A multinational shifting to a higher mix of contingent workers now finds the concept of a fully permanent workforce 'ridiculous', according to a senior manager.

A permanently employed workforce was acceptable 30 years ago, "but times have changed", says AECOM's innovation and technology manager for Australia and New Zealand, Warwick Absolon.

He is currently overseeing the organisation's transition to a higher contingent base of about 10–15%, and highlighted some of the key reasons for the move to the recent ATC Contingent Workforce Conference.

One of these was AECOM's high proportion of project-based work. Some of these projects were up for renewal every month, and yet, "how were we employing people? Permanently. I mean, that's just ridiculous".

"It's a really good, poor example of what we've done in the past, and we're trying to change that," Absolon said.

An earlier shift to more contingent work would have enabled the company to better weather the mining downturn, he added, noting that AECOM's Perth office previously employed 1,300 and is now down to about 200.

"Some 1,100 employees were let go.... and we'll probably never ever [employ people on that scale again]."