The Career Commitment of Contingent Employees: Evidence of On-Site Engineers in Semiconductor Industry

Article excerpt


Contingent employees have been one of the most important developments in the labor market in recent years. Most studies have focused on regular workers' commitment to the organization to which they belong. However, career commitment is the variable that describes one's attitude toward professional development. This study examines the relationship between goal instability and career commitment of contingent employees working for a client company and uses a survey of 124 on-site engineers in the semiconductor industry. Hiring contingent employees is likely to be an important trend in the future, and their performance will be even more important to the client company than today. The results conclude that the client company cannot ignore this workforce at a time when market flexibility is crucial and should try to reduce or eliminate on-site employees' dissatisfaction with work conditions if it hopes to ensure their positive attitude towards work and their high performance.

[Keywords] contingent employee; career commitment; goal instability; semiconductor industry; on-site engineer; Herzberg's Motivation-Hygiene Theory


One of the most notable human resource trends in the past decade is the extraordinary growth in contingent employment arrangements (Marler, et al., 2002). The same organization pays most employees for carrying out their assignments, and, in the past, there have been few exceptions to this rule. However, in recent years, the number of exceptions has been growing. Among them are those employees recruited by a host company, then allocated to work at a client company on an as-needed basis. Such contingent employment relationships are attracting a great deal of both popular and academic attention in a significantly higher than conventional growth rate environment (Lee & Johnson, 1991; Alonzo & Simon, 2008).

Organizational restructuring during the 1980s and a more and more competitive business environment have taught companies that flexibility is a key to survival. Organizations employ temporary workers to enhance organizational flexibility and reduce employment-related costs. Temporary work is a particular form of contingent employment. Contingent employment (atypical employment) covers a wide variety of non-traditional employment arrangements: in-house temporaries, floats, direct-hire or seasonal workers, lease workers, and even consultants and independent contractors (Breugel, et al., 2005). Since the 1980s, new employment arrangements (the so-called "atypical employment") have arisen in advanced, industrialized economies (Cappelli, 2008). Distinct from conventional full-time, open-ended, daily 9-to-5 employment, atypical employment challenges the assumptions of human resource management studies and current employer-employee relations.

Atypical employment arises as businesses cope with uncertain environments and seek everdiminishing profits among global competitors (Callahan & Stuebs Jr, 2007); in order to curtail personnel expenses, firms find flexible, high-value-added labor uses through contracted workers and outsourcing partners. Evolving employment arrangements stem from earlier setups, such as contracted workers and employment agencies, have developed into the latest "employee dispatching" services (Marler, et al., 2002). In response to global competition and telecommunication advances, as well as labor deregulation in various countries, business firms have gradually adopted this employee dispatching practice, which, in turn, affects labor relations in societies. Firms need to undertake the challenges brought about by atypical employment, along with their efforts to cut expenses and to continually search for high value-adding activities and business areas. Some researchers define contingent workers as workers who have no implicit or explicit contract for ongoing employment and show that most contingent workers are in regularly scheduled jobs that do not involve intermediaries (Cohany, 1996). …