The COVID-19 Pandemic set a new future of work in motion. People across all industries were suddenly working from home. Teams transitioned from roundtable discussions and water cooler chats to Zoom meetings and virtual happy hours. And things went surprisingly well. Productivity, for the most part, remained consistent and in some cases even improved.
By the end of 2020, employees were getting into the groove of remote work, thankful to have a job amid a looming recession. But as time went on and the economy rebounded, working from home began to lose its appeal for many. People struggled to maintain work-life balance during lockdowns. There was no commute to mentally prepare for the day or decompress, no psychological trigger to move from work life to home life.
In short, people burned out. They got tired of work defining their lives, so they left. In the summer of 2021, the Quits Rate—the number of people who quit their jobs during the entire month as a percent of total employment—hit a record high. Nearly 11 million jobs were vacant. But workers weren’t just hopping from one job to the next. They left the workforce to restructure their future of work.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Has Reshaped the Future of Work
Historically, companies offer three non-negotiables to their workers: career growth opportunities, defined benefit plans for retirement, and health and welfare options. But today, employees are hard pressed to tick these boxes.
Only 4% of workers in the private sector have a defined benefit pension plan for retirement, down from 60% in the early 1980s. And health and welfare plans are often cost prohibitive to employers, which leads to less coverage for the employee each year.
The pandemic has forced people to face the reality of their employment head on. Over the past two years, people have realized they are burned out and unfulfilled. It comes as no surprise that the future of work is trending more and more towards independent workers. Many people see independence as less risky and better for their overall well-being.
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How the Great Realization and Independent Talent are Driving the Future of Work
When you give people the control to do the work they love the way they want, they’ll be happier, healthier, and wealthier. It’s a win-win situation all around. As an employer, that means giving up some control to create an attractive place for independents to work. Some employees will want to continue to work remotely. New hires might need more attractive compensation or benefits. And, more often than not, you’ll learn that many people want to shift to independent contracts.
Independent talent bring in-demand skills, which means they have a lot of choice when picking the companies they work for. To be competitive in the future of work, consider the skills of your current talent pool. What does your project pipeline look like for the next few years and what type of people do you need working for you to meet those goals? Remember, your value as a company will be driven by projects and outcomes, not full-time employees and activities.
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How to Use Independent Talent in 2022
Whether your company already has experience hiring independent talent, or is looking to do so for the first time in 2022, there are many tactical best practices you can follow. Here are our top three recommendations:
1. Match independent talent to your needs.
Finding quality talent to fit your needs is the first step when incorporating independents into your workforce. There are a few different ways to do this. Referrals or networking can be helpful to find trustworthy talent. Or, searching for independents on sites like LinkedIn is another option.
You can also use a marketplace or platform. This kind of technology matches highly-skilled independent professionals to project needs. Using a marketplace means you’ll slice onboarding time. And, you’ll cut sourcing costs and reduce your compliance risks, too.
2. Approach independent contractor engagement with intention.
Compliance is a big deal when engaging independent contractors and is something employers can easily overlook if they’re working with contingent talent for the first time.
By law, independent contractors are their own category of worker. So, to operate legally, companies need to comply with the relevant laws, policies, and regulations that apply to independent contractors both in their state and federally. Compliance tends to be the most complex part of working with independent talent and it is why many enterprises partner with companies like MBO. We have years of experience to ensure talent engagements are compliant and built for enterprise scale.
3. Put a plan in place to manage your independent workforce
Independent talent can bring so many benefits to companies today: they’re highly-skilled, well-positioned for project-based work, and are a flexible, on-demand workforce. Outsourcing talent on a project basis is often more cost efficient than hiring a permanent employee as well.
And, with the right technology in place, you can easily automate onboarding and limit unnecessary paperwork. Creating an end-to-end program to find, engage, and manage independent talent will streamline engagement and prioritize compliance while also making your company an attractive place for independents to work.
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