Searching for Skills

Skills Shortages

A new research report explores how HR can adapt in a tough talent market.

By Zoe Harte

What keeps HR leaders up at night? The answer is nearly unanimous: Finding the right talent. In fact, 96 percent of HR managers who participated in the 2018 Upwork Future Workforce HR Report said they had an opening on their team in 2017.

The report, conducted by independent research firm Inavero and commissioned by Upwork, surveyed HR managers to better understand the hiring challenges they face today and explore how HR teams are adapting their workforce strategies to the rapid evolution of skills. The report found three trends that are likely to have an impact on the next coming months.

1. Skills specialization will drive HR talent needs. Not only is hiring getting harder in an age of near full employment, but the rapid evolution of skills is causing a dramatic shift in how organizations find and engage talent. Seventy-eight percent of HR managers agree that skills will become more specialized, while 61 percent predict that the majority of today’s jobs won’t even exist in the next 10 years. This isn’t that hard to believe considering the changes that have occurred during the past decade, from the explosion of cloud apps, to the dominance of social media to the emergence of big data and AI as crucial strategic tools.

With the half-life of skills shrinking, HR managers can find themselves in a bind as they strive to stay ahead of the curve. To meet the needs of the future workforce, nearly 70 percent of HR managers say that organizations will need to invest in training and education to help workers adapt and ensure their company has access to the skills they need to compete.

Upwork2. Flexible workforces can help fill gaps. Not having the right talent can hamper a company’s ability to compete. Nearly 85 percent of teams that used freelancers said they would have to cancel, delay, or extend project workloads if they weren’t able to source that talent. And in today’s competitive job market, that’s an answer that won’t satisfy the C-suite.

In order to maintain productivity and output, savvy HR managers should embrace the opportunity to look outside their organization to find the exact skills they need at the exact moment they need them. In fact, 62 percent of HR managers said these talent shortages were the top driver for embracing a more flexible workforce.

HR managers are also predicting that the flexible workforce will grow at a rapid clip. HR managers expect that the next 10 years will bring nearly a 180 percent increase in the amount of work completed by flexible talent.

3. Engaging freelance talent can ease HR’s workload and stress. The good news is that increasing the use of freelancers is helping HR hit its targets. The managers who leveraged freelancers to help with projects were more than twice as likely to report that the hiring process improved in 2017, compared to those who don’t use a flexible workforce.

Freelancers are playing a major role in meeting talent needs. Nearly 60 percent of HR managers are currently relying on freelancers to fill critical skill gaps within their organization.

No longer just a stop-gap measure to fill a last-minute void, nearly 60 percent of HR managers who use freelancers today agree they are a vital component of their company’s workforce strategy.

Now more than ever, HR is looking for a holistic view of the entire workforce and the skills needed to drive the business forward. Better insight into the total talent picture allows HR to more effectively understand the skills that are available and where the gaps to help make better informed decisions about human capital investment exist. When looking beyond traditional models of work, HR will truly be able to help their organizations compete in today’s evolving workforce.


Zoe Harte is the senior vice president of human resources and talent innovation at Upwork.

Posted July 31, 2018 in MSP / Contingent Laborin Talent Acquisition

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