The flexibility, agility, and fresh perspectives that contractors bring can invigorate a company's operations and keep it competitive in an ever-changing market, Pedro Barros writes.
If you believe the headlines, you could be led to think that the term "contractor" carries negative connotations.
From huge global brands like Nike under scrutiny for potentially misclassifying thousands of workers to lengthy ongoing legal disputes concerning Uber, Lyft and Gorillas, most of the media coverage around contractors focuses on the negative.
However, it is important to remember that the actions of a few companies don’t define the bunch, and recognise the broader positive impact that contractors are creating in the modern workforce.
Job security no longer a priority?
For starters, there’s a significant gap between perception and reality when it comes to contractors; when people think of "contractors" or the "gig economy", many will instantly associate the terms with service industries like food delivery.
But this is just one part of a much bigger picture. The reality is that contracting as a professional choice is gaining popularity, particularly among highly skilled workers such as copywriters, graphic designers, and developers.
Often overlooked in the debate about contracting work, Eurostat data shows that a quarter of Europe's tech talent is now employed on a contractor basis.
This trend is consistently on the rise, particularly in certain regions. The spread of remote work means these individuals can work with companies far beyond their own borders, and build their earning potential on a global scale.
One of the key reasons for this shift is the changing priorities of younger generations. For Millennials and Gen Z, job security is no longer the primary focus.
Instead, flexibility in work arrangements, particularly remote work, has become a crucial factor in work satisfaction.
Contracting offers these individuals the opportunity to contribute to a diverse range of projects, enabling them to oversee work on their terms, leading to greater well-being and work-life balance.
Talent is everywhere
For companies, the ability to adapt to the evolving preferences of the workforce can give them a significant advantage over their competitors.
Embracing the concept of contracting opens up access to a diverse global talent pool; employers can find highly specialised professionals for specific projects, and the win-win situation for both companies and contractors lies in increased productivity and flexibility.
What’s more, with companies operating in an increasingly global marketplace, speed and agility are now top priorities when hiring and onboarding talent in order to remain competitive.
Depending on a company’s specific goals, working with contractors can present an attractive solution to address skills shortages, accommodate project-driven demands and be ready to respond quickly to unexpected strategy changes.
For example, Oslo-based technology company HomeProject collaborated with hundreds of contractors from around the world to collect and validate the vast streams of data it needed to help train AI and machine learning models in different languages.
In this instance, contractors were pivotal to HomeProject’s ability to keep pace with the rapid evolution of artificial intelligence worldwide - and would have been impossible to find and hire such a large team of experts in such a short space of time via any other means.
The shadow over contractors is further obscured by legislation, such as a new EU directive that threatens the use of the self-employed contractor model in Europe. As a result, companies may feel the need to overcorrect by avoiding working with any contractors at all.
Instead, the answer lies in being proactive about avoiding misclassifying workers as contractors when they work as de facto employees.
This means understanding the proper classification of workers and labour laws of their countries and working with their contractors to ensure a positive and compliant contractor-employer relationship that is mutually beneficial.
For businesses looking to harness the advantages of a global talent pool, embracing contractors in their workforce is a strategic move.
The flexibility, agility, and fresh perspectives that contractors bring can invigorate a company's operations and keep it competitive in an ever-changing market.
Pedro Barros serves as General Manager, Contractors at Remote.
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