A new survey has found that 57% of small businesses plan to employ more freelancers than permanent staff by 2020.
The poll of 1,000 SMEs by freelance marketplace PeoplePerHour found that 39% of employers say freelancers are "very important" to their company's growth expectations. A further 17% said the freelance workforce was "essential" to the fulfilment of their plans.
Only 12% of those surveyed said they expected to employ more permanent staff than freelancers.
The main reason for this significant shift in employment practices is "the ability to match the right person to the right task" delivering improved productivity, cited by 60% of respondents. Other key motivating factors include:
Access to talent on demand (51%);
Access to a wider pool of talent (50%);
Faster access to talent (44%);
Better value than full-time employees (30%);
Increased efficiency (19%);
Accessing the latest skills (19%).
Almost half of those surveyed (46%) said they are concerned about the current availability of skills and talent in the UK; 58% said that getting the best talent, regardless of location, was the key benefit of being able to access the global freelance market.
Xenios Thrasyvoulou, founder and ceo of PeoplePerHour, said: "30% of the British workforce is now freelancing in some capacity. This isn't just because workers have switched on to the benefits of being their own boss, or because post-recession Britain offers fewer permanent employment opportunities; it's because the use of a blended talent pool is mutually beneficial.
"Niche freelance experts can bring a freshness and vitality to a company, not just delivering the new perspective that 22% of our respondents valued, but the latest skills and specialist knowledge. Business also benefits from the flexibility delivered by a blended talent pool, and more and more companies are realising this."
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