Freelance workers make up a third of today's workforce, and that number is expected to climb to 43 percent in 2020, according to one estimate. Factors driving this shift include the increased focus on company agility and the rapidly changing skill sets needed by companies. Plus, many workers want flexibility more than predictability.
Many of the top performers in technical, creative and strategic fields prefer working in the growing professional gig economy over traditional frameworks. They know they have the game-changing knowledge and experience employers need, but they are not willing to exchange their skills for comfort. Companies that want today's top talent must come to terms with the new reality and engage with gig workers on their terms.
To deal with skills shortages, perpetually unfilled high-impact positions, and poor retention metrics, businesses have to stop trying to beat the competition in the war for talent and instead simply change the rules of the game, which can be especially beneficial for small businesses with limited budgets. If you're still not convinced, consider these four advantages of embracing the professional gig economy:
1. Outcomes over retainers. Half of today's S&P 500 is supposed to roll over in the next 10 years. Small and large businesses face competition from all angles, and the most rigid ones fall first. This creates a problem. Companies need to be agile, but they also need to be efficient. Under these demands, flexibility is one of the most important advantages of gig workers.
Imagine if you had high-quality talent, paid only for the deliverables you needed and then had the option to amicably part ways with your workers (or, even better, move them to another project) when the job ended. You can do that in the professional gig economy.
To get started, design a small personal project with a clear outcome and then hire a person or small company from the gig economy to solve the issue. Experiment with freelancers across the globe. Paul Estes of Microsoft offers great recommendations on how to get started.
2. A variety of experience and perspectives. Author Malcolm Gladwell famously said that a person must work 10,000 hours in a field to become an expert. Freelancers do that work in areas where they are talented and passionate.
Companies complain about millennial job hoppers and yearn for the days when people sat still. But those days are over, and businesses can either accept that and take advantage of it or watch the market pass them by.
Freelancers who move from one challenging project to the next hone their skills faster than people who have the luxury of complacency. In the gig economy, a person might work in healthcare one day and finance the next. This allows the freelancer to develop a focused skill set with a broad view of potential applications. Businesses can accomplish incredible things if you engage this type of expertise.
Don't limit freelancers to small roles; give a freelancer the chance to work on a big, impactful project and see the results for yourself. Pick something that an executive would normally handle, give it to a freelancer and evaluate the work with a critical eye.
3. Consistent on-call talent. CEOs often rate "failure to attract and retain top talent" as one of their top challenges. With unemployment at record lows, the best people are pickier than ever about where they work, which means salaries for top workers are increasing. But the old model of employment that demanded that companies keep expensive people on retainer has changed.
Talent isn't impossible to find, but those workers just don't cruise job boards anymore. Give up trying to outbid competitors for the few people who are seeking full-time employment and open your eyes to freelancers who are waiting to be engaged. They have all the skills you need and are ready to get to work right now, no interview panel required.
Consider which role you have struggled the longest to fill and then reframe it with the outcomes that role addresses. Group those outcomes into smaller projects and head to the market to find professional gig workers with the necessary expertise. The hourly rate might sound high, but keep in mind that you will save money by paying only for what you need.
4. Having immediate needs met. The cost of full-time talent is much more than a salary and office space, which can be a budget-buster for any company.
Kelly Services found that 36 percent of businesses hire gig workers because of the speed at which that hiring process proceeds. Why wait to find, onboard, and train in-house talent when you can spend once on a freelancer and get results?
In the professional gig economy, companies can stop looking for that perfect applicant and get a freelancer working immediately, and there's less need to stress about the narrowly defined "culture fit."
The best gig workers have honed the soft skills required to be quickly integrated into the teams they're working with. They care about completing the deliverables assigned to them and know how to fit into a new team in a high-stakes situation, which makes them the perfect partners for outcome-driven companies.
The next time you urgently need to hire someone, consider a gig worker. Break the role into projects and find freelancers who fit the bill. Don't interview for fit or culture – engage with the most qualified person, regardless of time zone, who can get the job done.
The professional gig economy is growing. Is your company ready to compete? Take advantage of all the ways freelancers make your business better and enjoy faster access to quality talent.