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The new work methods: An excellent opportunity for business.

After decades of uniform employee statuses and work structures, there are more and more signs of change. One obvious shift is the increase in the number of freelancers, which has shot up by 126%1 in France over the past ten years. This rapid transformation of the employment outlook may cause some sense of fear because it is so different from the traditional values and social codes with which we are accustomed. And yet, businesses should see this as an excellent opportunity to boost their agility and adaptability, which in turn improves their competitive edge.

In 10 short years, the work world has changed significantly, bolstered by workers’ changing aspirations...

Let’s start by taking a closer look at the numbers. There are now some 830,000 freelancers in France, where they represent 10% of the working population. These numbers are expected to rise as 53% of French workers say they can foresee working independently in areas where their skill sets are most needed in the near future2. In addition, nearly half of them say most companies will soon only be hiring independent workers who respond to specific needs and timeframes.

The trend towards more independent experts working from home also changes the relationship people have with their employers. Nine out of ten freelancers say it was their own choice to adopt this lifestyle1. What’s the reasoning behind this choice? The freedom to choose their assignments, hours, whereabouts… and enjoy their independence. It’s far from the old image of a precarious lifestyle. In fact, 73% of the freelancers who participated in this survey said they have no desire to return to a full-time job.

Another major change in today’s society is the growing entrepreneurial spirit. Nearly ¾ of the generations Y and Z say they have either already launched their own business or would consider it3. And it would be a huge mistake to imagine that this thirst for independence and drive toward working in project mode is exclusively reserved for young people. This new mind-set and vision of the work world has infiltrated all age groups. The number of seniors (ages 55 to 64) creating new businesses is clearly on the rise, surpassing the millennials (ages 20 to 34)4 by 68%.

“The new mind-set and vision of the work world has infiltrated all age groups.”

Freelancing - a megatrend

So, is this social revolution a threat or an opportunity for businesses? It's definitely a great opportunity!

All these statistics enable us to see skill sets in a whole new way. In the past, companies owned and managed them, through employment contracts. Now they can simply rent the ones they need for the time they need them. But they must accept delegating the creation of added value and control over strategic projects to people who are not bond to the business the way employees have been for so many years.  And although it may not feel natural, this emergence of a diverse ecosystem of highly qualified workers is great for business in many ways.

First of all, it cuts costs. The costs of hiring and maintaining staff employees is very high, starting with direct expenses (salary, social security contributions, perks and bonuses), but also indirect expenses (the entire HR process and team, recruiting, training, managing) linked to getting and keeping them up to speed. Then there’s the advantage of quick, efficient response. Your current staff may either be already spread too thin to take on a new, time-sensitive project, or simply not have the skills you need for a specific task.Last, but not least, bringing in an independent expert give you a fresh perspective and creative insights, an impartial, critical look at your situation and how his/her diverse background can help move your projects forward and boost performance.

Infusing the workforce with new energy.

Whatever the case may be, enlisting outside experts to handle key initiatives requires rethinking traditional HR practices and implementing new systems to ensure smooth collaboration between the permanent staff and the freelancers. Although most companies are aware of this major workforce shift that is now underway, only 16% have taken specific steps to adapt4.

Some of the key steps that need to be taken include:

  • Find reliable sources for finding the right skills sets for each project
  • Appeal to the top talent by focusing the recruiting material and conversations around the specific project or assignment
  • Learn how to manage freelancers, how to build loyalty and positive interactions with them
  • Develop best practices that facilitate and encourage collaboration between in-house and external experts

The topic is especially tricky because it blurs the lines between HR management, purchasing officers and overall corporate spending decisions1.

Freelancing - a megatrend

But, can an independent expert be managed the same way as standard outside supplier?

Making the most of freelance executives includes getting them involved and dedicated to the company, motivating them to drive the project and the team forward… and it comes from insightful HR practices. Today’s Chief HR Officers must closely examine this new dynamic and map out a policy dedicated to effectively managing freelance executives.

The article published on the Belgian platform called NextConomy makes several smart suggestions and points out key areas to explore, such as protection against potential risks (corporate reputation, security, etc.), introducing a seamless and efficient candidate selection process, building a personal relationship with freelancers that includes regular feedback on their services, respect for market prices and payment terms.... In fact, a new profession is emerging, the Chief Freelance Officer, a function that hovers between the purchasing department and the HR5.

The work that needs to be done in terms of HR management and ensuring effective results for this new type of talent is rather vast indeed. They have very specific, immediately operational expertise that the company needs to quickly and effectively transform, and this type of agility is the new way forward. All in all, this will probably be one of the most interesting chapters in employment history to co-craft and experience. 

Frédéric Ripart, Partner at globalise company Valtus

A graduate of the EDHEC business school in France, Frédéric began his career at Michelin where he was Regional Director for a number of international subsidiaries. He then joined Sodexo heading up international development of Motivational Solutions, and ran the Africa region. He joined globalise company Valtus in 2009. 

1. “Proud to be Freelance” (Freelances et fiers de l’être) study conducted by Malt & Ouishare, 2017

2. “Reveal Your True Talents” (Révélez vos talents) study by ADP Research Institute, 2018

3. “How Millennials and Generation Z are Redefining Work” report by Lovell Corporation, 2017

4. “The Rise of the Social Enterprise” study by Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends, 2018

5. “The Changing Corporate Landscape: are Chief Freelance Officers the new CHRO?” (Mutation du travail : les Chief Freelance Officers sont-ils les DRH de demain ?) article by Socialter.fr, 2018 

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