to labor while increasing the quality of the work and the outcome. This group of “Fractionals” have become skilled at dropping into a new situation, quickly identifying opportunities and needs then immediately going to work to drive results.

The human brain actually seeks novelty or change. In fact, change activates the dopamine system, causing a positive feeling to reward the brain. As a result, fractional careers can be highly fulfilling where professionals enjoy frequent new challenges and new successes which further enhance their abilities to adapt and succeed in new environments. In addition, fractional work allows employees to have far more flexibility with their schedule; from having a four-day workweek to taking extended time off.

There will likely always be people that stay at companies for long periods of time, but the case for a shift away from the traditional approach to employment to fractional work is strong. This shift will likely accelerate as technology improves and businesses seek to meet their ever-shrinking budgets.