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Columnist Mathias Linnemann is a Co-founder and CCO of, 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.

Finding and keeping top talent is a challenge for all organisations, but the hurdles for SMEs can be greater than in larger organisations. Some SMEs don’t have the advantages of a well-known brand name or high salary offerings. 

So how can SMEs compete in the war for talent? The key here is to have a culture that attracts the best and the brightest.But how do you actually develop the right culture? It’s all about knowing what workers want from their employers.

Recent UK research reveals that demand for flexible working arrangements is the overriding factor for workers:

  • 92% of Millennials identify flexibility as a top priority when job hunting
  • 80% of women and 52% of men want flexibility in their next role
  • 70% of UK employees feel that flexible working makes a job more attractive to them and 30% would prefer flexible working to a pay rise

The desire for flexibility is prevalent across all age groups. From the working mum wanting to be able to pick up her children, to the business professional doing an MBA in the late afternoon. These workers want to have a say on when they work, how, and who they work for. 

Changing Demographics, Changing Expectations

The 8 hour work day, 5 days per week, was a concept developed in the industrial age. At that time, people were required to show up at the office (or the factory) to coordinate activities. But that’s not necessary anymore. Now, technology has made it possible for many to work anywhere, anytime at any place, meaning that work in its very nature has become flexible. Consequently, SMEs have to adapt their company culture to embrace the new way of working.

However, some SMEs question their ability to implement a flexible work style and simultaneously maintain high productivity and performance levels. Flexibility and high productivity seem to be contradictory terms at face value, which is why many SMEs are hesitant to change the work style.
But the contrary is actually true: Flexibility boosts productivity. According to research from the Flex+Strategy Group flexibility in where, when and how people work increases employees’ job satisfaction and leads to greater productivity, engagement, and innovation.

91 percent of HR professionals also agree that flexible work arrangements positively influence employee engagement, job satisfaction and retention.

But by offering flexible working patterns, businesses also open themselves up to a new pool of talent that already work flexibly, such as freelancers, independent consultants, and contractors.And that might actually be just about the greatest way to find top-talent.

The boom and benefits of the freelance economy

Since 2009, the freelance economy in the UK has grown by 25 per cent and generates an estimated £109 billion a year. Today, there are around 2 million freelance workers in the UK who fulfill a variety of roles in various industries. 

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.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.Now, more SMEs than ever are hiring flexible workers as a way of solving the skills shortage issue. As many as 87 per cent of UK employers intend to increase or maintain their use of flexible workers in the next three months.

Flexible workers bring in added benefits that permanent employees don’t. 

The key advantages of employing flexible workers are fast access to relevant and highly skilled talent, and agility in the face of a highly turbulent business environment. And in today’s competitive business world, this is absolutely crucial.Hiring flexible workers enable SMEs to quickly adjust to changing consumer demands, because they can scale staff up and down accordingly.SMEs who embrace these changes build more competitive organizations, experience greater efficiencies and cost savings, and are able to deliver specialized skills faster, according to Workmarket’s 2017 Workforce Productivity Report.However, the process of hiring, onboarding, managing and paying freelancers can be vastly different to the way companies engage permanent employees. That’s why investing in the right recruitment technology is crucial to succeed with a flexible work and hiring culture.

Recruitment tech is the new black

Recruitment technology like online marketplaces that grant access to thousands of skilled people instantly solves this problem. 

This type of recruitment tech uses advanced algorithms to match SMEs with freelance talent in a matter of seconds, and takes care of everything from contract to billing and payment, essentially streamlining the hiring process.

If you’re an SME, look for a recruitment tech solution that also gives you a Freelance Management System – a tech-based solution that enables you to easily and efficiently manage the entire freelance workforce – new and existing – in one place. This will provide you with the needed tech to truly sustain and support a flexible work culture.