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Freelancing professionals ‘the way of the future’ as Covid-19 changes the way we operate

Outsized says a blended model, where companies rely more on freelancing professionals, is the future.
Outsized says a blended model, where companies rely more on freelancing professionals, is the future.
Image: 123rf

Market research conducted by outsourcing company Outsized suggested that up to 30% of future staff complements in SA businesses may be hired hands.

The company, which specialises in connecting freelance professionals with companies, said its research backed up research done by McKinsey in 2020 which found that 70% of global executives expected to use more freelancers in the future and a 2020 Forbes survey which suggested 49% of hiring managers rated access to highly skilled talent as the main reason for adopting a “blended workforce”.

Outsized SA MD Johann van Niekerk said the Covid-19 pandemic rocked the way companies and staff interacted with each other.

“When companies begin to recall their workers to the office or move to hybrid models, some won’t go,” said Van Niekerk. “Many of the most talented and innovative will realise they can earn more money, enjoy a greater variety of work and have a happier lifestyle by becoming independent contractors,” he said.

“It’s a choice that will appeal to top talent in fields such as actuarial, strategy, data science, programme management, business process management and digital marketing, among others,” he said.

He said a growing number of “boutique companies” were “hiring and supplying” skilled contractors for fixed-term or project-specific assignments.

“Platforms like Outsized are matching their talent to companies that need their skills in a service that removes the uncertainly and administration for both sides,” he said.

He said this trend was good for professionals who had been set free by the constraints of office work, including the flexibility, more trust, a focus on input rather and output, and the time saved not commuting to work.

“For some, it will provoke a restlessness and sense of possibility that triggers another major shake-up for businesses already rocked by the pandemic,” he said. “As this desire for independence lures more experts away from their current employers, companies will need to counter the loss of talent with a smart response,” said van Niekerk.

“The smartest way is by tapping into this new but steadily growing pool of freelance skills to augment their fixed workforce,” he said.

For this new model to succeed, managers must adapt their thinking

He said a survey conducted by Outsized among 200 South Africans with university degrees and at least five years of work experience found that 81.5% were interested in turning freelance.

The main attraction for the participants, said van Niekerk, was a better work-life balance, the potential to earn more, flexible hours, and the chance to gain wider experience.

“For this new model to succeed, managers must adapt their thinking. They will no longer be overseeing close-knit teams around the table, but both permanent workers and those who choose to work from home in the hours that suit them,” said Van Niekerk.

“Some freelancers may work in the office as temporary team members, or come in occasionally, but if the talent you need wants to work from home, or lives in another city, managers must learn new ways to engage with them,” he said.

“Human resources departments will also need to shift away from traditional recruitment and onboarding methods to handle more flexible or fixed-term arrangements. They will need to learn where to find and how to curate these workers — or liaise with a talent-finding partner who already has those skills and an essential database of knowledge workers,” he said.