Are contractors the future of the workplace?

By Matt Weston 9th February 2018

The future of work is being shaped by the aspirations of today’s professionals. Nearly three in ten employees dream of starting their own business to gain the flexibility, autonomy and freedom they desire. This leaves businesses with little choice but to react.

The temporary employment market has been hailed as one of the greatest success stories in recent years. Its expansion has been rapid, swelling to meet an increasing surge in demand caused by a lack of qualified talent to fill in-house roles.

For businesses, contracted professionals provide a flexible, cost-effective method of filling a widening talent deficit while helping to reduce the risks involved with business growth.

Professionals are turning to contracting as a means of obtaining the level of schedule and career freedom that in-house roles simply haven’t offered in the past. By leveraging their skills and experience, professionals are able to support specific projects as interim or contract workers.

So, is it possible that all signs point towards a future which embraces flexible recruitment strategies?

A snapshot of the current contractor hiring market

The freelance and contractor market is one of the fastest growing markets in the UK, with growth estimated at 36% since 2008. According to a study by Microsoft, 44% of UK business leaders say their existing business models will cease to exist by 2020.

In a survey of 1,000 UK employees, we found that 28% admitted wishing to start their own business, with a further 23% believing it to be an ambition they would fulfil. The majority plan to become small business owners (19%), with a staff of 250 employees or less working under them. 

Further research also revealed that 27% of UK hiring managers will rely on temporary or contract roles to help support digital transformation or to fill business-as-usual positions, with only 17% focussed on securing permanent roles. To drill this down even further, 59% of finance departments and 45% of accounting departments are planning on using contracted professionals in the next year. 

Essential support for digital transformation projects

The talent shortage threatens digital transformation projects across all industries, leaving crucial knowledge gaps and too few qualified professionals to ensure successful roll-out.

Flexible recruitment strategies which leverage contracted professionals provide businesses with access to specialists at every stage of the project lifecycle. They offer a fresh perspective, a more agile solution and access to best practice in all areas, making them invaluable. 

Mitigating stress with additional resource

In a global research study of CFOs, it was discovered that 78% of UK businesses believed stress levels within their department would increase in the coming months. Aside from implementing wellbeing schemes and creating agile work environments, businesses are relying on temporary professionals as a means of supporting staff during busy periods.

Upskilling and filling knowledge gaps

Workplace skill sets are changing to keep pace with digital transformation, with analytical, communication and problem-solving skills rising to the top of the “must-have” list. This presents a challenge for in-house employees and calls for upskilling across every industry. 

Blending contractors and in-house professionals encourages specialist skill transference which benefits both the business’ long-term plans and the career development goals of in-house professionals. 

The conclusive outlook on the future of contracting is a bright one. Entire workforces have the capacity to flourish when businesses begin to consider the long-term aims of both interim and permanent employees. 

Businesses are showing no sign of delaying growth or innovation plans, and with very little talent to see them to fruition, it appears as though contracted professionals and blended workforces present the perfect solution. As long as there’s demand, the market will always answer with healthy supply. 
 


Matt Weston, Director, Robert Half UK

Matt has worked for Robert Half for more than 18 years; he began his career as a recruitment consultant for Robert Half Finance and Accounting in 1999. Matt quickly excelled as a top consultant and earned a number of prestigious awards including being recognised four times as Robert Half’s worldwide number one consultant. With extensive experience in financial recruitment in the UK, Matt is a familiar industry figure and a valuable spokesperson on current trends affecting the market. 

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