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By Sean Brown
With an increasing number of professionals shifting away from full time employment towards freelancing and self employment, it’s safe to say that the UK’s gig economy is growing at a rapid pace.
This changing nature of work has not only proven to be an inviting option for individuals aiming to best monetise their skills whilst achieving full control over their work patterns, but also for businesses who wish to tap into the skilled workforce without the risk or commitment of hiring full time staff.
According to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends report, only 42 percent of 11, 000 employers surveyed said their organisations are staffed primarily by salaried employees. This figure is predicted to drop even lower in the coming years, as businesses respond to the need to do things better and faster, by utilising all the skills available to them.
But is the gig economy really all it’s cracked up to be? In this blog, I highlight the benefits of tapping into the UK’s freelance workforce, as well as some of the pitfalls to avoid.
Traditionally, the freelance workforce has been kept at an arm’s length. However, recent years have seen more companies adopt a blended workforce of freelancers, contractors and permanent employees. Below are just some of the reasons why:
Although freelancers typically charge a higher rate per hour/day or project, your business could actually cut back on costs in the long term because you won’t be obligated to pay for a freelancer's pension, national insurance, holiday pay and other expenses such as kit or software. Furthermore, if you hire a remote freelancer, you can reduce the cost of running your office, and potentially downsize costly city centre office locations.
Because freelancers typically operate on a remote basis, you won’t be restricting your talent search to local candidates. Instead, you will be able to access and interact with a wider talent tool. There is also a range of tools which simplify the skill sourcing process for you - from the traditional recruitment firms which identify and assess freelance talent for you, to platforms such as LinkedIn, Upwork and PeoplePerHour. What’s more is that you won’t need to worry about employment legislation and red tape.
Although salaried employees will consistently be on hand to put in the graft during core business hours, they also frequently go through peaks and troughs in the quality of work they produce. The difference with freelancers is that their very survival within the business landscape depends on repeated custom and high ratings, which in turn motivates them to deliver the best quality of work. If they don't, they risk losing additional work or future business.
If you have a project with a tight deadline or one that may need to be revised at various points of the process or times of the day, it is easier to work with someone who may be available outside of core business hours. Freelancers choose their working patterns when assigned to a project, and this flexibility is a great alternative to paying a permanent employee overtime or waiting until they are back in the office.
Despite the advantages mentioned above, without effective hiring and onboarding, managing the freelancers you assign to your projects may present certain disadvantages. The challenges that come along with utilising the gig economy may include finding employees that can not only perform in the job, but are also engaged and interested in your organisation’s corporate culture and goals.
With freelancers typically juggling multiple projects for a number of employers simultaneously, you may find that they are unable to give your project 100 percent of their time and focus, regardless of how skilled or talented they are. For this reason, it’s important to have a range of options to choose from.
You should also ask yourself if a specific project or assignment requires comprehensive training, because if that is the case, it may be wiser to invest your money and time in hiring a permanent employee. The level of supervision you need to give an individual working on your project is another factor to consider. You may find it challenging if you need to closely monitor progress and the individual is not working within business hours.
From the use of individual freelancers to complete small projects, to accessing a global talent pool and reducing your spend through ongoing integrated services, there are certainly many ways in which employers can benefit from the gig economy.
However, because each company differs from one to the other, it’s important to weigh up the pro’s and cons of the gig economy for your own business. You may find that you have challenges engaging the freelance workforce, and opting for permanent employees is the better option for you.
As experts in the Technology and Transformation workforce, our team of specialists can advise on the best routes to market to achieve your business objectives through our outcomes based Managed Service Solutions and our blended contract and permanent staffing solutions. Get in touch today via email@example.com to share your views about the gig economy or to discuss your resourcing challenges and workforce objectives.