Ask any HR leader — or any hiring manager in a company — and they’ll tell you that the biggest challenge right now is filling jobs. At the end of the first quarter of 2022, the Great Resignation was still going strong, and February had near record highs of resignations and job openings.1
As companies struggle to fill jobs, they face slowdowns in productivity and efficiency. With the loss of labor, some companies cut hours or narrowed their product offerings to streamline production. At the same time, current employees must take on the increased responsibility of those who quit. Eventually, even those loyal remaining employees will face burnout.
For some positions, company recruiters have broadened their search for candidates and are hiring based on potential versus education or experience. But this expansion increases the competition for businesses such as those in the restaurant, retail, manufacturing and construction industries that traditionally hire entry-level employees.
However, those companies can consider an often overlooked source that will help businesses move forward: the flexible worker.
Who is today’s flexible worker?
While the terms “flexible worker” and “gig worker” have gained popularity over the last few years, the concept of a short-term or temporary worker isn’t new. What is new is how many people are taking on this role. MBO Partner’s 11th Annual State of Independence report found that the number of independent workers grew 34% in 2021 to 51.1 million.2 And that growth is expected to continue, with freelancers surpassing traditional employees by 2027.3 This is good news for businesses struggling to recruit and fill jobs — hiring gig workers is a creative way to keep operations running smoothly.
Gig workers can be found in any industry — Lyft and Uber drivers or office temp workers often come to mind. But Monica Plaza, the chief strategy officer at Wonolo, an innovative online staffing platform, said “these workers can be assets in jobs in manufacturing, warehousing, retail, administration, technology, delivery, event staffing, merchandising, hospitality, general labor and so much more.”
Why gig workers gig
The motivations of gig workers vary, but Plaza noted that “there has been a significant shift in the way people are approaching work, as increasingly more individuals are trading in traditional 9-to-5 jobs for more flexible options. Flexible work allows people to accept jobs that fit their schedules and lifestyle. This is very empowering and provides opportunities to those that may be excluded from more traditional work arrangements due to responsibilities that do not align with a fixed schedule.”
And it’s not just about flexibility. “While many workers in the gig economy are looking to work on an ad hoc basis, some use this work model to look for permanent positions. The gig economy gives workers a chance to expand their networks, develop and refine their skills and connect with multiple different businesses and clients,” Plaza said.
How businesses can gain from having a flexible workforce
Businesses can realize short- and long-term benefits from their short- and long-term workforce. While gig workers can fill urgent needs, they can also help organizations scale to meet shifting operational needs. For example, when Eyemart Express, a Dallas-based eyewear company, expanded into new markets, it needed to rapidly scale warehouse production. By hiring gig workers through Wonolo, Eyemart Express quickly filled jobs. As a result, the retailer increased its store count from 10 to 30 in one year and met 100% of its productivity goals.
“Companies that incorporate flexible work as part of a holistic labor strategy can stay agile and successful in the face of labor shortages, unpredictable demand or seasonal needs,” Plaza said. And after more than two years of turbulence and labor shortages costing businesses an estimated $738 billion, companies are anxious to return to steady ground.4
“However, with the scarcity of and competition for labor posing a real risk, companies need to embrace the advancements of the labor economy. By leveraging the growing pipeline of gig workers in an on-demand job marketplace, companies can significantly increase the visibility of job opportunities. They can also reduce the time spent connecting with workers from several weeks to mere hours,” Plaza added.
This approach helps companies increase productivity, ensure workers share responsibility, avoid burnout and help businesses move forward confidently.