The UK’s Contingent Workforce: Perfect Storm or Golden Opportunity?

Although the phrase gig economy has become something of a cliché, employers throughout the UK and EU would be wise to treat the phenomenon as anything but a passing fad.

Whether you attribute its origin to the global economic doldrums of 2008 or the more recent rise in popularity of services such as Uber and Lyft, the ranks of individuals opting to forgo the “traditional” path of full-time employment and instead choose a more self-guided approach is impressive.

According to the May 2017 Labour Force Survey from the Office for National Statistics, some 4.7 million workers throughout the UK currently identify as self-employed. This large (and growing) number is impressive in its own right, but when compared with the 6.8 million individuals who comprise the UK’s public-sector workforce, it becomes apparent that the contingent labor movement is a force to be reckoned with.

The rise of the self-employed worker comes at a time when unemployment in the UK is also hitting a ten-year low, creating something of a skills gap in wide-range of industries, as well as a rather unique set of challenges—and opportunities—for UK employers.

Market Conditions Forge a New Path

Organisations nimble enough to embrace a more contemporary staffing model are gaining a competitive advantage.

For decades, industries such as information technology, agriculture, and healthcare have leveraged a contingent worker model with a high degree of success and profitability. Today there’s an even more diverse set of skills, experience, and abilities available within the contingent worker pool. And this blended staffing model—traditional full-time employees combined with a cadre of contingent workers—is more feasible and, in many ways, more advantageous for just about any organisation.

Creating such a work environment—one in which contingent and traditional workers effectively interact and collaborate—isn’t challenging, but it does require a deliberate and strategic approach, including

  • Identifying which roles would be most advantageous to staff via a contingent worker vs. those which require an employee
  • Determining which contingent labor management model is best suited for your business needs (examples include managing the contingent workforce program in-house, through a Managed Service Provider, or through a hybrid approach)
  • Developing an effective program for sourcing, on-boarding, and off-boarding contingent workers as needs arise
  • Establishing policies and practices to facilitate communication, to coach and guide contingent workers, and, of course, to ensure they are compensated in a timely fashion.

There are other factors to take into consideration—such as data and physical security, regulations and policies, and other nuances—which will vary by industry and by organisation. Tapping into this growing pool may prove to be the best way to reduce costs, increase efficiency, and avoid the sting of the skills gap and labor shortages.

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Meet the Expert
Marc Husain – Managing Director

Marc Husain has more than 20 years of experience in vendor management, recruitment management, and talent management systems—with a focus on the nonemployee labor market. He served in a variety of sales, client relations, and leadership roles with VectorVMS predecessor companies, including PeopleFluent, Peopleclick, and itiliti. Marc leads all aspects of the VectorVMS business, ensuring close collaboration with clients and partners. He has established and maintained workforce solutions programs at multiple Global 1000 companies. Marc draws on this experience to help VectorVMS clients and partners to address challenges facing procurement and HR teams. He provides practical insights and expert advice on vendor management systems, contingent workforce management solutions, and total talent ecosystems. Connect with him on LinkedIn.