Small Businesses Grow More Flexible To Engage Talent

Small businesses are evolving to meet shifts in the workforce market. The Future Workforce Report, produced by global freelancing website Upwork and conducted by independent research firm Inavero, surveyed more than 1,000 U.S. hiring managers—including more than 200 small-business managers—and found that small businesses embraced flexibility as they worked to build out their staff in 2018.

“Record low unemployment is putting enormous pressure on businesses to explore new ways to find and engage talent,” says Stephane Kasriel, CEO of Upwork. “As the biggest driver of job growth in the U.S., small businesses are on the leading edge of workforce innovation. Innovative businesses are realizing that the only sustainable way to grow is by accessing the right talent and technology. As workers seek out more flexible work arrangements, businesses are embracing a flexible workforce to fill skills gaps and scale their teams.”

Most small businesses surveyed—67 percent—planned on increasing their headcount in 2018 and to do so, 58 percent said they were embracing an agile workforce to meet greater interest among workers for flexible work arrangements. Most (53 percent) are working with flexible talent—freelancers, agency and temp workers—and Upfront expects the work done by flexible talent to increase by 20 percent over the next 10 years. The survey also highlighted that 86 percent of small businesses have made progress on developing a more agile, flexible talent strategy.

Skills have also become more specialized, with 67 percent of respondents noting a trend in this direction over the past three years. Small businesses are also describing hiring as harder, with 63 percent noting “access to skills” as their top hiring challenge.

Another trend identified in the survey is the remote worker. Upfront found that 60 percent of respondents agree that remote has become more commonplace over the last three years, and 67 percent of small businesses say that have someone on their team who works a significant portion of their time remotely, up 13 points from the company’s 2017 survey. Furthermore, small business were three times more likely to agree than disagree that offices will serve as occasional anchor points rather than daily travel destinations. In the next 10 years, small businesses predict that 35 percent of their employees will work predominantly from remote locations.

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