The Future is Here and it’s The Flexible Workforce

Everyone is connected, all of the time. We’ve got our phones inches away, our televisions are smart, and we can even get emails on our fridges. Because of this hyper-connectivity, it’s changed how we’re working, how we collaborate, and how transparent teams have become.

Back in the day, most folks worked from 9-5. Today, we’re not exactly all rushing into the office by 9am sharp thanks to advances with technology as simple as sending a text message or email to the whole staff. We’ve become more flexible. Businesses have shifted their methods of how work gets done, what can be achieved, despite teammates not sitting next to one another in an office. The workforce is getting younger, more technology-driven and because of this, flexibility has become a throughline for many successful teams. Whereas in the past, time off or working from home were “nice to have,” they’re now one of the first things a business has to discuss in the interviewing process.

But, what’s happening because of the inverse of services like Uber, Lyft, Favor, and Instacart, the gig economy is coming on strong. Everything is changing. What was once considered a role that’s full-time can now be done on an “as-needed” basis and the results are getting wild. The Aspen Institute’s Workforce of the Future recently dropped a study citing that 60% of companies are using on-demand workers. The data also shows that 70% of companies are looking to hire more of a gig-based workforce in the future.

 

What exactly is a flexible workforce?

The definition of “flexible” is evolving because people want to work for themselves rather than punch a clock for someone else. The work can be a variety of project-based, seasonal, contracted, event-based, or even remotely.

Think of people who are:

  • Freelancers
  • Contingent workers
  • Part-time employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig workers

A whopping 36% of the U.S. workforce is involved in the gig economy – that’s 57 MILLION people, who are earning over a trillion dollars from gigs like delivering groceries, delivering food, working a specific event, or just testing out some software for an afternoon.

Why would anyone want to change up their business model and hire some flexible workers? Well, there are plenty of reasons.

 

Talent access

Depending on the community and work type, some companies choose to hire out contractors or freelancers because telecommuting is easier. By hiring for a one-time design or to get some copy written by using services like Upwork or Fivver, this allows creatives and corresponding managers to break traditional geographic constraints. This also means that niche professionals have broader access to companies who may need someone for a particular project that would usually disrupt the work of regular staff. The same thing could go for events and staffing a game when it comes to security or maybe a certain kind of bartender.

 

It’s cheaper

Let’s say you’re running a store in the French Quarter and every Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest the influx of tourists cripples your shop. There are people everywhere, and you need security, an extra register person and at least one other person on the floor to help customers. But, every other time of the year business is slower and manageable. A short-term worker would be able to come in just for these times with a clear understanding of the expectations as well the length of the work. This is cheaper than hiring someone part-time and keeping them on the fringes only for a few times a year.

 

Different people want different things

The makeup of the gig economy isn’t always who you think it is. While yes, there’s a large contingency that’s centered on Millennials and their constant search for work that’s meaningful, there are plenty of boomers who are working for something to do as retirement isn’t as fun as they expected. But, that also lends itself to those decades of experience, too. Generation X is looking for work-life balance and doesn’t want to be at work all of the time, so all three of these age segments offer a variety of worker types, all which can be used to fill different roles.

 

They’re available right now

Remember that instantaneous technology? A sector of the staffing and recruiting world has developed apps and platforms to meet the need for speed. Companies looking to get a job done right now have access to qualified workers who can do just that. Scalability and effectiveness have become the name of the game. Some companies (kinda like us) can even handle the paperwork and all of the details so a boss can put together their ask via their iPhone and get qualified leads back by lunch.

 

It’s beneficial for the long-term employees

Hiring someone for the short-term works to one huge benefit: it helps with employee burnout. By bringing in some folks to take care of a specific project or do something your regular employees just don’t have the time for, it improves morale. Plus, if someone does an incredible job at their temporary work, it might open the door to a conversation about longer-term employment – but on the company’s terms.

On-demand work is the fastest growing segment of the new workforce. People are picking up gigs everywhere. This is the model for the future, and it’s only going to continue to diversify. If you’ve got a project in mind that you’ve been casting off for months, getting the job done might be easier than you think. The technology is there.

Bobby Hilliard