The Freelance Economy: Work for Everyone
By Karen and Erica
For some years, the tech sector, small businesses and others have been talking about a labor shortage. A report by the Conference Board confirms their fears and predicts that the there will be labor shortages for the next 10 plus years across a wide swath of industries and regions across the country. With unemployment in the 5% range and going down, and with the government talking about extreme limits on qualified immigrants, it should not come as surprise that employers in places like Maine already can’t find the skilled workers they need.
At the same time, the freelance economy is now over 30% of our labor force. Though largely due to the 2008 recession, this new economy is also turning out to meet the needs of both employers and Millennials--flexibility, balance, purpose. Independent contractors with different kinds of work and benefits arrangements now make up a significant part of the workforce of many well-known companies.
But here’s the thing. Millennials only solve part of the shortage. They are smart and talented, clever and innovative, hungry and eager, to be sure. But they lack the hard and soft skills and experience that we have developed over time, and tested through decades of work. And there aren’t enough of them.
There's an easy fix. Add retired people to the mix and the freelance economy is the perfect solution for everyone.
Businesses get skilled, experienced labor directed to specific needs with a specific time frame, without having to worry about being forever saddled with bulging payroll expenses that they will have trouble pulling back from if/when the need goes away. Millennials will have the advantage of an even more diverse workforce, and a whole new coterie of role models and mentors from whom to learn. ( Not all Millennials may at first see the need for role models and mentors. But many do, and many more will after they work for a few years and want to rise up in the ranks.) And then there is us. Statistics say that well over 30% of us still want to do some kind of “work.” We also want flexibility--whether it be the duration or the nature of the work, or the compensation and benefits. The new economy checks all the boxes.
So what do we want? We want businesses--large and small--to think bigger when they are looking to fashion their new workforce so that they can grow and prosper. We want them to establish ways for experienced people to apply, or to reach out to find them. For our part, we will think about how to make ourselves and our talents better known and easier to access.
A workforce diverse in age and experience would be a real game changer. Energetic young people and and experienced wise people. It is a match made in heaven.