Columnist Mathias Linnemann is a Co-founder and CCO of Worksome.co.uk, a leading UK-based marketplace for companies seeking to hire professional freelancers and contractors. He is an X-Googler, an international speaker, appointed member of the Danish Government’s board for the sharing economy, debater, panelist and podcast host.
Read all of Mathias’ articles here.
You’ve probably heard this a number of times before: talent scarcity is a real threat to UK SMEs.
But it shouldn’t be.
Because the talent shortage issue can in fact be solved fairly easily.
Let me explain why.
Yes, the UK is suffering from a talent shortage in the traditional workforce. 45 per cent of mid-sized organisations report that they are struggling to attract the right skills to their business, while 23 per cent of small businesses are feeling the pinch too.
Not surprisingly, IT is the most in-demand skill-set across industries. Across the UK’s major tech hubs, employers in Leeds, Manchester and London are the most pessimistic about their ability to attract talented tech workers. And the need for IT skills is not decreasing any time soon.
A Future of Work report by the Consumer Technology Association revealed that 92 per cent of employers said they will need more employees with technical skills in the future. Adding to that, companies fear that the talent shortage problem will only get worse once / if Brexit is finalised.
But while there might be a talent shortage in the traditional workforce, the flexible workforce, consisting of freelancers, independent consultants, and contractors, is booming.
There’s no talent shortage in the freelance economy
Since 2009, the freelance economy in the UK has grown by 25 per cent and generates an estimated £109bn a year. And according to the Office for National Statistics, flexible workers now account for around 15 per cent of the working population in the UK.
These flexible workers work in project-based roles and provide their skills to companies to solve a specific task. They often work on-site and on project teams alongside full-time workers.
It’s particularly the highly skilled and well-educated, who choose to freelance, according to an IPSE study with freelancers with competencies in IT leading the way.
Consequently, more UK employers are sourcing for talent in the flexible workforce. As many as 87 per cent of UK employers intend to increase or maintain their use of flexible workers in the next three months.
And there’s good reasons to do so.
SMEs need to be agile to stay competitive
In today’s ever-changing business world, it’s crucial to be agile to stay competitive. SMEs are constantly faced with new challenges and opportunities that they have to respond to.
Freelance workers provide fast and instant access to relevant skills and agility in the face of a turbulent business environment.
Many SMEs know all too well from that time-to-market can make the difference between success and failure. By bringing in flexible workers when they’re needed – who can hit the ground running instantly without time-consuming onboarding and training – the business can get ahead of the competition.
Tapping into freelance workers also allows SMEs to quickly adjust to changing demands, scaling staff up and down efficiently to meet changes in demand in various parts of the world. This also changes the mix of skills available to the company, which can help it swiftly adapt to changing customer preferences.
You might think hiring freelance workers is just a temporary solution until a permanent positions can be filled. But that’s not quite the case.
Freelancers can push your business ahead of competition
Numerous studies have shown that the shift towards using freelance workers as a strategic asset can help push a company ahead of the competition. For example, one study revealed that the most successful businesses use flexible workers more often and more strategically than low performing businesses.
On the contrary, research found that long-tenured full-time employees are the least likely to be a source of innovation. Recruitment technology such as online marketplaces can give SMEs fast access to highly skilled freelance workers with skills in IT, project management, sales and marketing, and more.
These online marketplaces use advanced algorithms to do the matching, which makes the sourcing process fast, easy, and more efficient.
So, to stay competitive, it’s important not to concern yourself with the type of contract a candidate is hired on.
Concern yourself with who’s best for the candidate for the job?
Remember this next time someone tells you that there’s a talent shortage in the UK: there’s no talent-shortage in the freelance economy.