Independent work is not only growing in popularity — it has also become an attractive option for individuals seeking greater flexibility, autonomy and the ability to achieve their life goals. As the number of job openings continues to outpace the number of workers willing to fill them, enterprises must increasingly acknowledge that today, workers hold the power, and the workers with the most power — those with in-demand skills in areas like technology, marketing and data science — increasingly don’t want to work as a full-time employee. Add to this factors like an aging workforce and declining employee tenure, and perfect storm is on the horizon for enterprise leaders that don’t have a strong and secure future of work strategy.
According to a recent report by MBO Partners, independent work has helped respondents achieve their life goals, including financial security, career advancement, work-life balance and personal fulfillment. As businesses continue to adapt to a changing workforce, they should pay close attention to the benefits and challenges that independent work brings.
One of the significant takeaways from the report is that independent work is not just a temporary solution or a stopgap measure between jobs. Instead, it is increasingly becoming a career choice for many individuals, with 17% of workers in 2022 saying they plan to leave traditional employment and become an independent in the next two to three years. That’s another 5 million workers each year leaving the full-time workforce for independence. As businesses look to attract and retain top talent, they should recognize the importance of providing flexible work arrangements, including the ability to work independently, to meet the needs of their team.
The report highlights the variety of life goals that independent workers are pursuing, ranging from “helping others” (65% of full-time independents versus 59% for the general population) to “spending enough time with family” and “ensuring your life has purpose (63% for each versus 55% for the general population). Independents also tie with traditional workers in the goal of “creating wealth” at 42%. This finding is especially relevant to businesses, as it indicates that independent work provides a sense of financial stability and security akin to or better than traditional work alongside key milestones like achieving happiness and purpose in life.
Independent work can provide individuals with the freedom to pursue new opportunities, expand their skillsets and take on new challenges. By supporting independent work and offering opportunities for career advancement, businesses can create a more engaged and motivated workforce.
Why does this continue to be important? Increasingly, one’s full-time permanent workforce is no longer quite so permanent. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows average employee tenure at just 4.1 years overall, down to just 2.7 for those aged 35 and younger.
In short, not only do top talent prefer independence, but even if they do elect to work in a traditional capacity, you aren’t gaining their loyalty for life. Today’s savvy enterprises overly index on attracting and retaining relationships with FTEs instead of focusing on becoming a client of choice to top talent, regardless of employment status.
How does this start? First, by acknowledging that independents are and will continue to be a vital portion of one’s talent ecosystem. Compliant and talent-friendly engagement is at the core, followed by a direct sourcing strategy to scale use strategically and, ultimately, a plan to structure one’s workforce with an optimized and proprietary-to-one’s-needs mix of worker types, including freelance, contingent, full time and even offshore labor.
As businesses continue to adapt to a changing workforce, they should recognize the benefits and challenges that independent work bring. By offering flexible work arrangements that support independent work, businesses can attract and retain top talent, create a more engaged and motivated workforce, and drive innovation and creativity.