Keeping Up with the “Uberization” of the Workforce

488688109There is a fundamental shift changing the way work gets done. While a traditional full-time job used to be the goal for most people, that is no longer necessarily the case. Instead, more individuals (53 million in the U.S. alone, according to Freelancers Union) are seeking independent or freelance opportunities, and organizations must be prepared to leverage this growing population in order to operate with greater agility, filling critical gaps with on-demand talent, perhaps at a moment’s notice.

What’s the reason for the rapid growth of this independent workforce? Much of it is due to the emergence of numerous technology platforms that connect employers with on-demand talent. Just consider portals like Elance and Toptal, which have millions of users around the world, or offerings like Gigwalk and Twago that have made it easy to connect with and hire freelance talent. Though still in its infancy, the app-driven labor market is growing rapidly. Whether you call it talent on demand, the sharing economy or the “Uberization” of the workforce, everyone can agree that the model of combining real-time data, mobile payments, instant gratification and dynamic pricing will only continue to spread.

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But technology isn’t the only thing driving more individuals to seek freelance work. Whether looking to supplement the income of their full-time positions or simply to enjoy the freedom of being a contractor, such opportunities continue to appeal to more people. At the same time, any negative connotations associated with being a contractor are dissipating, given that many choose freelance assignments as a way to gain new skills, work on interesting projects and advance their careers. In fact, more than a third of people who work as contractors outside their primary job have thought about going completely independent.

As the shift toward freelance work will only become greater in the coming years, companies will face the critical imperative to adjust accordingly. This requires a new way of thinking about independent workers, and how they can fill roles traditionally held by permanent employees. They should no longer be viewed as supplemental talent; they may very well be the best quality workers for the job at hand.

Competition for qualified contractors will only increase in the coming years, meaning your business must act today to engage and retain freelance talent. Consider the following tips to do just that:

  • Make the brand stand out: Qualified freelance workers have more options than ever about who they choose to work for. Make sure your employer brand is developed with an eye toward attracting the best independent workers. Showcase the exciting things the company is doing and the types of projects talent would work on,as well as how such opportunities will help them learn something new and advance their careers.
  • Turn independent workers into brand ambassadors: It’s likely that the best independent workers have similarly qualified peers. Encouraging existing contractors to spread the word about your company and its opportunities will help to create a pool of talent eager to work for you.
  • Build a talent community: Once you have an established talent pool, it is important to retain those individuals – and the knowledge they have gained at your company – by establishing a talent community. This way, you can keep them engaged and easily access great talent already familiar with your company, rather than having to find new workers for each new opening.
  • Be a talent advisor: Independent workers are continuously looking for new opportunities to try new things. Work with managers to see which positions traditionally filled with permanent hires can be filled with independent talent. Not only will this help determine where alternative work arrangements can address business needs, but it will also open new doors for those individuals.
  • Embrace a compliant approach: As the freelance economy grows, so have the number of regulatory bodies cracking down on misclassification of contractors and independent workers. Consulting with an expert about such regulations will help maintain a compliant approach.

As companies will increase their dependence on independent talent in the coming years, the time is now to optimize your freelance strategy. By understanding how your organization can prepare for this shift already well underway, and adapting current processes to make a more inviting environment to independent workers, your organization will be well prepared as the Uberization of the workforce continues.

MORE: Changing tradewinds in talent

Nathan Gibson

Nathan Gibson
Nathan Gibson is vice president, MSP/PICS for Randstad Sourceright.

Nathan Gibson

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