There’s a lot of chatter recently about the rise of automation and robots in the workplace, but what about another group that’s on track to take over? That’s right, the freelancers are coming. Actually, scratch that: they’re here.
More top companies are shifting from full-time, permanent workers to on-demand freelancers. According to new research, as much as 20 per cent of employees at Australian companies will be contractors, temps or consultants within the next three years. This is according to the Getting Trendy 2017 Report, a survey of ASX200 companies produced by Expert360 released this past week.
Perhaps it’s a sign of the times. Australians under 25 now average just 20 months in one role. By 2020, social research firm McCrindle estimates that one in three workers will be employed on a casual basis, with voluntary annual turnover approaching 20 per cent.
These employees are more likely to be specialists, and in fact more companies are using hyper-specialisation as a competitive advantage. The Getting Trendy survey found that 80 per cent of businesses will use freelancers to fill skills gaps most or all of the time.
“Executives are looking to bring in individuals who they know have successfully executed similar or the same workload beforehand,” says Bridget Loudon, Expert360 CEO. “That process used to be inefficient and ineffective, but now new technology platforms make it easier and more cost effective to find needles in a haystack.”
HR roles are not exempt from this trend, and demand for temporary or contract HR personnel continues to grow at a rapid pace. Specialists such as employee relations managers, trainers with niche skills and project managers are seeing a spike in interest from businesses, according to Hays’ most recent Human Resources Trends Report. At the same time, a growing number of HR generalist roles are becoming gig jobs in hopes of freeing up more senior HR executives and managers for strategic operations.
“Permanent staff are becoming more ‘jack-of-all-trade’ types, problem solvers and strategic thinkers with good analytical skills,” says Loudon. She adds that big companies are increasingly looking to bring in specialists on an on-demand basis, as opposed to keeping them in-house.
Respondents to the Expert360 report cited cost savings, reduced time-to-hire, and the boom in technology that enables remote working as the main reasons for the increase in their use of freelancers.
These finding suggest that Australian businesses are looking for new ways to bypass skills shortages and compete in the global economy, especially since Australia’s labour market is much smaller than comparable countries. With the constant ebb and flow of business cycles, relying on freelancers might also mean a reduction in redundancies.