While freelancers make up a large part of the workforce, 65% of employers take an informal approach to workforce planning, according to the research.
Across five European countries the biggest motivation for hiring freelance staff was flexibility, with 65% of employers citing this as the deciding factor.
The second-most popular reason for businesses hiring self-employed staff was the specific expertise they provide, according to 63% of respondents. In Germany (62%), The Netherlands (63%) and the UK (66%) this was the top reason for hiring non-permanent workers, ahead of the flexibility that it provides.
The report suggested that to manage the flexible workforce, HR should devise policies based on independent workers' motivations for self-employment. For 61% of UK respondents the main reason for becoming self-employed was that the job content was more interesting, while 62% said this style of working is a better match for their competencies.
Almost half (49%) said non-permanent work suits their personal life better, though this figure varied quite dramatically from country to country. Workers in the UK were found to be the biggest advocates of self-employment benefiting their personal life, with 79% citing this as the top reason for their decision, followed by France on 69%.
The report also highlighted issues with attracting new talent. Only 45% of organisations in all countries surveyed believed that they will have no problems attracting new talent in the next three years. One in three (31%) anticipated a shortage of the talent needed in the next three years.
The SD Worx and AMS report suggested that businesses should take a more positive approach towards the self-employed, citing that freelancers were often an 'overlooked' part of the workforce. Organisations with a high turnover rate were already doing this, the report stated.
Separate research from WeMa Life recently found that self-employed workers are becoming an increasingly dominant part of the workforce, with 19% of workers now part of the 'gig economy'.
The research suggested that the UK was on the verge of a 'significant shift' at work, with 6% claiming they plan to leave full-time work to join the gig economy, and 28% stating they'd like to join but were not confident they would make enough money to support their lifestyle.
Jeremy Campbell, chief commercial officer at SD Worx UK & Ireland, said that it was important that HR adapts policies to reflect the changing workforce. “As businesses hire more self-employed staff they need to ensure that their HR policies are constantly being adapted to suit the needs of this new workforce,” he said.
"Today too many businesses are taking a reactive or ad hoc approach to the gig economy that will prove damaging in the long term. A failure to adapt will cause areas like talent management to become a huge challenge for organisations, especially as their focus is turning on hiring highly-skilled freelance staff. The nature of the workforce is changing with every day that passes – yesterday’s policies will no longer suffice.”
SD Worx and AMS surveyed 1,074 employers and 1,874 independent workers across five countries for the Next Generation Work: Creating Sustainable Careers survey. WeMa Life surveyed 1,000 UK adults.