It’s a topic of some importance to me as a former HR executive, author and consultant. And, I confess some disappointment. Speaking recently at a large HR leadership conference in Europe, fewer than 30% described their organizations as far along in defining their workforce in future. Fewer still saw their organization ready to benefit from the freelance revolution. In workshops I’ve delivered to HR executive audiences in New York, San Francisco, Washington, D.C., London and elsewhere, it’s the same: HR leaders are well aware of what’s happening globally as the freelance revolution gains traction, but aren’t applying that insight to their own company’s freelance use in a meaningful and strategic way. Too often, HR delegated management of freelancers to Procurement or the discretion of individual managers.
For a great many HR departments the default mission is still defined implicitly: we’re responsible for full-time employees.
It’s a mistake that HR needs to correct. In many organizations, full-time is becoming a less overwhelming part of the total workforce. In a recent Toptal survey, 91% of companies regularly tap freelance expertise, 76% are increasing freelance involvement, and companies like Apple and Google already employ more freelancers than regular employees.
I’ve wondered why HR is so late to the freelance revolution. Then I found a recent HR.com survey helpful. The survey was conducted by HR.com and Sense. 500 HR professionals participated.
Most of the findings replicated other survey results:
A majority of surveyed organizations use freelance professionals.
The principal benefits are flexibility and cost.
Fewer than half see their organizations as effectively managing freelancers.
Organizations that do manage freelancers well track use freelancers, measure engagement/satisfaction, communicate with key updates and effectively screen and select.
But one additional finding was very interesting: When asked “What factors keep your organization from hiring a greater proportion of contingent workers (choose all that apply)?” Fifty-five percent said “We need to retain, long-term qualified skilled employees;” two-fifths said, “Our business requires skill sets that require a long time to hone” (44%). “About half (47%) added because “We need long-term employees who understand our culture.