Independent talent is a key workforce strategy for companies facing a protracted labor shortage

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U.S. businesses are also using skilled independent professionals to be more innovative, cost-efficient, and to access specialized skills, according to a newly released Upwork report.

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Despite the robust labor market, businesses continue to face a historically difficult hiring landscape. The number of available job seekers continues to decline, while the number of Americans who quit their jobs remains at a 20-year high, and 60% of hiring managers cite difficulties finding quality talent to fill open positions, according to Upwork’s seventh annual “Future Workforce Report.”

Even though resignations have slowed slightly from the peak, nearly half (43%) of businesses said the Great Resignation has negatively impacted their organization, the 2022 report finds.

What’s more, the severity of the impact varied based on the level of remote work flexibility. For example, remote-first organizations were least often negatively impacted (31% negatively impacted), especially compared to remote by day (55% negatively impacted) or on-site-first organizations (49% negatively impacted).

To attempt to minimize the ongoing impact of the Great Resignation, businesses are leveraging different tactics. The most commonly cited steps included increased schedule flexibility, increased compensation and increased remote work options.

SEE: Hiring kit: Data scientist (TechRepublic Premium)

IT & networking roles are among the hardest to fill

The hunt for talent remains fierce for businesses. Companies are experiencing the compound impact of those quitting as part of the Great Resignation and others who are changing roles taking advantage of the high volume of job openings in the U.S.

As a result, businesses are scrambling to fill roles while simultaneously trying to rehire those who are leaving. When asked about their ability to hire, 60% said that it is currently hard to find quality talent to fill positions.

However, businesses that leverage independent talent as a core part of their workforce strategy feel better equipped to fill key roles, find the right talent and skill sets and withstand disruptions when compared to businesses that do not.

Although recruitment is challenging across the board, hiring managers also noted that they anticipate hiring in some categories of work to be particularly difficult. Respondent hiring managers said they believe data science and analytics roles will be the hardest to hire for (60%), followed by architecture and engineering (58%) and IT & networking (58%).

This struggle to find talent may not let up any time soon, but some companies are using a different playbook for success: freelance talent.

“If the pandemic has taught businesses anything, it’s that an adaptive workforce strategy is essential,” said Tony Buffum, VP of HR client strategy, Upwork, in a statement. “Businesses that engage independent talent are already seeing the benefits of embracing a more adaptable strategy. Our research shows that not only are they more optimistic about the difficult hiring landscape, but they also feel more confident in their company’s ability to respond to disruption, be it economic, geopolitical or other global market forces.”

SEE: The COVID-19 gender gap: Why women are leaving their jobs and how to get them back to work (free PDF) (TechRepublic)

Freelancers help businesses solve the talent shortage

Nearly 80% of hiring managers who engage skilled freelancers said they are confident (78%) in their ability to find the talent they need, compared to just 63% of those who don’t engage freelancers.

The report said independent talent provides access to specialized skills: Of those who hire freelancers, 85% said that working with independent professionals allows them to access talent with specialized skills or expertise. The report went further and also explained:

  • Independent talent unlocks innovation: 79% of businesses agreed that working with independent talent enables their business to be more innovative.
  • Organizations that work with independent talent are more confident about withstanding turmoil: Among those hiring managers who use freelancers, 84% said they are confident in their company’s ability to respond to disruption, compared to 69% of those who do not use freelancers.
  • Use of skilled independent professionals poised to accelerate: Nearly 60% of hiring managers who engage independent talent said they plan to increasingly rely on freelancers over the next six months (58%) as well as over the next two years (66%).

Upwork said more than 1,000 U.S. hiring managers were surveyed through a third-party, independent online sample between April 25, 2022, and May 10, 2022.


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