Flexible Workers Need Skills Development, Too
Learning and development is a perennial challenge for companies as workers’ skills can grow stale with each passing year. In fact, one study found that the average “half-life” of a skill today is only five years. In other words, the effectiveness and impact of a skill begin to erode immediately. The challenge is not lost on employers. For decades, companies have provided opportunities for employees to advance their capabilities, whether through training, coaching, mentorship, or a myriad of learning programs and solutions.
But what about flexible talent? With critical skills growing more in-demand, fostering learning among flexible workers can provide a talent advantage for an employer, but the idea of training non-employees is understandably challenging. With that in mind, here are three trends that are prompting companies to bring the flexible workforce into their learning and development strategic plan.
#1. The Flexible Talent Landscape Grows
The gig economy, that portion of work being done by flexible workers such as freelancers, contractors, and services and contingent workers, is growing. Estimates on the size of the gig economy range from 10-12 percent for those who consider gig work their primary employment and up to 34 percent of the workforce including those who work gigs in addition to their primary job. Should a company worry about upskilling contingent workers, contractors, and freelancers whose services drive a broader and more strategic slice of the work being done every year? In a word: yes.
According to the latest Allegis Group pulse survey, more than 42 percent of workers and talent decision-makers believe that without skill development, they won’t be successfully employed in their field three to five years from now. Another 30 percent are even more urgent, giving themselves less than a two-year window to develop additional capabilities. Worker awareness of waning skills effectiveness begs the need for employer action. Organizations that take a strategic approach to develop their flexible talent can help improve the value and impact of that portion of the workforce. And with 34 percent of workers involved in gig work, that portion is worth the attention.
#2. Workforce Solutions Providers Tackle Skills Development
With critical skills in high demand, the most advanced workforce solutions partners are taking matters into their own hands on behalf of their clients. In some cases, they are engaging workers and then immediately training them with client specific skills. One example is Career Circle, which takes a candidate-first approach to upskilling talent, thereby creating ready-made talent pools for their clients. Through immersive, instructor-led, and self-paced online courses, people can grow their skills and access new career opportunities.
The practice of providing education through talent solutions providers not only offers valuable career enablement for today’s workforce, but it also directly impacts the employer’s ability to access talent that may otherwise prove elusive and time-consuming to find and engage. In the future, continued talent supply issues will likely expand the practice, and companies will increasingly look at workforce education as a valuable asset when considering their flexible talent solutions partners.
#3. The Employer Brand Extends to the Contingent Workforce
In the past, the employer brand — the company’s reputation as a place to work — was largely considered only as an influence on attracting and retaining traditional employees. More recently, however, employers are paying more attention to their reputations among flexible workers, too. In fact, the repeatable, shorter-term nature of flexible work tenures puts more pressure than ever on companies to access this vital portion of the overall talent supply quickly and effectively.
Being an attractive destination for a contractor, contingent, or freelance worker can provide the vital glue that keeps talent returning for new projects and assignments — or the impetus for a person to recommend the employer to friends or colleagues. As a result, companies spend less time searching for the right contractor and more bandwidth on getting the work done. When an employer or talent provider also delivers learning and development for its flexible workers, those workers will be motivated to work for that employer, which is a substantial benefit for the organization’s brand.
Be Prepared to Navigate a World of Perishable Skills
Not every employer will feel compelled to provide training for flexible workers, but the demand for workers with certain skills makes the question of learning and development worth considering. Whether learning programs are provided directly by the employer, supplier or a talent solutions partner, the result is a robust and accessible pool of flexible workers needed to drive success in the constantly evolving marketing for critical skills.