UK businesses turn to temporary market to close digital skills gap

New research shows that over three quarters (76%) of employers are now turning to the temporary market to aid their digital transformation efforts.

  • Three quarters (76%) of employers are turning to the temporary market to upskill existing staff and drive digital transformation projects
  • Desire for flexibility in career opportunities rise with 1.4 million temporary workers currently active in the UK

2019 September, London – New research from specialist recruitment consultancy Robert Half UK has discovered that over three quarters (76%) of employers are now turning to the temporary market to aid their digital transformation efforts.

Digital transformation is one of the most challenging business projects facing employers. At a time when many are struggling to hire the right calibre of candidate to help them close the digital skills gap within their organisation, many businesses leaders are needing to turn to contract or temporary professionals to fill the need.

With more than 1.4 million temporary workers currently active in the UK1, companies are increasingly tapping into a pool of highly skilled workers who operate on an interim or project basis - to help navigate digital disruption.

Filling the skills gap

For employers, the temporary recruitment market can be an effective way of mitigating skills shortages while targeting candidates with highly specialised or niche skill sets such as technological understanding and change management. 

Seven in ten (70%) employers agree that a combination of permanent, interim and temporary employees is most successful when trying to implement digital transformation initiatives.

These employees can be used in different ways. Three quarters of employers (74%) use experienced interim professionals to transfer knowledge and upskill existing teams, while a further three in four (75%) use them to manage specific digital transformation initiatives or projects within their organisation.

Such professionals are however in high demand, leading many employers to struggle to find the right candidates. Seven in ten (71%) admitted that it was challenging to find experienced interim staff for digital transformation initiatives.

Greater flexibility and bargaining power for candidates

For candidates with in-demand skill sets, temporary and interim roles can allow them to maintain flexibility and the choice of project or programme of work.

As such, an increasing proportion of the UK’s temporary workers are doing so out of choice, with less than 25% doing so because they could not find a full-time position – the lowest level in nearly 13 years.2

Matt Weston, Managing Director of Robert Half UK, commented: “Digitalisation is transforming the workplace at a rapid pace. New technology such as automation and artificial intelligence is being introduced to the workplace and has already started to shape the job roles of the future. Organisations lacking digital expertise and understanding will soon be left behind. 

“Employers continue to turn to the temporary market in an effort to rectify the lack of digital knowledge in their company. Experienced interim workers have the potential to manage digital transformation projects, often upskilling existing staff in the process. 

“Tapping into the temporary market to access niche skill sets is not easy and with potentially increasing competition based on whether an assignment will fall inside or outside of IR35, there could be likely rebalancing on the most competitive rates being offered and paid to secure top contract staff. Working with a specialist recruitment agency will give employers the best possible chance at hiring the right person for such a crucial job.”

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Notes to Editors

  1. ONS Labour Market Statistics, July 2019. Total number of temporary workers from March to May 2019 was 1,466,864.
  2. ONS Labour Market Statistics, July 2019. The proportion of temporary workers who could not find a permanent job from March to May 2019 was 24.9%. In June to August 2006, it was 24.7%.

About Robert Half

Robert Half is the world’s first and largest specialised recruitment consultancy and member of the S&P 500. We have once again been named to FORTUNE’s “World’s Most Admired Companies®” list and remains the top-ranked staffing firm (February 2020). Founded in 1948, the company has over 300 offices worldwide providing temporary, interim and permanent recruitment solutions for accounting and finance, financial services, technology, legal and administrative professionals. Robert Half offers workplace and jobseeker resources at and