The business benefits of a more diverse, flexible working culture are obvious for many, but how to manage an increasingly complex and agile workforce is unclear for most.
According to commentators, fixed working hours will have all but disappeared by 2020 and one in two people in the UK and US will be freelancers.
Where we work will have shifted drastically as the workforce becomes ‘consumers’ of the workspace and traditional offices become a temporary location rather than a permanent base.
However, while the business benefits of a more diverse, flexible working culture are obvious for many, just how to lead and manage this increasingly complex and agile workforce is unclear for most.
These predictions are far from mere speculation; as the gig economy continues to grow and shifts ever further into the public eye, researchers are striving to quantify its impact on the workforce of the future.
According to figures from the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self-Employed (IPSE), the freelance economy has contributed substantially to the growth in employment in recent years, with the latest labour force figures from the Office for National Statistics showing a record 4.63 million, one in seven of the workforce, are already self-employed.
This trend shows little sign of abating, in fact, according to a recent survey conducted by Alexander Mann Solutions, 63 per cent of senior HR professionals believe that non-permanent hiring will continue to increase over the next two years. But how can businesses attract, lead, and crucially, manage, such a diverse and flexible workforce?
Taking a new approach to leadership is key. Ultimately, it is a business’ leaders that will not only have to work out how to best incorporate freelancers into their workforce, but also be judged on their ability to ensure that their organisation has access to, and is able to attract, industry leading talent.
It’s crucial that senior leaders have an in-depth understanding of the importance of freelancers and the role that they play in the workplace of tomorrow.
Freedom and flexibility
It’s also important that directors and managers are able to adapt their leadership style to mirror the far more flexible nature of the gig economy.
Once businesses have the requisite buy-in from the senior team, they may need to consider reviewing their systems and processes. In practice, this could be as simple as reviewing the functionality of existing employee databases, or as advanced as an overhaul of existing processes and approaches to ongoing contractor management.
The ability to work remotely is often crucial for freelancers, so organisations need to ensure that contractors have the capability to work away from the workplace.
By exploring existing video conferencing capabilities, reviewing bring your own device policies, and migrating data and files stored on local servers to the cloud, organisations can ensure that freelancers are able to work efficiently.
Gigs and skills
Although it may not seem obvious, the continued growth of the gig economy, relies, at least in part, on organisations committing to providing contractors with skills development.
According to research from software company Oracle, opinion was split over who should manage contractors’ training, with 40 per cent of senior HR professionals indicating that they believe skills development should be the responsibility of the worker.
However, there is little doubt that freelance professionals are keen to continue to develop their professional skillsets, and given that demand for highly skilled contractors is likely to increase in coming years it is crucial that organisations demonstrate their commitment to managing, and funding, the professional development of all of their employees.
Publicising this commitment is particularly pertinent for sectors such as IT and technology, where inherent skills shortages are already taking a toll.
The nature of work has shifted rapidly in recent years, and if change continues to occur at the current pace, businesses need to ensure they are prepared to embrace an ever more agile and diverse workforce.
By preparing now, organisations can stay ahead of the curve to ensure they retain access to the industry leading professionals that will allow their businesses to thrive.
About the author
Jim Sykes, is the sector managing director at Alexander Mann Solutions