Business pundits have been talking about the “rise of the gig economy” for years, but 2019 was the year that proved that contingent workers (e.g., freelancers, contractors, and consultants) are here to stay. And, it’s not just Uber drivers and techies anymore—we’re talking about contingent workers in every job function, at every level, in every industry.
The most recent statistics and projections around the gig economy show steady growth in contingent, more flexible work:
- In 2019, 57 million Americans were contingent workers, making up 35% of the US workforce.
- 45% of freelancers provide skilled services, such as programming, marketing, IT, and business consulting.
- Some sources now project that by 2027, 86.5 million Americans will be freelancers—making up 50.9% of the total U.S. workforce
- Last year the world’s gig economy exceeded $200 billion in gross volume, and it’s expected to grow to approximately $455 billion by 2023
- Younger generations are more likely to freelance—31% of Gen X would choose freelancing compared to 53% of Gen Z
Three ways to prepare for an increasingly contingent workforce
Over the next decade, the rise of agile, gig work is projected to have a large-scale impact on the structure, employees, and success of organizations of all kinds. To survive and succeed, organizations will need to:
1. Plan to reduce the corporate footprint
In the future, organizations will have a smaller-than-ever pool of core full-time employees with contingent workers doing the rest of the work. Additionally, many of the full-time employees will be working remotely. As a result, organizations will need to reduce brick-and-mortar spaces and invest in technology to accommodate remote workers. (The upside is the reduction of costs to own and maintain real estate.)
2. Focus on talent access vs. talent acquisition
In a recent survey, 64% of respondents reported that “professionals who are the top in their industry are increasingly choosing to work independently.” Why? Because they make more money, get better projects, and have flexibility. In, fact, 51% of freelancers say no amount of money would entice them to take a traditional job.
As the contingent workforce grows, it will be increasingly difficult for companies to find traditional full-time employees. Competition will be high and many of the best minds will be freelancing. So, to even get access to the most skilled employees, organizations will need to:
- Update HR roles and procedures to accommodate contingent and remote workers
Consider new benefits models
- Prioritize collaboration skills and collaborative processes
- Create more nimble, adaptable workforce planning strategies and hiring processes
3. Increase the speed of business
Today’s biggest companies aren’t getting work done fast enough. 50% of the S&P 500 will be replaced during the next 10 years. Smaller and more nimble companies are now able to beat the bigger guys by focusing on speed. Unfortunately, the best people to do the work are not always inside the company. Contingent consultants can help bridge the gap and increase the speed of innovation.
We’re entering a period of massive change where the workers are in control—not the organization. Companies that are more flexible and embrace the contingent workforce will be better poised to succeed in the coming decade.
If you’re interested in becoming an HR, finance, or accounting consultant—or you’d like to hire one—connect with me on LinkedIn. I’d be happy to help you learn more about it.