How to keep your talent from going ‘independent’

freelancer or freelance worker is a term commonly used for a person who is self-employed and not necessarily committed to a particular employer long-term. Sound like anyone you know? Or perhaps that defines you? An article in Fast Company magazine reported some intriguing numbers:

“As of May 2015, 15.5 million people in the U.S. were self-employed, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics—an increase of roughly 1 million since May 2014. That number is expected to keep growing at a steady clip. By 2020, a separate study estimates that more than 40% of the American workforce, or 60 million people, will be independent workers—freelancers, contractors, and temporary employees.

Just when I thought perhaps freelancing was slowing down and more folks were settling in as full-time employees, the numbers tell quite the opposite. Which got me thinking: what does freelancing offer that corporations can somehow recreate to keep their key employees around?

Let’s first look at some of the top reasons people leave full-time positions to go ‘independent’:

  • Little to no flexible work options.
  • Unhappy with base salary, bonus structure, etc.
  • Shifting economic conditions (position feels less secure).
  • Corporate downsizing (fewer full-time jobs available).
  • Dissatisfaction with company (bureaucracy, culture, values, etc.).
  • Little opportunity for growth.
  • Lack of interesting projects or initiatives to work on.

Based on the above list, there are several actions corporations might consider taking to retain their top talent. These suggestions include:

  • Offer flexible work options. It’s a global world and today’s technology can bring together anyone, anywhere. This ability to collaborate instantly can also allow employees to work outside a 3-wall cubicle, in one location. The ability to work in any location and at perhaps different times of the day (what freelancing offers), is incredibly appealing to top talent. It takes a bit of trust but good employees don’t need to be micromanaged.
  • Add more perks. Most people don’t stay or leave a job because of their paycheck. Many other factors are involved including who they work for and with, company culture, values, and the perks! People talk and know which companies do cool stuff for their employees such as team movie days, free food and drinks, regular corporate events, generous holiday/vacation schedules, volunteer and charity events, etc. Getting some perks in the office sends the critical message that employees are valuable and appreciated.
  • Make plans for the future and communicate it to your employees. Research trends, remain fiscally responsible, put future plans in place, and communicate all of this to employees. Provide the best sense of security possible to keep top employees from looking elsewhere.
  • Provide compelling and various projects, and growth opportunities. Smart and talented people need to learn and grow. A company that doesn’t innovate and foster a culture that encourages employees to try new things can risk stagnating and losing key talent. Offering a variety of compelling projects and growth opportunities can keep employees engaged and learning and growing while surely contributing to the bottom line as well.

If the numbers reported from the Fast Company article are correct, 40% of the workforce will be independent by 2020. While working with freelancers is certainly a wise business practice, it is also necessary to explore ways to keep a solid full-time workforce on staff. Keeping a pulse on freelancing trends can help shed light on what your employees deem valuable enough to stick around.

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