The Future of the Independent Workforce Is the Future of Your Business
It has become quite common for businesses today to use independent workers to plug talent holes or scale up projects. Online talent marketplaces and staffing agencies make it easier than ever for businesses and freelancers to connect. Being a self-employed contract worker no longer carries the stigma it once did and is generally accepted as a reasonable career path.
Nearly 6 in 10 Americans will work as an independent professional at some point in the next decade, according to the "State of Independence in America 2017" report from MBO Partners.
"Independents want the freedom to pursue the type of work they choose and love," says Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners. "Most independents plan to continue staying independent or even to build a bigger business, showing that there is growing confidence in the ability of independent work to deliver what [people] desire from the economy and from their careers."
Independent Workers Are More Satisfied Than Ever Before
Once upon a time, freelancing was something one did in between jobs or on the side. Today, independent workers more often than not choose that lifestyle – and they love it. According to the report, satisfaction levels are the highest they've ever been for independent workers, with 74 percent of them reporting high satisfaction. That's a 9 percent increase since 2016.
Furthermore, 77 percent of independent workers say they are happier working on their own than they were in traditional jobs, and 64 percent say working on their own is better for their overall health.
"For independent workers, the ability to have greater control and flexibility far outweighs the hurdles of working solo," Zaino says.
We've Seen the Future, and It Looks Independent
Generation Z will begin entering the workforce in large numbers over the next decade, and they will enjoy all the benefits of work/life balance and flexible work programs for which millennials spent the last decade fighting. It stands to reason that Generation Z will further advance these workplace models, making today's nontraditional into tomorrow's standard.
"Generation Z will be less inclined to work for a company as an employee rather than with a company as an independent," Zaino says. "We're already seeing this trend with millennials, who are more inclined to be independent than any generation before them. As Gen. Z ages into the workforce, this trend will only continue."
With so many workers going independent, it stands to reason that employers will have to shift their approaches to wooing and maintaining relationships with talent. For example, rather than focusing on cultures that appeal to employees, organizations may have to start building cultures that appeal to freelancers and contractors in particular.
"From a business standpoint, more companies are considering not just being an employer of choice, but also becoming a client of choice [by] working actively to seek and retain top-tier independent talent," Zaino says. "Overall, we're seeing companies assessing policies and procedures to streamline and improve how they source, engage, and re-engage talent."
The Future Is Now
Waiting another decade for Generation Z to push further change will only end up with you playing catch up. Savvy companies will start making changes now to ensure they are attractive to the gig workforce of the future.
To become clients of choice for top independent talent, companies will need to develop "flexible and attractive payment and contract terms," in addition to robust networks of independent talent, Zaino says.
"When it comes to deciding which clients to work with, independents want to work for companies that they feel value and appreciate their work," he says. "This is even more important to them than pay or benefits. We are seeing this now, to a certain extent, but the idea will be pervasive in the coming years, and by 2027, client-of-choice status will be mainstream, if not a must-have, for organizations seeking to engage independent talent."
To get started, review your organization's existing policies and contracts for freelancers. Are rates fair or above average? Do you offer bonuses for outstanding work? Are processes in place to make gig workers feel valued? If you answered "no" to any of these questions, you have some work to do. The future will be here sooner than you think.