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Gig economy booms as war for digital talent intensifies

Matt Weston

1.6 million (28 percent) UK businesses plan to hire temporary or contract staff in the next twelve months, as digitalisation and a lack of available talent creates critical skills gaps in the workplace. Contributor Matt Weston.

Technology is reshaping businesses; two in five UK organisations (38 percent) consider digitalisation to be the main evolving force in the workplace today. This shift has created demand for a new set of skills, such as DevOps, data visualisation, data management and analytics. While softer skills such as resilience, adaptability and critical thinking remain key characteristics in potential employees, a third (31 percent) of employers state that a candidate’s technical skillset is their most important consideration when making a new hire. That’s according to research from Robert Half

C-Suite concerns
Over half (53 percent) of CEOs admit they are concerned about the lack of digital skills in the current UK talent market, as businesses come under pressure to adapt to AI, automation and digitisation. This skills shortage is especially prevalent in the technology sector, which is estimated to have a 40,000-strong deficit in professionals with the technological qualifications needed to meet the demands of the UK economy. These concerns are set to increase with the uncertainty of Brexit and the potential decrease to the skilled technology talent pool.

Businesses forced to adopt flexible recruitment strategies
As businesses increasingly struggle to find the right talent at the right time, many are being forced to adopt more flexible recruitment strategies. This is driving a boom in short-term hires and contributing to the growth of the professional gig economy – the use of temporary or interim specialised staff on a short-term basis to fill skills gaps.

More than a third (38 percent) of UK businesses say short-term employees are currently filling skills gaps in their organisations. An additional 28 percent plan to hire temporary or contract staff in the next 12 months, with the top benefits cited as supporting long-term staff absence (35 percent), providing staffing flexibility (34 percent) and to act as a stopgap between permanent hires (32 percent).

This agile recruitment strategy provides a short-to-medium term solution while business leaders invest in internal training to upskill their current workforce (17 percent plan to do so in the next year) or continue to look for new, permanent staff to help them achieve their future growth ambitions.

Matt Weston commented: “An intensifying war for talent and business growth plans have provided a significant boost to the professional gig economy. UK businesses are increasingly turning to flexible recruitment strategies as a key solution to filling skills gaps within their organisation, as they invest in upskilling their current workforce and find permanent staff with the right blend of capabilities. In the interim, access to an immediate pool of specialist talent prevents costly project delays and helps businesses realise their potential and compete in an increasingly digital world.

“Furthermore, flexible, strategic staffing models – those with a dynamic mix of permanent employees and highly-skilled temporary professionals – can provide companies of all sizes with the agility to quickly increase or decrease the size of their workforce based on workload demands and confidence amidst a backdrop of economic uncertainty.”

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