How Hiring Managers View the Changing World of Work: Upwork’s 2018 Future Workforce Report

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Upwork, a global online freelancer marketplace and enterprise solution provider, announced Wednesday the release of its second annual “Future Workforce Report: Hiring Manager Insights on Flexible and Remote Work Trends.” The study is specifically concerned with “knowledge work.” The underlying survey, conducted by independent research firm Inavero, was based on a sample of more than 1,000 hiring managers within U.S. organizations, across 10 industry verticals and ranging in size from under 50 employees to more than 5,000. Because this is the second year of the study, year-over-year changes are indicated in the report.

The overarching goal of the study is to understand hiring managers’ perspectives on current and future skilled talent engagement, including how organizations are:

  • Experiencing talent acquisition challenges (e.g., difficulty finding/engaging need talent/skills; long, inefficient hiring processes)
  • Viewing changes in work (e.g. increasing talent/skill specialization, increasing use of flexible workforce and agile teams)
  • Approaching remote work (e.g., acceptance of remote workforce, formal remote workforce policy)
  • Utilizing freelancers now and in the future (e.g., are freelancers being used and why, will use of freelancers increase).
  • Anticipating how work will evolve in the next 10 years (particularly with regard to the above)

While the report itself goes into considerable detail, some of the key findings highlighted in the announcement were:

  • Talent is getting harder to find. ​Over three times (39%) as many hiring managers felt hiring had gotten harder in the past year, compared with 11% who felt it had gotten easier.
  • Skills are becoming more specialized. Fifty-nine percent of hiring managers say that skills have become more specialized compared with three years ago, and 61% expect that skills will become more specialized in the next 10 years.
  • Agile work models are becoming the norm. ​Eighty percent of companies indicate they have made progress in developing a more agile, flexible talent strategy. Six times as many hiring managers believe dynamic and agile team structures will become the norm.
  • Remote work is not going away. Fifty-five percent of hiring managers say that remote work has become more commonplace compared with three years ago, and 52% of hiring managers at companies with work-from-home policies believe hiring has become easier in the past year.
  • Companies are using more flexible talent. ​Fifty-two percent of hiring managers cite talent shortages as the key driver to adopting a more flexible workforce, and 53% agree that companies are embracing more freelancers, temporary and agency workers (“flexible talent”) compared with three years ago. Hiring managers believe that work done by flexible talent will increase by 168% in the next 10 years.

While the last set of findings (re: flexible workforce) may not seem noteworthy to some in the contingent workforce industry, the findings about the use of freelancers (not temporary or agency workers) may be of greater interest.  These include:

  • Forty-eight percent of hiring managers reported that they currently used freelancers.
  • Four times as many hiring managers expect to increase their usage of freelancers in 2018 than those that do not.
  • Ninety percent of hiring managers open to hiring freelancers rather than hiring temporary workers through a staffing firm. Only 10% would always turn to a staffing firm exclusively.
  • Those hiring managers open to hiring freelancers (versus staffing firm temporaries) identified specific reasons:
    • 34% indicated reduction in hiring costs
    • 32% indicated more access to specialized skills otherwise not available
    • 30% indicated access to a broader pool of talent
    • 29% indicated access to higher quality talent
    • 26% indicated reduction in hiring times
    • 19% indicated more control over the vetting process

These findings seem to not only suggests that a large majority of hiring managers may be thinking more about why they could be using freelancers rather than temporary workers from staffing firms. Many of those hiring managers appear ready to do so now, and more so in the coming years.

The general findings and insights presented in the Upwork report are valuable even when taken at face value; therefore, the report should be reviewed in its entirety. That said, we would like to dig deeper into the findings derived from hiring managers at the large organizations in particular. With that point of view in mind, we will be publishing a more analytical follow-on article in the near future.

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