February 4, 2020

Talent on-demand: How to leverage the alternative workforce for success in the future of work

Our 2019-2020 Pulse of Talent Report reveals the desires and motivations of alternative workers, and how companies can engage and leverage this untapped talent pool in the new decade of work. Here, our Chief People and Culture Officer Lisa Sterling shares key findings from our latest research.

As we enter a new decade of work, the time is now for employers to prioritize investing in their workplace experiences for future success. This means maximizing business value by putting a critical emphasis on future-focused technology and people strategies, and importantly, rethinking the nature of the employer-employee relationship and worker arrangements.

Our 2019-2020 Pulse of Talent Report explores just this – the fluidity of today’s workforce and untapped opportunities to leverage alternative workers. The alternative workforce has been a hot topic for the past several years. In the UK, the gig economy is positively booming, and the movement is expected to grow. It’s incredibly timely that I’m writing this following the HRD Summit in the UK – where I discuss the transformational world of work and the evolving employee experience – to share our research findings, which explore how companies can better engage and enable the alternative workforce to thrive in the future of work.

Perceptions of the alternative workforce

Why the focus on the alternative workforce? There are two main schools of thought around alternative work. On one side, the more negative perceptions focus on the job instability and employee exploitation that can result from alternative work. On the other side, many champion alternative work as a flexible, liberating way to boost income, pursue passions, and achieve work-life fluidity.

From an employer perspective, the alternative workforce offers a solution to organizations that are changing the way they work to keep up with industry disruption. Alternative workers – freelancers, contractors, gig workers, contingent workers, side hustlers, consultants, to name just some of the terms used to describe these workers – are an untapped resource for companies looking to scale up and down at a lower cost, bring products to market faster, and focus on their core business. The fact is, it’s time for employers to strategically leverage the full spectrum of talent available.

The new normal for employers

Companies have traditionally treated their relationships with these workers as more transactional and less strategic. However, to unlock the full potential of these workers, employers need to see them as more than a short-term stop-gap. Particularly in a time when companies experiencing critical skills gaps in the fast-paced, hyper-competitive context of business, alternative workers bring both experience and industry-agnostic skills to the table.

The new normal is that employers need to be more flexible to accommodate and engage the alternative workforce, and provide all employees with a thoughtful workplace experience.

For the 2019-2020 Pulse of Talent, we asked 536 alternative workers in the UK about their reasons for choosing this path, their level of engagement, and the reasons behind their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with their current work arrangement, as well as where they see themselves in the future. We also asked about key topics making news recently, such as their level of support for unionization, and the effects of alternative work on their mental health.

Here are key findings from the report:

Job satisfaction among alternative workers is high, and driven by flexibility

  • Job satisfaction among the alternative workforce in the UK is high, with 76% of respondents saying they are extremely/somewhat satisfied with their job
    • Interesting work and flexible hours/remote work were cited as top drivers for our respondents
  • Meanwhile, not making good pay and lack of good benefits are the main drivers for job dissatisfaction

However, burnout is real

  • Almost three-quarters (74%) of respondents who said they are dissatisfied with their jobs as alternative workers said that job dissatisfaction has had a negative impact on their mental health.
    • In order to deal with the negative impact, 44% are taking medication or seeking therapy, while others are taking more sick days (25%) and more time off (21%).

The majority plan to remain in the alternative workforce for the foreseeable future

  • Despite the challenges and uncertainty of alternative work, more than half (54%) of the workers we surveyed plan to continue on this path for the foreseeable future.
  • And the trend toward long-term gig work increases with age: 45% of respondents aged 19-29 answered this way, compared with 73% of those aged 50 and above

The alternative workforce isn’t a passing trend – it’s part of a movement toward an entirely different way of organizing work. This requires us as leaders to reset expectations and take a new approach to creating work experiences that motivate, engage, and build trust for all of our employees.

Check out the full report here to gain important insights on what matters to alternative workers, and how companies can strategically leverage and engage this growing workforce in 2020 and beyond.

Read the full 2019-2020 Pulse of Talent Report.

Lisa Sterling

As Chief People and Culture Officer, Lisa is responsible for executing Ceridian's global people strategy combined with leading the vision on the Dayforce Talent Management offering.

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