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Welcome to the gig economy –  a new world of work where businesses are increasingly seeing the need of having a highly flexible workforce to match the rapidly changing economic and business environment in which they operate.

The number of skilled independent workers entering the gig economy is on the rise with an increase of 21 percent of part-time workers from 2012 to 2016 in the UK (Labour Market Statistics 2016) and forward-thinking employers are reaping the benefits in terms of both customer satisfaction and efficiency.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy is all about organisations enlisting workers who operate on a flexible basis in order to better manage their ever-changing weekly, daily and hourly business needs.

Picture a world where experienced workers can complement your full-time team whenever there are peaks in demand, unplanned absences or one-off events such as product launches, conferences, weddings, concerts. Highly qualified flexible staff can be requested with 4 hours’ notice, complete a job and then walk away to work for other companies when their services are no longer needed. Employing workers on a flexible basis allows them to better suit meaningful work around their personal needs, and to work with a number of different clients at the same time to achieve their desired work-life balance. Sounds like a win-win, doesn’t it?

How big is the gig economy?

In short: bigger than you think, and growing rapidly.

More people than ever are realising that they don’t have to lose the perks of full-time employment when trading for flexible work. The increased independence, control and job satisfaction associated with voluntary flexible work is making it a popular alternative to permanent positions. A recent study by McKinsey Global Institute revealed as many as 162 million people across Europe and the US do some kind of independent, flexible work; around 20-30 percent of the working-age population.

According to the UK Labour Market Jan 2017 Bulletin, there are currently 8.4 million part-time workers in the UK and this is expected to increase by 26% over the next four years. This organic increase is being driven by the need for flexibility from today’s evolving workforce rather than by the fact they can’t find full-time employment – 78% of existing part-time workers are doing so out of choice according to the bulletin.

Businesses are also reaping the benefits from flexible employment, helping them optimise their staffing needs, increasing worker satisfaction and reducing costs. They do this by dynamically adjusting their staffing levels to match business and customer demands. The gig economy spans a range of sectors; and has fueled the transformation of the transportation (Uber), retail (Argos) and even the food (Ocado) industries. This new model is also being applied to staffing, reflecting the need for both worker and employer to have more flexibility.

Why is the gig economy appealing to workers?

Once upon a time, a full-time position with a reputable business representing lifetime career security was the dream. Nowadays, people seem to love the control and flexibility that comes with being their own boss and having more choice about which work they want to do and when. They can also access multiple sources of flexible work assignments that provide them with the necessary income level and security.

How can businesses benefit from the gig economy?

For employers, the benefits of temporary staffing are equally bountiful.

Having the ability to hire additional staff flexibly around business needs allows companies to optimize staff levels according to fluctuations in revenues. It’s simply about gap management and optimising staffing needs to maximise profitability and capture the full revenue potential.

Employers can also hand-pick individuals, from novices to experts depending on their needs, filling any skill gaps by using a more dynamic and job-specific approach. Gig workers also bring a wealth of market intelligence and can invigorate existing operations with new methods and ideas.

The temporary nature of their work means flexible workers are highly motivated and eager to prove their value to new employers, therefore consistently producing high-quality output.

The best employers in the gig economy treat flexible staff like valued members of their team, whilst respecting their independence. Something the on-demand staffing app Coople refers to as “the gig economy done well” – the idea that offering flexibility shouldn’t be at the detriment of full-time employment benefits, such as holiday pay and national insurance contributions. This approach will not only attract the best talent but retain a loyal pool of flexible workers who feel invested in a company or service provider.

Enlist the right partners & infrastructure

Seamless and straightforward staffing management software solutions are an absolute must to make sure flexible staff are efficiently onboard, managed, deployed and paid correctly.

Employers should also partner with appropriate talent suppliers and services to ensure the efficient matching of supply and demand, whilst offering quality staffing. Providers such as Coople look to take the hassle out of staff management, enabling employers to have a better overview of their workforce and react to their varying needs at a click of a button whilst on the go.

The gig economy can be a win-win

While engaged on a temporary basis, gig workers share many of the same needs as permanent employees. They want to work for great companies and fill their CVs with meaningful and enjoyable work, inside productive teams.

Great contractors will be in high demand and enjoy plenty of choices about which projects they’ll accept or decline. Employers need to come out on top when workers weigh up options and ask, ‘which one should I choose to accept?’

The gig economy is all about building strong relationships built on mutual gain. Treat skilled independent workers well. After all, they might be the backbone your business needs to grow.