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UK companies falling short in managing ‘non-traditional’ employees

Anne-Marie Malley

Just 17 percent of UK companies have policies and strategies in place for the use of ‘non-traditional’ labour, including freelancers, contractors and ‘gig’ employees. This is despite the fact that a large proportion of UK business leaders report a significant number of contractors, freelancers and gig workers in their workforces.*

The findings come from the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends survey, which tracks the top trends shaping the agenda for HR and business leaders.** While many organisations rely on ‘non-traditional’ workers, this looks set to grow. 42 percent of UK business leaders expect to see a rise in the use of contractors by 2020, while 41 percent foresee an increase in freelancers, and 34 percent expect a growth in gig workers.

However, it seems that not all workers are given guidance of best practice during their contracts. Just 66 percent of HR teams say they are involved in onboarding non-traditional workers, while 49 percent offer training for these employees. One in three (33 percent) say they do not assess or manage the performance of non-traditional employees.

Furthermore, as the number of ‘non-traditional’ workers is expected to grow, many are sensitive to the risks involved with employing ‘non-traditional’ workers. Over two in five (42 percent) organisations say they are worried about the loss of confidential information due to the use of contractors, while 31 percent worry about the instability of the non-traditional workforce and 42 percent are concerned about violations or changing government regulations in managing or categorising these workers. Despite recent media scrutiny however, 64 percent do not express concerns over the reputational risk that could arise from a negative perception of non-traditional employment.

Anne-Marie Malley, UK human capital leader at Deloitte, explains: “The breadth of worker contracts available today offers employers huge potential to equip their business with a flexible, diverse and uniquely skilled workforce. However, most of these workers are being treated as unskilled labour, not as professionals. As freelancers, gig, and crowd workers become a growing proportion of the workforce and scrutiny of non-traditional workers intensifies, improving the management of the diverse workforce will grow in importance. Businesses should work to give gig and contract workers clear performance goals, secure communication systems, and the right amount of training and support to make them productive and aligned with the company’s strategy.”

Human skills vital in the successful deployment of new technologies
Leaders are preparing for the deployment of new technologies to sweep their businesses in the coming years, with 83 percent expecting AI and cognitive technology to have an impact on the composition of the workforce by 2020 and 33 percent saying that it has already had an impact.

As the use of these new technologies becomes widespread, business leaders share a belief in the importance of human skills. 69 percent say that as AI and robotics become integrated in the workforce complex problem-solving skills will be important in the workplace, while 61 percent say that technical skills and 60 percent say that cognitive abilities will be.

However, currently, just one in eight (12 percent) organisations plan to train their current workforce to enable the human skills which will be required by the use of AI and robotics, with 43 percent saying they do not have a plan to cultivate these skills.

Malley concludes: “Organisations expect their use of AI, automation and robotics to accelerate rapidly in the coming years and it’ll be inherently human skills which will be needed to facilitate their deployment. To allow new technologies to have the greatest impact in the workforce while minimising the potential negative impact on current employees, organisations must invest in reconstructing workloads, redefining roles and retraining workers.”

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