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Ultra-flexible workers will challenge HR by 2020

Four in 10 (40%) workers will be self-employed by 2020, so HR must be prepared

HR needs to be prepared to take on a new role in the workplace by 2020 to cope with the rise of ultra-flexible freelancing, according to research from Samsung.

The Open Economy report predicts that businesses, HR departments and governments will need to completely rethink the meaning of work in the 21st century in terms of who does it, where they do it and how they share information openly but safely. That in turn will force them to fundamentally rethink the way they build their business models and the technologies they depend on, it states.

The report cites research by McKinsey, which found that there is a strong desire for an autonomous working future among today’s Millennial workforce.

According to this research, 60% of independent workers in Europe are highly satisfied with the flexibility that being a freelancer offers, and just 14% would prefer a traditional nine-to-five job. At the same time, 78% of employees thought being able to determine their own schedule is a positive thing, 71% thought positively of being paid in real time for their work, and 64% believed doing away with hierarchy would be beneficial.

The researchers suggest that 40% of workers will be self-employed by 2020, making the value of the HR freelance market worth $10 billion.

Few of these flexible workers will visit an office every day by 2020, according to BinaryKnowledge’s founder Marcos Eguillor, who was involved in the research. “In the future companies will shrink their numbers of salaried staff in a major way, becoming a core executive team who design high-level strategy and integrate different elements of that strategy on a day-to-day basis,” he said.

That core group will deploy the skills of teams of what he calls ‘radical freelancers’; people who trade their talents with many different companies at the same time.

“Brands will need to transition from being the owners of ‘work dungeons’ to the providers of business technologies that allow a much bigger and more powerful gig workforce to do their best work," he added. "Being at the forefront of the transition to this recruitment approach will spell the difference between success and failure for a company in the open economy of the decades ahead.”

Marie Puybaraud, global head of corporate research at property company JLL, who also assisted with the report, agreed. “Just as there will be a major shift in what a company is, there will be huge changes in company culture to accommodate the expectations of future workforces,” she said. “Ultimately this is going to have a profound effect on the way we work, and how we plan the spaces that we work in.”