Guest Blog: How the Skills Shortage and Gig Economy is Changing the Way Companies Hire


Watching the Winter Olympics in South Korea, it’s obvious that almost every athlete displays incredible balance and flexibility. You simply can’t succeed as a competitor without these qualities. More than ever, this also holds true for businesses trying to compete in the ever-changing world of talent. Balance and flexibility are becoming the key drivers of success for HR and talent acquisition professionals across the U.S. and in the metro Detroit region.

To put this in context, we know from the January jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics that job growth continues to strengthen despite near-record low unemployment rates. However, the Conference Board’s C-Suite Challenge 2018 report finds hiring and retaining talent is a top concern for the C-suite. A big question facing employers is: How will they fill open positions if the talent isn’t available or there’s a mismatch of skills for what those jobs require?

The answer lies in looking internally at how organizations hire. It’s time to re-think long-standing hiring and recruiting practices and understand the increasing importance of integrating “free agents” into their workforces, a category that includes temporary workers, independent contractors, consultants, and freelancers. Achieving operational excellence increasingly means considering non-traditional forms of talent.

Forward-thinking organizations are already evaluating the makeup of their workforces and relying more on non-traditional employees such as independent contractors who often have the skills they need. Industry research reveals 33 percent of the nation’s workforce are “free agents” and span a variety of industries and educational levels. The number of workers participating in this “gig” economy is expected to increase to 43 percent by 2020. Many of these may be “experience-collecting” millennials, but increasing numbers of baby boomers are joining this labor pool as well. This creates an unexpected resource that employers need to consider.

Working gig to gig has become more mainstream as many workers find they like the flexibility and opportunities to gain new skills from different job experiences. In fact, according to an October 2016 McKinsey Global Institute report on Independent Work: Choice, Necessity and The Gig Economy, “Independent workers by choice reported higher levels of satisfaction than any other group.”

This is where balance and flexibility are crucial. In today’s talent-thin environment, focusing only on bringing young professionals, or position-experienced workers into an organization is not an effective long-term strategy. The best opportunities for filling open positions will include choosing from the ranks of available free agents. It’s a new paradigm that requires talent managers and the C-Suite to be more flexible than they might have been traditionally when it comes to finding talent.

Workplace and workforce infrastructures are headed for dramatic transformations, influenced by a global economy, technology, skills shift as well as societal and demographic changes. All signs point to the gig economy being a compelling force to reckon with for a long time to come and that free agents are a viable talent pool for organizations.

This new world of non-permanent employment enables businesses to be nimble and innovative. It will help organizations to compete in a lightning-fast economy by leveraging the skills and expertise of as-needed gig workers without the restraints and bureaucracy of employment practices. How companies integrate gig workers into their employment mix will make the difference in their short- and long-term business success.

Competing for talent means embracing the gig economy and all it has to offer. Being flexible and pursuing a balanced workforce perspective may well be the most important hiring and recruiting practices employers can embrace in the years to come.

Jack Van Tiem is the Detroit territory vice president for Kelly Services. He oversees the staffing and business solutions operations for Kelly throughout metro Detroit, with a focus on staffing for automotive, manufacturing, retail, financial services, and

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