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Few UK employers prepared for war on freelance talent

Almost three-quarters of employers have not changed their approach to attracting and retaining freelance workers, according to research from Willis Towers Watson

Despite an increase in the use of freelance talent, the Modernising Total Rewards Survey found that 72% of UK employers have no plans to change their value proposition for contingent workers.

The research stated that the changing nature of jobs has made the legacy one-size-fits-all approach to leveraging talent obsolete. It added that a new customised strategy to benefits and rewards is needed to reflect the needs and risks of talent both inside and outside the organisation.

The survey does show, however, that in some areas employers are modernising their approach. Sixty-seven per cent of employers are considering providing more flexibility (e.g. in benefits, working arrangements, career options) this year or within three years. Twenty-seven per cent have already done so.

Meanwhile, 63% of employers expect to improve technology to administer benefits this year or within three years, and 19% have already done so.

The report also found that despite increasing disclosure requirements around pay, such as gender pay gap reporting , just one in 10 (10%) have so far taken steps to improve pay transparency. However, seven in 10 (69%) are considering doing so either this year or within three years.

Additionally, seven in 10 employers (70%) expect to improve their personalised communication this year or within three years.

According to the survey, 40% of respondents are having problems hiring employees with critical skills, while 32% reported problems attracting high-potential employees. Employers also reported difficulty retaining critical-skill employees (22%) and high-potential employees (33%).

Benjamin Viney, senior director of talent and rewards at Willis Towers Watson, said that employers must strive to provide employees with the resources and benefits needed to tackle future challenges.

“Given the ongoing changes taking place in today’s work environment employers are under mounting pressure to rethink their approach to total rewards and move beyond the status quo... We recommend employers carefully evaluate their overall strategy, gain a better understanding of what employees and prospects value, and ensure they have the right technology and tools to deliver a consumer-grade experience to their employees," he said.

The 2018 Modernising Total Rewards Survey was conducted in July 2018. A total of 1,670 employers worldwide, including 90 large and mid-sized UK employers, participated.