The evidence in other areas I witness leads me to believe that what I once thought about freelancers has been firmly set into motion. Freelancers were to comprise about 50% of the available talent pool by 2027. Yet, as of 2021, 48% of the US based talent pool is virtual and for those that have now experienced and lived more productively working remote, ordering remote, picking up curbside everywhere, it seems prudent to say that the talent will seek their employers to sustain the “good part of remote work” whatever that may be at your business. In fact, as companies consider their return to work strategies it is important to emphasize that employers should make decisions about the future only after they have derived their employee inputs. To return to work without employee input in some form or fashion, will lead to talent making shifts that may not be favorable to the business world. Many could jump to the freelance market independent of any employer. The reality is while talent seeks flexibility, they also require increased earnings opportunities. According to Maven, a working mother needs an average of twenty (20) additional unpaid days beyond standard PTO (Paid Time Off) programs. Yet, a recent Deloitte survey conducted on over 1000 full time professionals found burnout has no borders. The survey results show that 77 percent of respondents say they have experienced employee burnout at their current job, with more than half citing more than one occurrence of this. The survey also uncovered that employers may be missing the mark when it comes to developing well-being programs that their employees find valuable to address stress in the workplace.
Even before the pandemic, the freelance employment sector was the fastest growing employment sector. It represents 35% of the global workforce which translates to approximately 1.1 billion freelancers currently around the world. In 2019, before the pandemic, 57 million people worked from home in the US. Even then, 75% say they “wouldn’t trade their freelancing career for other types of work.” Key factors in leaving the role of employee to date include: the need for flexibility (68%), and I argue the second factor for career driven professionals is the opportunity for advancement to increase personal income while exercising freedom. This is supported by the fact that 55% of the freelance market comprises of people who are still working full time. That’s right, your employee is busy on the side investing their discretionary effort into their dream, not yours. The three largest freelance platforms are Upwork.com, Freelancer.com and Fiverr.com. The fact that 65% of this segment of freelancers is still working full time while freelancing on the side tells me that there are many more who will more aggressively shift their work to match their life as they gain confidence earning money and seeing past the risks. If employers do not tap into their talent’s hearts and minds there is nothing to keep them in their current jobs. The truth is clear as that same Deloitte survey found 84% of those experiencing burnout have no passion for their job. It would seem businesses need to prioritize their strategic culture plans. Otherwise, their strategic and operational plans could find real challenges.
Outsourcing has been a trend since the 1990’s when US based companies’ sourced foreign workers instead of Americans. Many of those early shifts were seen in the manufacturing sectors while call centers and service-based roles were staffed in other countries. Today, outsourcing is even more present but in a more localized context. Outsourcing fuels the freelance market as startups and emerging markets compete. There are four industries commonly found to be outsourced (i.e., technology, call centers, human resources, and manufacturing). However, a small enterprise like my own secures outsourced financial expertise, graphic design, lead generation, PR, virtual assistance, legal assistance, and the list goes on and on. The time is now to incorporate not just intrapreneur strategies in your business but also augmented talent attraction strategies for freelance and/or skilled resources. With culture being the new organizational structure, the benefit of access to freelance expertise in various areas of business will be not just desirable but necessary. This can be beneficial for businesses too. Businesses that are good at building a framework to uphold the culture as a common language and experience for all their resources working in synergy with clear focus to a shared goal, well then, business can acquire what is need at a fraction of the cost. This can help fuel a growing business and when done right, it can improve efficiency and contribute to the economy.
None of us can foretell the future. I am confident however that the talent won years ago. Despite the current unemployment rates you hear about, the skilled talent is at work and resources are skim in several industry verticals. Get ready to witness people making life changing decisions. People who are purpose driven to claim their joy through flexible work that fuels their intellectual passions is now at the forefront. The new evolution will be seeing this take place from the former bread winners in families who no longer fear the risk in the face of uncertainty, knowing nothing is more important than their well-being and the well-being of their families. The hospitality industry is already painting the future with staycation retreats because working from home can be great especially when it is not mandated. The talent of the future will seek to work from anywhere and on their terms. I feel this is all evidence enough to put every business owner on notice. If you did not know it when I wrote, The Talent Emergency in 2015, then heed my notice to you now. The talent still has the upper hand and women remain an opportunity! Now, I would like to pose to you… is the talent landscape a threat or an opportunity?