workforce report

Freelance Prediction: The Future is Now

By Kristen Harris

Freelancing is the future, and it’s here now. Looking at both the current state and future predictions in the American workforce, freelancing is going to continue to grow.

First, a definition: Whether they’re called freelancer, independent contractor, contingent worker, self-employed, free agent, gig worker, or something else, there are a lot of people working outside of a traditional full time employee/employer arrangement. Although the work arrangements may vary, for simplicity, these people are often lumped together under the category “freelancer.”

Depending on which report you read, somewhere between 34-40% of the American workforce today is freelance. That number keeps growing year after year, and is predicted to reach somewhere in the vicinity of 50% by 2020.

Whether you think this is a good thing or not totally depends on your perspective. There are a lot of advantages to freelancing, including schedule flexibility, variety in the work, and a feeling of independence. There are also advantages for companies hiring these freelancers, including the flexibility to scale up or down based on company needs, and the ability to hire for a specific skill set short-term.

There are also some negatives. Freelance work is less predictable, may not be considered a traditionally secure job, and often includes limited or no benefits. This is especially true for certain groups of people included in this total freelancer group, such as on-call workers, independent contractors who basically are running their own small business and need to find their own customers, and part-time workers.

For the companies hiring freelancers, workers may not be as committed to the company’s cause, there is still a talent shortage for certain roles, and often, premium rates are charged to offset the short-term nature of projects. From a legal and HR perspective, it’s also difficult to track and manage all of these different work arrangements.

Recently, this legal area has been particularly concerning. Rulings against large companies like FedEx and Uber regarding their use of independent contractors have caused them to re-look at their work arrangements. Also, over the past several years, more resources have been dedicated to investigating employee misclassification (non-qualified 1099s) at both the state and national levels.

There seems to be a disconnect between predictions for the future of the American workforce (more freelancers) and current government regulations (more employees). Whether you think the growth of freelance work is the wave of the future or the scourge of the universe probably depends on where you sit. But these arrangements will continue to flourish as long as companies and individuals feel the benefits outweigh the negatives. The challenge will be in finding a way to reconcile company and freelancer needs with government rules. Welcome to the future!



Study Finds Ill-Prepared Workforce

A recent study produced by four key workforce and training organizations shows that "U.S. employers continue to struggle with an ill-prepared workforce, finding new hires lack critical basic and applied skills." And employer-sponsored training is not successfully correcting the deficiencies. What does that tell me? That employees (or wanna be employees) need to work to correct the deficiencies on their own. Knowledge is power--if you know what employers are looking for, you can highlight the key skills that you have and improve where you're lacking. Employers aren't going to do it for you, more than ever employees are responsible for their own success and career growth. May seem like a Catch-22, but it's the reality of today's working environment. Statistics from the report: OVERALL PREPARATION OF NEW WORKFORCE ENTRANTS Educational level    Deficient    Adequate    Excellent High school            33.9%        50.6%         15.6% Two-year college    21.7          54.6           23.7 Four-year college   17.4           51.1          31.5 TRAINING GAP IN APPLIED SKILLS Skill    Percentage reporting a high need for the skill, but offering no training in it Creativity                        68.6 Ethics                              55 Professionalism               47.5 Lifelong learning             44.1 Critical thinking               43.6 Written communication    37 Diversity                          33.3 Oral communication        31.3 Teamwork                       24.5 IT                                    24.4 Leadership                      22.6 Source: The Ill-Prepared U.S. Workforce: Exploring the Challenges of Employer-Provided Workforce Readiness Training, produced by Corporate Voices for Working Families, the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), The Conference Board, and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).