The workplaces of the UK are changing as employers increasingly turn to contractors to fill roles in a range of sectors. But while you might assume this is the employer’s preference, whether it’s due to concerns about Brexit or the desire to lower costs, it’s actually today’s professionals that, in many cases, are calling the shots.
A recent survey found that three-in-ten employees want to start their own business to gain the freedom, autonomy and flexibility they currently lack. The surge in remote working in recent years shows just how important additional flexibility is for many workers and this has given employers little choice but to react.
Fortunately, employing contractors can be a win-win situation for both employers and freelancers as long as it’s managed in the right way. That’s why contractors are fast becoming the future of the workforce.
The current contractor market
Research reveals that the freelance and contractor market has grown by 36 percent since 2008, with 44 percent of UK business leaders admitting that their current recruitment models are likely to be redundant by 2020. Rather than relying on permanent staff, 27 percent of hiring managers have admitted they will hire temporary or contract workers to support the digital transformation of their organisation and fill other business-as-usual positions.
This increasing reliance on contract workers is partly the result of a talent shortage among permanent employees in specific sectors. A survey of 1,000 UK employees found that 28 percent wanted to work as contractors, while 23 percent said it was an ambition they would fulfil. Given that many contractors often have quite specific skill sets, many employers are choosing or being forced to look towards the temporary market.
The IT talent shortage
According to a survey by a cloud service provider, 88 percent of hiring managers feel there are insufficient numbers of IT candidates in the marketplace with the necessary skills to fill the roles. That skills shortage has created an opportunity that IT contractors and freelancers are perfectly placed to capitalise on.
In particular, hiring managers are finding there is a lack of skills in areas such as data analysis, internet and networking and web application development. Until greater emphasis is placed on encouraging young people to train in these cutting-edge skills, employers are continuing to rely on contractors to bridge the gap.
This trend is occurring across all sectors, from the creative industries through to health. However, it is the public sector and charities where the biggest rise in contractors has been seen, with interim IT experts being hired for anything from 6 to 36 months for digital transformation and other roles.
Managing a contractor workforce
While the growth in the contractor and freelance workforce has the potential to be positive both for employers and workers, it can also pose a challenge for organisations that have not relied on contractors before. Learning how to obtain and maintain visibility of employed and non-employed workers and manage them as a single workforce is something many employers are yet to grasp.
Three areas employers would be to wise to focus on to effectively incorporate contractors into their team include early induction, effective communication and productivity management. It’s also important to consider how the skills the contractor brings can migrate to the permanent workforce so they can continue to add value even after their contract is over.
Expert advice for firms that have not employed freelancers before is to take one step at a time. Outsourcing a small project to a contractor is a sensible way to start. The lessons learned and feedback from the contractor and other stakeholders can then be used to inform your next project. Learning these lessons allows businesses to benefit from the flexibility contractors offer without sacrificing consistency.
The future looks bright
While the growth of the contractor market represents both opportunities and challenges for the modern workforce, the future for contractors and employers is bright. With many businesses showing little sign of delaying growth or innovation plans, firms that are prepared to hire contractors are perfectly placed to achieve their goals.