Staffing Challenges? Stop Complaining and Act!

Rich Oakes, President, GigSmart
Goering Center eNewsletter, February 2019

Within the last six months, I’ve attended a number of C-Level executive events where my team and I had the opportunity to discuss today’s labor market.  At one of the meetings based in the Midwest, the room was full of Ohio-based presidents and CEOs with a lot of complaints about staffing challenges.  With just a few questions, it didn’t take long to uncover that this group of approximately 30 executives didn’t really understand the Gig Economy, were oblivious to the increasing number of Americans who are electing for independent work over structured employment and had zero strategies in place to integrate this growing independent labor pool into their corporate staffing plan.

A couple weeks later, my team and I attended a similar event in Chicago.  A different set of presidents and CEOs in a different city had radically different responses when it came to recruiting.  I was astounded at how many in the Chicago group of approximately 40 executives were not only embracing an independent worker strategy, they were successfully utilizing the strategy to meet their labor needs across multiple departments within their organization.

Two groups of presidents/CEOs had two radically different experiences with staffing in today’s labor market.

I’m on Ohio guy at heart. I grew up in a rural area on a farm in Southwest Ohio.  Earned a college scholarship to run track and field at the University of Cincinnati where I earned my degree.  Being from Ohio, it wasn’t enjoyable for me to see Ohio business leaders so far behind other parts of the nation when it comes to embracing today’s labor market.

Let me share some inarguable stats recently released by Edelman Intelligence in the “Freelancing in America 2018” study:

  • 56.7 million Americans currently participate in independent work
  • 35 percent – one in three Americans freelanced at least one time over the last year.
  • Despite a record number of 9:00-5:00 job openings in our current labor market, Americans are increasingly choosing freelance positions over structured employment positions.
  • 51 percent of those freelancing say that no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job
  • Younger generations are freelancing more than any other generation in the workforce.
  • The second largest generation participating in independent labor is baby boomers.
  • These freelancers are heavily driven by lifestyle over earnings

Another study by Mavenlink titled "The White-Collar Gig Economy" outlined a couple key findings:

  • 94 percent of business leaders plan to continue using or expand their use of independent workers in the next year.
  • 47 percent of businesses state they are looking to hire contractors to fill management and senior executive roles  who have specialized skills for projects and initiatives.

Across industries and disciplines―retail stores, restaurants, construction, IT, marketing, customer support, packaging, warehousing, manufacturing, human resources, hospitality, accounting and finance, repair services like HVAC, plumbing and electrical―the brightest, forward thinking leaders in their industries are embracing independent workers as part of their labor strategy.

From my perspective, in order to grow the prosperity of your organization, your only path is to follow your peers and take advantage of this growing pool of independent workers as part of your staffing strategy.

Companies today have access to a pool of millions of workers who can be on-site or working remotely within the hour.  Imagine never stressing about last-minute callouts, internal skills gaps on company projects or the last-minute rush to find people to assist due to an increased business need. An independent worker strategy gives companies access to an entire skilled workforce without the worry of increasing permanent headcount.