Professional woman searches for freelancer job opportunities on her laptop - Hays Viewpoint, careers advice blog

I recently read with interest an article published in the latest Hays Journal, entitled ‘The rise of the freelancer economy’ and it got me thinking about the evolving recruitment trends we are seeing here at Hays, and the reasons behind them.

More and more, we are seeing temporary, contract and freelance workers becoming the new normal in workplaces, as employers adopt headcount flexibility. While we all know that non-permanent employees are nothing new (at Hays for instance we’ve supplied temporaries for 25 years), the rapid rise in this form of working is.

Estimations vary, but the general consensus is that around 30 to 40 per cent of the workforce is now a temporary, contractor of freelancer.

The new-found popularity of this long-standing method of employment is the result of several factors, including permanent headcount freezes in recent years, a rise in project-based work (especially in the media, construction, secretarial and engineering industries) and the attractiveness of a flexible workforce that can be released at short notice without financial penalty.

The on-demand and as-needed nature of temporary staff, contractors and freelancers is also far more cost-effective than keeping skills unessential to the day-to-day operation of an organisation in-house. As a temporary employee is only paid for the hours worked, employers keep a tight control on their staffing costs and productivity at optimum levels. These benefits are widely accepted and understood.

But, research by the Agile Talent Collaborative via Harvard Business Review found that organisations are using freelancers for other reasons too, namely, “access to difficult-to-find technical or functional expertise, speed, flexibility, and innovation.”

I’d therefore like to delve a little deeper into these four motivations in this blog:

Access to difficult-to-find technical or functional expertise

It’s now recognised that professional interim candidates with high levels of skills and experience are readily available to fill even the most specialist roles, including those impacted by skill shortages.

Speed

Temporary staff can cover annual, sick or paternity leave for invaluable staff members and assist during times of peak workloads. If a new contract is won at short notice, they can be utilised until a permanent employee commences.

Flexibility

Temporary workers fill both long and short-term needs and are engaged and released at short notice. There’s no financial penalty for terminating a temporary assignment. If you want to retain their services, there may be the option to employ candidates on a fulltime, part-time, job share or ongoing ‘as required’ basis. They’re also used to bring specific skills to a project.

Innovation and creativity

In the latest issue of the Hays Journal, Professor Andrew Burke, Dean of Trinity Business School and Chairman of the Centre for Research on Self-Employment, says the growth in innovation-driven economies is a key reason behind the growth in freelancing. According to Professor Burke, highly skilled, temporary staff can often be highly innovative. With experience and knowledge gained through assignments at various organisations they’ll help a team or department innovate and manage change.

We’re even seeing the rise of what’s been dubbed the ‘super-temp’; highly-skilled professionals and executives who’ve worked for the leaders in their field and now choose project-based roles. According to the Harvard Business Review, they’re trusted to perform “mission-critical work that in the past would have been done by permanent employees or established outside firms” and are “on the verge of changing how business works”.

Employers certainly have a taste for headcount flexibility and aren’t going to let it go anytime soon. In fact, we expect the use of temporary, contract and freelance workers to continue to escalate in the years ahead.

How can your business take advantage?

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Author

Nick Deligiannis began working at Hays in 1993 and over the 22 years he has been with the company has held a variety of consulting and management roles across the business, including the role of Director responsible for the operation of Hays in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania and the Northern Territory. In 2004 he was appointed to the Hays Board of Directors, and was made Managing Director for Australia and New Zealand in 2012.

Prior to joining Hays, he had a background in human resource management and marketing, and has formal qualifications in Psychology.