The way we work is fast evolving. Technology is rapidly democratising where and when we work, and even who we work for.
So what’s next? As the way we work continues to change, I believe we’ll see the following employment trends in 2014:
1. Freelancers will be recognised as part of the workforce
Research from the PCG shows that the number of European freelancers has increased by almost 50% since 2004, making them the fastest growing segment of the EU’s workforce.
In the U.S., the growing community of freelancers has gone relatively unnoticed given outdated government practices—the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ monthly report does not capture freelancers as part of the workforce. Yet MBO Partners research shows that there are 17.7 million independent workers in the U.S., accounting for $1.17 trillion in income!
In both regions, people are increasingly rejecting traditional 9-to-5 jobs, and we must support this massive community by updating how we officially measure employment. Counting workers based on a work setup that’s disappearing is cheating everyone involved. To borrow a suggestion from Sara Horowitz of the Freelancers Union: “Instead of focusing on whether someone’s job is full-time or part-time, how about asking if they have enough work to sustain a life?”
2. Hiring will be about dynamic projects, not rigid roles
In 2014, teams will begin to look like film crews as we see a shift away from hiring for rigid full-time roles, and towards hiring for dynamic projects. This change will free organisations to choose team members based on the results they can deliver for a specific, urgent need, rather than speculating on general fit for a larger, more nebulous role.
Said another way, results-driven hiring will become the new norm—thus the creation of sites like GitHub, which shows developers’ code samples as proof of the results they can deliver. Just like a film crew, teams will come together to deliver on a project, with each person bringing their specialised skills to bear. Once the “film” is complete, everyone can move onto their next project.
3. People will gain the confidence to quit their jobs
According to the Edenred Barometer, the UK has the highest percentage of employees in Europe who are looking to move jobs, with nearly 50% of British workers feeling dissatisfied in their current role.
We surveyed freelancers who were still also at “regular” jobs and 72% said that they wanted to quit to go independent. Why? Freedom and flexibility are bigger motivations for people today. Millennials especially prefer working where and when they want, plus on issues they feel will help change the world. They even opt for jobs that offer these things over higher compensation. Similar to how social media empowered consumers versus companies, technology (especially the Internet) is now empowering professionals versus restrictive employment.
According to future of work expert Jacob Morgan, “Freedom has become such a competitive advantage that, moving forward, professionals will hold majority voting power on flexible work policies. If companies don’t listen to their vote, many will eventually quit.”
4. People will be as important to business as tech
In 2014, we’ll see reinvestment in the people-powered side of tackling our business challenges. Intelligent automation, high-octane software and big data only get you so far without help. Now that we have our software and databases, what do we do with them? Those who combine programming expertise with data science proficiency are going to have golden tickets.
Beyond big business challenges, people have many other needs for which they’ll seek expertise. As we move towards a new balance of technological and human capital, we’ll see more opportunities for people to turn their brainpower into capital. A perfect example of this is the recent launch of Google Helpouts, which claims to offer live help from experts on pretty much any topic at any time.
5. Careers will launch virtually
An Accenture survey found that 41% of recent graduates were underemployed, and almost 63% said they’ll need more training to get the job that they really want. Many students try desperately to find internships in order to gain a job market advantage, and are often willing to work for experience rather than money.
Now, imagine that students can tap into paid job opportunities via the Internet and craft their own internships by freelancing. “Virtual internships” are a growing reality. Millennials—the professionals of the future— will turn to virtual jobs rather than hunting through competitive local options. As Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself puts it, “Freelancing enables Millennials to cultivate their skills with meaningful work. The result is that, by the time they grab that degree, they will already have a resume of experience that helps jumpstart their careers.”
Gary Swart is CEO at oDesk, a leading online workplace.