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A New World of Work: Managing a flexible workforce in an evolving market

For staffing companies and their clients, managing today’s contingent workforce effectively and safely is not as straightforward as it once was. In addition to the day-to-day operational changes that staffing professionals are used to managing, the dawn of the digital age has led to a fundamental shift in the way talent is procured. Where before the options for engaging with workers were relatively limited, now we have a broad, sometimes baffling, array of methods allowing us direct access to personnel to carry out anything from a five-minute simple task to a months-long assignment.

The emergence of online, on-demand marketplaces such as Upwork has, for the first time, provided contingent workers with access to organisations across the world. Meanwhile, rapid shifts in the economy, talent shortages and ever-evolving technology have made engaging this type of worker an ever more flexible and attractive option for businesses. As the global marketplace continues to grow in size and in competitiveness and costs across all sectors become correspondingly squeezed, we will continue to see companies use contingent workers, which is expected to make up more than 40 per cent of the total US workforce by 2020, according to a report by software company Intuit.

At the forefront of this changing world of work, on-demand marketplaces such as Upwork, Uber and others have become as famous for their meteoric growth as they have for their legal challenges, particularly in terms of defining their external workforce as employees or independent contractors. The effects of this extend across the wider economy as contingent workers continue to disrupt labour markets across the world, presenting new challenges when it comes to classification, procurement and management.

As access to contingent workers becomes an increasing business requirement, organisations must have processes and systems in place to be able to find and manage this workforce effectively while remaining compliant. However, before rewriting internal policies and practices, companies must get to grips with the wide range of options that are available in this new economy. Only when they have a true understanding of the marketplace will they be able to assess their risk appetite and put in place an effective process for their business.

This series of articles on the New World of Work will address managing the contingent workforce in the context of the gig economy in greater detail, examining the profile of the workers that make up this talent pool and the implications of this type of work when it comes to worker protections and access to traditional employment-based benefits. A knowledge and awareness of the advantages and dangers of engaging contingent workers in today’s market will allow businesses to attract, embrace and integrate this workforce in the safest and most effective manner possible.

The next article in this series will explore the concept of the gig economy model and the new ways of working it has brought forth. We will look at the broader questions that the gig economy has posed, such as the correct classification of these workers, as it continues to expand into new sectors at a rapid rate.

Such unparalleled access to a worldwide contingent workforce is a vital opportunity for staffing firms and their clients alike. Of course every opportunity comes with risks and rewards; this series will explore these and give you the tools to make the right decisions for your business.

Throughout the series I am keen to hear about your experiences as a user or a provider of contingent work in this context, so do please leave a comment below.

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