Being a consultant or freelancer really wasn’t cool back when I became one. If you went to a professional association meeting and said you were a consultant, people immediately made the incorrect assumption that you were going to start a sales pitch. Sadly, it may have been because it happened all too often.
Thankfully, today’s consulting world is different. According to McKinsey, an estimated 162 million people in the United States and European Union are involved in some sort of flexible work. That’s approximately 20 – 30 percent of the working population. When that many people are consulting in a full-time or part-time capacity, human resources professionals have to take notice. Because it creates a separate and unique pool of talent.
This infographic from LinkedIn and The Adecco Group does a nice job of highlighting the positive aspects of flexible work. Freelancer activity has contributed over $1 trillion (and yes, that’s not a typo) to the economy. It’s provided work / life balance to those that crave it, and allowed older workers to stay in the workforce longer.
But when you have a moment take a look at some of the key findings in the accompanying report, “Flexible Working: A Career and Lifestyle Pathway”. I was surprised at some of the data, such as the education and experience level of contractors. I came away with a couple of takeaways.
Individuals looking to make freelancing part of their lifestyle need to figure out how to make investments into their work environment and professional development. While companies are fine with hiring someone who works out of their home, they do want to know that the person they’ve contracted with is keeping their skills current and has the ability to keep up with technology.
Organizations wanting to hire contractors or consultants should start being strategic about these relationships. Instead of waiting until it’s mission critical to find someone, HR professionals might want to build a network of contractors that they can get to know before they need to engage. That way, when the time comes, the company can make a call – or a couple of calls – and have the best talent for the work.
I’m sure you’re reading the same articles that I am about demand for talent exceeding supply. A freelancer and contractor are an excellent way for organizations to get individuals with skills and experience. And who knows, maybe if they see your awesome culture, benefits, and management team, they can be talked into a full-time job.14