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New HR data from Upwork reveals talent shortages lead to workforce strategy innovation

As headcounts rise and skills become more specialized, the majority of HR managers are embracing a flexible workforce due to talent shortages.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. - June 19, 2018 -Upwork, the largest global freelancing website, today released new data that shows the majority of HR managers are evolving their workforce strategies and utilizing flexible talent due to a shortage of talent. The 2018 Future Workforce HR Report, which explores the hiring behaviors of HR managers in the U.S., revealed the following findings:

  • Talent is increasingly hard to find - Nearly three times as many HR managers felt hiring had gotten harder in the past year versus those who felt it had gotten easier. The skills gap is forcing HR teams to think beyond their traditional workforce. Sixty-two percent of HR managers cited talent shortages as the top driver for embracing a more flexible workforce.
  • Headcount continues to rise - Last year, 96 percent of HR managers had open positions, and 66 percent plan to further increase their headcount in 2018. Headcount is expected to increase by an average of 19 percent.
  • Skills are becoming increasingly specialized - Skills are expected to change rapidly. Over three-fourths (78 percent) of HR managers agree that skills will become more specialized, while 61 percent predict that the majority of jobs done today will not exist in the next 10 years. As new technological innovations emerge, the majority (69 percent) of HR managers agree that companies will need to invest in re-skilling to prepare workers for the jobs of tomorrow.
  • HR is adopting new talent strategies - To combat skills and worker shortages, 91 percent of HR managers have begun adopting more agile talent strategies. The majority (70 percent) are already utilizing flexible talent, including freelancers, temp, and agency workers -- up seven percent from 2016. They also anticipate that work done by flexible talent will increase by 179 percent in the next 10 years. Additionally, ten times (72 percent) as many HR managers believe dynamic and agile team structures will become the norm, vs. 7 percent who disagree.
  • Freelancers specifically will be leveraged with greater frequency - Because freelancers are often equipped with the specific skill sets teams require and are well-suited for the increasing volume of project work, more than half (59 percent) of HR managers opted to utilize freelancers last year. Of these, 57 percent expect to use even more freelancers in the next 10 years.
  • By leveraging flexible teams HR is easing hiring difficulties - HR managers that utilize freelancers were more than twice as likely to say that hiring had gotten easier in 2017, compared to HR managers who don’t report using freelancers.

“With more jobs than people to fill them, companies are struggling to find the talent they need to get work done,” said Zoe Harte, SVP of HR and Talent Innovation at Upwork. “New skill requirements and occupations are emerging as the half-life of skills continues to shrink. As work continues to evolve, companies will no longer align around job descriptions themselves, but rather projects, skills, and capabilities. This will require greater flexibility and innovative thinking from hiring teams to ensure that they have the most qualified people to move their business forward.”To see further insights from the Future Workforce HR Report, please visit here. For a complete summary of the broader Future Workforce Report, view the results deck here.

About Upwork’s Future Workforce Report

The report was conducted by independent research firm Inavero. This is the second year the survey has been conducted. More than 1,000 U.S. hiring managers, including over 200 HR managers, were surveyed through a third-party, independent online sample between November 8, 2017 - November 15, 2017. The study has an overall margin of error of ±3.09% at a 95% level of confidence.

About Upwork

Upwork is the largest global freelancing website. It enables businesses to find and work with highly skilled freelancers. As an increasingly connected and independent workforce goes online, knowledge work — like software, shopping and content before it — is shifting online as well. This shift is making it easier for clients to connect and work with talent in near real-time and is freeing professionals everywhere from having to work at a set time and place. Our company’s mission is to create economic opportunities so people have better lives.Upwork is headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., with offices in San Francisco and Chicago. For more information, visit our website at www.upwork.com, join us on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.

About Inavero

Inavero is a global leader in human capital management research. The firm powers satisfaction and thought leadership studies for hundreds of top firms within the space and leverages more than 300,000 survey responses annually to provide insight into the millions who work in the gig economy and the companies who hire them. For more information, visit https://www.inavero.com/.


Katie Evans