There is no denying that the rapid evolution of technology, the shifting priorities of today’s workforce, and an increasingly competitive talent landscape have contributed to significant adjustments in business models across the globe. To remain relevant in this changing landscape, many companies are now shifting to a more flexible workforce model. According to the Aspen Institute’s Workforce of the Future study, 60 percent of companies now use on-demand or contingent workers, and 70 percent of employers predict that more companies will move toward a gig-based labor model in the future.
Any deviation from the status quo comes with risks – but for businesses, the benefits of a flexible workforce are tangible and easily measured.
What is a flexible workforce?
The definition of a flexible workforce continues to evolve as more people choose self-employment over traditional jobs. This type of workforce typically includes a mix of part-time employees, contingent workers, freelancers, independent contractors and gig workers. The work may be seasonal, project-based or contracted and is most often done remotely. Data released by the Freelancers Union in 2016 shows that the independent workforce in the U.S. now stands at 55 million people, or approximately 35 percent of the total workforce, earning a combined $1 trillion annually.
A flexible workforce may look different in each workplace, depending on the business’s size, objectives and industry. According to a 2016 article in Fortune, “ … flexibility isn’t a collection of policies or programs. It’s a way of doing business, one that is attuned to a particular workplace, that cares for and trusts employees, and that is tied to strategic goals.”
Benefits of a flexible workforce
Employing a flexible workforce model yields objective, up-front benefits that can be easily tracked to help measure the progress and health of an organization.
Hiring independent professionals for specific projects or seasons results in lower fixed employment costs by eliminating the price tag on health care and other benefits that full-time traditional employees require. Additionally, hiring short-term remote workers reduces the cost of overtime and absenteeism common with onsite employees.
Access to talent
Forbes identified “ … the rise of telecommuting, co-working spaces, globalization and new technology tools” as key reasons why today’s workers are demanding more flexibility. Engaging a flexible workforce allows employers to break through traditional geographic constraints to identify and hire expert talent across the globe. Increasing the geographic scope of talent recruitment also means employers can hire niche professionals for highly-specific projects without disrupting the normal workflow of regular employees.
Speed and scale
The boom of technology has forced companies to face staffing challenges related to scalability, timeliness and quality control. Customers expect immediate resolutions to identified issues, web content must be relevant and accurate, and user-generated content requires real-time moderation. One benefit of a flexible workforce is the ability to scale staffing up and down by project or season in order to meet shifting business priorities.
Long-term return on investment
In addition to the financial savings, borderless talent network, and efficient workflows, tapping into the on-demand workforce has long-term benefits.
For the first time in history, there will soon be five generations represented in the workforce, and leaders must learn how to navigate the needs of each. A flexible workforce model addresses concerns specific to each generation. Knowing that baby boomers are looking ahead to retirement or reduced hours, Generation X is looking for work-life balance, and millennials are drawn to work that inspires them, adopting a flexible work model allows businesses to appeal to a diverse range of talent.
Loyalty and productivity
With the increasing demand for employees to be available beyond standard business hours, burnout is on the rise. Studies show that offering flexibility in the workplace is one way employers can build morale and improve retention. Hiring freelancers for short-term projects can help lighten the workloads of regular employees, and promoting flexible schedules and remote work positions the company as progressive and committed to the well-being of its employees. A high-trust culture is also proven to improve performance.
The future of work
As the fastest-growing segment of the labor market, the “independent,” “on-demand” or “flexible” workforce cannot be ignored. Companies that are proactive in their approach to this shift in the business landscape will be able to attract top talent, promote innovation, develop cohesive teams, and build a sustainable model for the future.
Interested in learning how OneSpace’s freelance management software can help you engage a flexible workforce to complete projects more efficiently and at scale? Sign up for a live demo below.