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Unlocking the potential of the gig economy

by Staff GBAF Publications Ltd
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How gig platforms can improve diversity and inspire business growth

A recent survey from recruitment firm Robert Walters found that over 70 per cent of technology employers experience skills shortages, a significant shortfall when we think about how many SMEs and start-ups now rely on high calibre IT and tech professionals. Getting the right skills and having a healthy, diverse workforce is key to business growth, and the gig economy is playing a pivotal role in this area. Here Ashmita Das, CEO of open talent platform Kolabtree, explains how gig platforms can strengthen teams and inspire business growth.

After a turbulent two years in a pandemic, security and stability are still on the minds of most business leaders, especially those running SME and emerging start-ups. However, many are also looking to the future and planning their next steps. There are many reasons a business may want to grow, just a cursory Google search finds that motivations range from survival and a boost in sales to an increase in profit turnover. 

The wish to grow is hardly surprising, and there are some real benefits to expanding. Former Apple Co-founder, Chairman and CEO Steve Jobs even remarked that: “Incredible things in the business world are never made by a single person, but by a team.” However, any growth must be sustainable, and the gig economy can play a vital role in connecting aspiring professionals with businesses that are looking to develop their teams.

Bridging skills gaps

It’s widely accepted that the UK faces a technical skills shortage, with the UK Commission for Employment & Skills finding that 43 per cent of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) positions are difficult to fill. The reason? A shortage of applicants with the skills and experience needed. Being unable to access vital skills is problematic because it can prevent businesses from taking on new projects or, worse, compromise the work they do. For instance, MedTech companies that lack in-house content writers may struggle prepare documentation for regulatory approval and, if they do, they risk it lacking quality — reducing the chances of their device or product being approved.   

By registering with a gig platform, businesses can recruit freelance specialists for one-off or a series of projects. Because this is a temporary measure, businessowners and entrepreneurs don’t need worry about long-term recruitment or contracts and can benefit from a more flexible process. Returning to the MedTech example, the company could hire an experienced freelance content writer to prepare the necessary documentation ready for submission, rather than relying on already-stretched research and development (R&D) teams to step in. 

Improving diversity

Simply hiring more people is one thing — building a diverse and productive workforce is another. Teams with varied backgrounds, cultures, genders and experiences are more likely to solve problems or find new ways to be innovative, empowering business leaders and entrepreneurs to make better decisions. Diversity is important because, for STEM and technology companies, improving female representation and diversity in other areas can be challenging. One Deloitte Insight analysis even predicted that female representation in technical roles in large technology companies would only increase by 0.6 per cent between 2019 and 2022 — showing the severity of the problem.

Reasons for a lack of diversity vary between industries, but maternity leave and taking time out to raise a family can be a significant hurdle for some female professionals. All we need to do is look at perceptions towards the impact of paternal leave to see why there is apprehension to take on specialist roles. According to research by Ipsos Mori, almost three in ten women (29 per cent) believed taking maternity leave would have a negative impact on their career, while less than half the number of men (13 per cent) noticed the same effect after taking paternity leave. 

The proliferation of gig and open talent platforms like Kolabtree has opened-up new opportunities to improve the industry’s diversity — benefiting both experts and the businesses they work for. Freelancing gives female tech and STEM professionals the flexibility of choosing when they work, the projects they do and how they want to progress. Such choice just isn’t available in traditional in-house roles, so freelancing is often considered a more desirable option for people that would otherwise be put off. Meanwhile, rather than struggling to recruit one in-house person, business can select freelance technology experts or other specialists with a varied background and range of experiences by simply posting a project on the platform. This also avoids the need for restrictive long-term contracts, so businessowners can recruit specialists when the need arises.

Stepping into the gig economy

Growing a company involves a period of transition, and the knowledge and expert economies can provide a valuable lifeline for businessowners looking to expand their teams. Yes, there are hurdles when onboarding the first external specialist, but this is only temporary and, after this, hiring freelancers will only get easier. Adjusting payroll processes and HR policies may be required as part of the business development process anyway, and business owners will need to alter these to cover temporary employees.

Confidentiality and data protection are other areas to consider, both when expanding internal teams and when bringing a freelancer onboard. We often recommend asking a freelancer to sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) and only permitting restricted data to certain documents. For small MedTech, biotech and other highly regulated firms, taking these steps will provide extra reassurance that the business is expanding and evolving in a safe, secure way.

With nearly three quarters of technology employers experiencing skills shortages, onboarding the necessary experience and knowledge is clearly one of the major steps when growing a business. As well as getting the numbers, entrepreneurs must try to build a healthy, diverse workforce that innovates, and entering into the gig economy can help them do this. 

To get the skills your company needs, post a project for free on Kolabtree and get started