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Here to Stay: The On-Demand Workforce and “The Fourth Industrial Revolution”

With pressure on corporations to move fast, drive innovation, control costs, and get results, the On-demand Workforce is here to stay.

Increasingly, companies are rethinking how they get the job done—fast and right. The good news is America’s got talent, and if you’re experienced, ambitious, and agile, it’s good to be you. It’s a seller’s market in the Digital Transformation Era if you’re an expert who has what it takes to work hard, adapt, and deliver outstanding work on-demand.

If you’re looking for talent, it’s good to be you, too. Today, the right experts are out there and they’re people who have done the work and have mastery over the subject. They’ve been there, done that, and learned from experience. They can adapt to changes, overcome obstacles, and generate solutions on the spot because they’ve seen it all. I call them “real-world experts” because they have in-the-trenches experience needed to jump in and immediately make an impact. Companies often lack the time to train people and need them to hit the ground running. Experts are out there, looking for projects that match their expertise.

This new direction of work shows a marked increase in talent opting out of full-time positions. A recent study “Freelancing in America: 2017” recently released by Edelman Intelligence (and commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union), predicted a “Freelancer Majority” by 2027. Current numbers show:

  • 57.3M people freelanced this year
  • The freelance workforce grew at a rate 3x faster than the US workforce overall since 2014
  • Younger generations are driving the acceleration of freelancing. Almost half of working Millennials (47%) freelance more than any other generation
  • At its current growth rate, the majority of the U.S. workforce will be freelancers by 2027
  • Freelancers contribute $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy annually – an increase of almost 30% since last year
  • Freelancers have a slightly higher proportion of post-graduate degrees
  • “54% of the workforce is not very confident that the work they do today is likely to exist in 20 years” (freelancers and non-freelancers share this belief)
  • Freelancers are more aware of market transformation and as a result update their skills more often

The study also reported: “The world is changing…more than half of the U.S. workforce isn’t very confident their work will exist in 20 years. The World Economic Forum calls this ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’.” https://www.upwork.com/i/freelancing-in-america/2017/

How does this happen, and happen so fast? With so much work available, people have options. And according to the “Freelancing in America: 2017” report: “freelancing is more respected than ever.”

They call it “freelancing”—I call it On-demand Talent. One reason for this respect is that flexible, highly-specialized, talent is that they’re “plug and play” ready. They have the industry knowledge and know the vernacular. Whatever your project—whatever gap you need to bridge between the skills your current employees possess and the skills needed to address your latest challenge—this talent is poised and ready to get the job done, and done right. These people want to make an impact and do work they love for a company that values and appreciates their experience. They’re looking for the right opportunities, and today there are more of them than ever, ready to work for corporate teams.

In my next post, I’ll explore where this is all going, the talent pool, and who makes up this multi-million-dollar asset.

Lisa Hufford is founder and CEO of Seattle-based Simplicity Consulting, a consultancy of experts that partners with technology companies to strategically deliver Enterprise Marketing Services. For more than five years, Simplicity has been named to the Inc. 5000 list as one of the fastest-growing private companies in America. Lisa has been named an Inc. Top 10 Female Entrepreneurs, and has been named by Ernst & Young as an Entrepreneurial Winning Woman. She is the author of Navigating the Talent Shift: How to Build On-Demand Teams That Drive Innovation, Control Costs, and Get Results.

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