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Survey finds up to 30% of the future workforce will be independent contractors

WHEN companies begin to recall their workers to the office or move to hybrid models, some won’t go. Many of the most talented and innovative will realise they can earn more money, enjoy a greater variety of work and have a happier lifestyle by becoming independent contractors. It’s a choice that will appeal to top talent in fields such as actuarial, strategy, data science, programme management, business process management and digital marketing, amongst others.

A growing number of boutique companies are hiring and suppling skilled contractors for fixed-term or project-specific assignments, and platforms like Outsized are matching their talent to companies that need their skills in a service that removes the uncertainly and administration for both sides.

Companies need a smart response

As this desire for independence lures more experts away from their current employers, companies will need to counter the loss of talent with a smart response. The smartest way is by tapping into this new but steadily growing pool of freelance skills to augment their fixed workforce.

A recent survey by Outsized found that many business leaders are open to this idea of a ‘blended workforce’ to help them become more agile and efficient. They expect that 15-30% of their future staff will be short-term or project-specific hired hands rather than full-time employees. That backs up research by McKinsey in September 2020 which found that 70% of global executives expect to use more freelancers in the future. A 2020 survey by Forbes found that 49% of hiring managers rate access to highly skilled talent as the main reason for adopting this model.

Another benefit is an influx of fresh thinking from people determined to prove themselves, compared to full-time workers who may have lapsed into secure complacency.

A shift in thinking

An Outsized survey of 200 South Africans with university degrees and at least five years of work experience found that 81.5% are interested in turning freelance, with the main attractions being a better work-life balance, the potential to earn more, flexible hours and the chance to gain wider experience.

For this new model to succeed, managers must adapt their thinking. They will no longer be overseeing close-knit teams around the table, but both permanent workers and those who choose to work from home in the hours that suit them. Some freelancers may work in the office as temporary team members, or come in occasionally, but if the talent you need wants to work from home, or lives in another city, managers must learn new ways to engage with them.

Human resources departments will also need to shift away from traditional recruitment and onboarding methods to handle more flexible or fixed-term arrangements. They will need to learn where to find and how to curate these workers – or liaise with a talent-finding partner that already has those skills and an essential database of knowledge workers.

Right now, companies and their employees are still in a state of flux and uncertainty, but since this blended workforce model will benefit both sides, this inevitable trend is already becoming a more prominent part of the employment landscape.

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