In 2020, workforces went remote overnight while dealing with the stress of the pandemic. These challenges required agility and collaboration from HR teams. They also presented opportunities to engage contingent workers, a trend that will continue into the new year. Here are the top contingent workforce trends of 2021.
An unprecedented year created unfamiliar challenges for companies and their HR departments in 2020. Many businesses shuttered, and others watched their workforces go completely remote overnight. Throughout it all, the stress of the coronavirus pandemic weighed on workers in countless ways. Navigating these changes requires agility, flexibility, and quick solutions from HR teams.
While it’s important to ensure that tasks still get done, companies are giving workers more flexibility to take care of personal matters during “business hours.” HR professionals found that this went a long way toward keeping employees engaged even as everyone adapted to working in separate locations. Patience and collaboration also have been vital in ensuring employees continue to remain happy and safe. In 2020, teams learned to come together to figure out how to operate in this new normal.These 2020 trends and the emerging future of remote work have created opportunities to find and use contingent workers in the coming year. During economic uncertainty, these workers tend to be among the first cuts companies make. Therefore, in some areas, there are deep pools of talent sitting on the sidelines and eager to get back to work.
However, taking advantage of contingent workers will require HR leaders to be open to a remote workforce — or a hybrid approach. Here are a few other contingent workforce trends to expect in 2021:
- Global Hiring: According to a recent McKinsey survey, 70% of executives plan on hiring more contingent workers after the pandemic than they did before. Demand for talent will be high — so high that companies can’t expect the local talent pool to fill their ranks. To meet their needs, organizations will start looking for talent globally, which is relatively easy when using a global employer of record. Global recruiting offers many other upsides, including the ability to source candidates quickly, access top talent, and take advantage of potentially lower employment costs in other regions.
- Location-Agnostic Employment: Now that remote work is normalized, many offices are committing to it for the long haul. Companies like Facebook, Twitter, and Morgan Stanley will allow more employees to work from home, and some organizations are closing office spaces altogether to accommodate a shrinking in-person workforce. The future of remote working has advantages for employers and contingent workers alike, which is why we will see a form of “employment infrastructure” develop around it throughout 2021 and beyond. HR departments will be updating policies, rewriting plans, and revising recruiting strategies to reflect an increasingly distributed workforce. What’s more, as people have reprioritized how they want to live — be that moving closer to family or away from big cities — employers who facilitate remote work with location-agnostic employment will find it easier to retain that talent.
- Tech in HR: Unsurprisingly, technology will continue to be vital to HR departments. Remote collaboration tools like Zoom and Microsoft Teams, for example, will be central to the continued success of remote workforces. HR leaders likely will have to update policies around the use of this tech. A future of remote working also will require close monitoring of metrics that define success and tracking of contingent workforce spend and productivity — which are only possible with technology. Finally, digital tools will play essential roles in training remote and contingent workers who need to hit the ground running in 2021.
- Fluid Workforces: As HR departments and their respective companies strive to become more agile in the coming year, their perceptions of the workforce will grow more fluid. In addition to embracing remote and hybrid options, companies increasingly will rely on a mix of full-time, part-time, and contingent workers. Research suggests that 32% of companies are replacing full-time employees by hiring contingent workers; by 2030, as much as 80% of the workforce could operate on a freelance basis. How fluid your HR department becomes in recruiting and retaining talent will determine your company’s success in 2021 and beyond.
These contingent workforce trends point to a common conclusion: The coming year will be about adapting to the new normal instead of returning to the pre-pandemic status quo. HR leaders who don’t recalibrate their expectations may struggle to enrich their organizations with top talent. Those executives who do think differently will find a far-reaching contingent workforce that’s waiting in the wings, eager to contribute to their success.
Written by Kara Hertzog.