I have been involved in the contingent labour market in one guise or another for nearly two decades. Now more than ever, it’s an extremely exciting, ever-changing industry that leaves me feeling quite bullish for the future of work.
Independent contractors offer many strategic benefits to businesses, but the most evident and exciting trend I’m seeing is how independent contractors are being used to enable some forward-thinking businesses to challenge more “traditional” working models. When used optimally, independent contractors allow businesses to drive growth and reduce overheads by creating an accessible and agile workforce structure.
The efficient use of talent is now considered in many businesses as a business-critical process, and for the companies that do this more efficiently than its competitors, it can be considered a unique selling point.
In the current climate, the need for businesses to be agile and to adapt to market conditions is of paramount importance. Growing industries, like start-ups and tech, are built on it.
Increasingly, businesses are moving away from more traditional employment-based operating models and embracing an optimized workforce consisting of a strategically balanced permanent to interim ratio with different teams built on the requirements of the project at that time. The benefits are manifold, including increased utilisation ratios, hiring for skill and jobs to be done and the productivity and agility benefits of workers that can deploy immediately to key initiatives. Further, these businesses find that adopting a more flexible structure allows a for cost efficiencies and agile response to the demands of their clients and to the market overall. Having an on-demand resource of skilled talent to call on when it is needed to help build or strengthen their own staff has become an accepted business model and has been adopted by many of the big IT and management consultancies for some time, many of which are powered by the MBO platform to strategically engage, scale and optimise their work with this in-demand segment of the professional labour force.
These deviations away from the more traditional working models have been blurring the lines between employee and independent contractors at a much faster pace than the changes in legislation could adapt to. This does increase the need for an effective engagement programme to monitor and manage any associated IR35 risk, a model we are intimately familiar with and which forms the core of our “engage” compliance model.
But it’s now not merely enough to engage and manage within the bounds of IR35 or any new and pending legal requirements.
Businesses must innovate and re-think the way they leverage talent – specifically independent labour – to reach the best and brightest both now and in the years to come. Engaging and managing these workers through a user-friendly platform experience is, or will soon become, table takes.
Aside from the technology aspect, there are also strong social considerations. Millennials, for instance, are often seen to have greater expectations of work flexibility, variety of roles and work life balance than previous generations. New research from MBO’s US offices shows that millennials, along with Gen Z, formed 68% of the new entrants into the independent work market and make up 50% of the overall independent labour population in 2021.
We should look to our US counterparts, many of whom have already moved beyond simply engaging workers and have begun to scale and optimise their use of independent labour, for inspiration. Most UK businesses still have a long way to go in the optimisation of their workforce and to thereby unlock the commercial and strategic benefits of doing so, but it is certainly an exciting trend to be involved in.
We must also ask ourselves a question – do we wish to be a leader in our market, or a follower? I, for one, know where I’m headed.