10 Independent Workforce Trends to Watch

By McLean Robbins | September 20, 2017

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10 Independent Workforce Trends to Watch

It’s difficult to know what the future of work might hold, but one thing is for certain—independent professionals are poised to be more important than ever before in years to come. Based on insights gathered from 7 consecutive years of industry research, MBO Partners has just revealed 10 predictions for the future of the U.S. independent workforce—and the results may surprise you.

MBO’s 10 predictions for the next decade of independent work include the following:

1. By 2027, more than half of the workforce will be, or will have been, an independent.

More than 40% of the U.S. adult workforce reports currently working or previously having worked as an independent and in the next decade, that number will grow to nearly 60%.

2. Independence will become an episodic destination, not an end state.

Satisfaction levels for Independents are the highest they have ever been, but many will return to traditional work to gain new skills, cycling back to independent work several times.

3. The barbell effect will continue.

There will continue to be large-scale growth at both the high and low ends of the independent economic spectrum, with gig workers continuing to partner with commodity platforms (e.g. Uber, TaskRabbit, etc.) to provide task-based services, while demand also increases for highly-skilled Independents, even more of whom will earn more than $100,000 per year.

4. People will buy results, not labor.

Organizations will begin to place a premium on the results achieved rather than the worker. Work will become productized and broken into smaller deliverables, and independents will learn how to deliver and charge for scalable units of work.

5. Independents will team up to get maximum results.

When bigger and more complex project needs arise, independents will become increasingly savvy about teaming. Many independents already pull together teams to work towards a product or deliverable, and this more modern approach helps avoid the complex, permanent decision of traditional partnership businesses.

6. Automation and AI will impact high-skilled and less-skill independents differently.

Technology is evolving at an exponential rate, and shrewd independents will take advantage of these developments rather than resist them. At the high end, many independents may work closely with robots that do more of the menial and automated tasks (so-called “co-boting”), while some less skilled gig workers may be displaced by self-driving cars or drone-based delivery machines.

7. Gen Z will be the most independent generation yet.

By 2027, a large portion of Gen Z (currently aged 5 to 19) will be in the working world, and these digital, mobile-literate natives are expected to greatly impact both traditional and independent work. They are the most entrepreneurial and independence-driven generation yet, making them ideal candidates for the independent work lifestyle.

8. Traditional retirement will no longer be the goal.

Many Baby Boomers are taking up second careers as independents; this trend will most certainly continue, with workers pursuing passion projects well into their 80s and beyond. Older workers also prefer highly flexible, part-time work, and being independent is the best way to achieve this.

9. Companies will compete aggressively to attract top independent talent.

The unique combination of a skills gap, talent shortage, and increasing desire among workers to have an independent career means companies will have to compete in a war for talent, both for traditional employees and Independents. Companies will continue to refine policies to attract top talent, with a focus on becoming a Client of Choice for the independent workforce.

10. Public policy will evolve to match the changing nature of work.

Under the current administration, which has pledged to continue cutting regulations, changes will be made to the U.S. tax code to benefit independent professionals. In addition, actions will be taken to establish a safe harbor with protections and guidelines for the proper engagement of independent professionals. In the coming years, there may even be a certification or licensure established for compliant independent professionals, as championed in MBO’s Certified Self-Employed proposal.

To learn more about each of MBO’s predictions, visit: The Future of Work

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