Freelance workers can help HK firms respond to market changes quickly

Managers can benefit from using independent freelance workers for high-demand skills, knowledge and or experience

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 4:00pm
UPDATED : Friday, 10 February, 2017, 10:46pm

The number of on-demand labour platforms and online work-management solutions is on the rise globally, making it all the more important to ask yourself – does all of your book-keeping really need to be done in-house through bespoke programmes? What about certain client-facing positions? Can you take advantage of high-skilled, freelance labour available through the workforce marketplace to take on these roles?

For many management teams, the answer is yes. For example, MasterCard, Airbus, and World Bank have used Gigster’s artificial intelligence-driven platform for their high-end talent of software developers and product managers.

As a result, some companies have begun dissolving traditional hierarchies and replacing them with talent marketplaces, which in turn is driving the most profound economic transformation since the Industrial Revolution, according to Accenture Technology Vision 2017, our annual technology report that predicts the most significant technology trends that people will apply to disrupt business over the next three years. Case in point: Eighty-five per cent of executives surveyed globally said they plan to increase their organization’s use of independent freelance workers over the next year.

Freelancers are already gainfully employed in Greater China. Fifty-six per cent of executives in China responded that it is appropriate to use freelancers for ongoing projects, with 45 per cent saying it is appropriate to use freelancers for quick, one-time projects and 26 per cent say it is appropriate to use freelancers for long-term one-off projects.

If you think that just means using freelancers to do simple, work – think again. Our research indicates that 49 per cent of China’s executives surveyed said their organisations benefit from using independent freelance workers for high-demand skills, knowledge and or experience.

With three million jobs posted annually, Upwork reports more than US$1 billion in freelancer earnings per year through matchmaking transactions via five million customers and 12 million registered freelance users. The leading Chinese firm Zhubajie boasts similar annual numbers, reflecting the global nature of on-demand growth.

But this isn’t just about hiring specialists. Management teams have started using digital technologies and technologies to more quickly fill talent needs, jump-start new projects, and respond to market changes.

Think about it – Companies can form new agile design and development programmes in just weeks if not days, compared to the traditional model that takes months of planning, budgeting, sourcing, and launching.

Online work management solutions enable companies to leverage both internal and external workers – the blended workforce.

Of course, using talent platforms means retraining staff to better use digital solutions and working with contract workers to supplement your workforce. So it requires a plan, not a scatter-gunned approach to filling roles.

After all, there is a financial imperative to make changes. Enterprises that have been intently focused on technology investments for their products and services are now under extreme competitive pressure to extend innovation to their workforce, and even their corporate structure. By taking steps to experiment with workforce technologies today, businesses will set a path to become built-for-change companies – removing by far the largest obstacle to leadership in the new digital economy.

Gianfranco Casati is group chief executive of growth markets for Accenture