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Despite distractions, don’t ignore gig-economy and flexible working

Article by: Lisa Forrest | Published: 18 June 2017

Employers must recognise the rise of the ‘gig-economy’ – and implement strategic workforce planning strategies to reflect this shift. Comment Lisa Forrest, Global Head of Internal Talent Acquisition, at Alexander Mann Solutions.

The recommendation in response to data from Mercer’s 2017 Global Talent Trends Study, which found that despite the fact that the majority of full-time employees (77%) said they would consider working on a contingent or contract basis, both the C-suite and HR leaders reported that they do not expect the gig-economy to have a major impact on their own business in the next two years.

According to figures from the Office for National Statistics, over the last decade the number of self-employed workers in the UK has surged from 3.8 million to nearly 4.7 million. The figure has risen by 174,000 in the last year alone with 15% of the entire UK workforce now self-employed. Commenting on the findings, Lisa Forrest, Global Head of Internal Talent Acquisition, at Alexander Mann Solutions, said; “As Mercer’s study shows, the disconnect between the intentions of employees and business leaders around the rise of contracting as a career choice is stark. Consequently, organisations which do not recognise the rise of the flexible workforce risk finding themselves in a situation where they are unable to access the skills their business needs to thrive.”

“The rise of the ‘gig-economy’ is encouraging a more ‘Uber-esque’ approach to recruitment – and workforce planning strategies must respond to reflect this. Employers who embrace the rise of the flexible workforce will benefit from being in a position to bring on board specialist skills to help manage demand without the burden of permanent headcount costs. Those who ignore the rise of the gig-economy do so at commercial risk.”

The controversy surrounding companies like Uber and Deliveroo is contrasted with the rise of sites like People per Hour, Fiverr and Freelancer, where workers can name their own price for doing tasks they want to do, as well as a whole host of MLM opportunities, auction sites and internet businesses which enable almost anyone to become self employed quickly and with the minimum of hassle.  For many, the gig economy promises more options and more freedom – but it’s not all utopia.

Flexible working commentator Adrian Lewis from Activ Absence cautions: “For employees of businesses who haven’t embraced flexible working, a ‘gig’ employer could seem attractive.  Gig employers claim freedom and flexibility, ‘choose your hours, choose your role, work more family friendly hours, and achieve that all important ‘work-life-balance’ everyone talks about’. However, there are down sides to working ‘gigs’ rather than a job – the hassle of keeping accounts, unstable hours, the fact that flexibility for gig employers works both ways and the reality is that financial pressures could see gig workers having to take gigs they really don’t want to in order to pay the bills.  It’s not all utopia.”

“It’s not possible for every job, but for those who can, flexible working offers a stable salary, agreed hours and can prove a far better option for employees.  Employers can compete with the gig economy – but if they ignore flexible working options, they risk losing talent to the companies or ‘gigs’ that offer them.”