The rise of freelance, flexible work and how to hire amazing people with Russ Shaw

10 February 2017

5 min read

We spoke to Russ Shaw, founder of Tech London Advocates, about the rise of freelancing, flexible working and what every business needs to do to attract the best talent.

The rise of freelance, flexible work and how to hire amazing people with Russ Shaw (Desktop)

What’s are some of the biggest work trends you’ve noticed happening over the last few years?

There’s so much more flexibility. Not only in how people are working during the day, but in terms of their careers and how they move around from company to company. The days of going to an organisation and working there for 5-10 years are over. And I see that particularly with the younger people I meet, particularly in the tech sector. It’s about building up a portfolio of skills and experiences.

It makes people much more well-rounded and prepares them for the rapidly changing world of work that we live. It can even assist in helping people go out and become entrepreneurs themselves.

 

More people are moving to contract and remote-working freelance positions. Are people viewing freelance more favourably?

Absolutely. The challenge will be persuading freelance to turn full time. More and more people are valuing freedom and flexibility. They don’t necessarily want to be employed longer term. It’ll be a challenge that companies have to address over time. Obviously, some people prefer the comfort and benefits that come with that, be it pension schemes or healthcare, but I think more and more people would rather do it themselves and be flexible for a longer term.

 

What’s the killer deal that employers need to offer to get them to come in-house?

I think they’ll have to pay more money. That’ll be one of the key things that a larger company can say and use to leverage to get people.

 

So does that mean SMBs would be losing out to Enterprise level because they just aren’t able to offer the same packages and benefits to freelance?

Yeah, there’s a risk to that. The counter-argument to that though, particularly if you’re a start-up or privately run, is that people can love the work. It might be a case of ‘I won’t charge you my normal rate because I’d love the experience.’ They’re also looking at share options to compensate for that. Even in the tech sector I do see larger organisations going into smaller businesses and trying to attract engineers and developers with better packages and remuneration.

 

We know from various discussions that younger people are led by flexibility and the modern changes, but is this owned by the millennials? What about older and younger generations?

I think that people of all ages are adjusting to it. The younger generations are growing up with it but those who are older, even the 60-somethings who say ‘Hey, I’ve got to work for another 10 years’, are looking at different ways of working. They’re thinking that they have to work for longer so they’re going to do it on their terms.

There will still be a minority of people out there who want to work for a large corporation, who want to work long hours and get ahead traditionally. If you look at the service industry, law firms for example, who have a reputation for working their people hard, are going out there and actively recruiting people in workshare schemes, jobshare, flexibility hours, so you’re seeing more of that happening.

 

So if it’s spreading across all sectors then what’s the potential hold up to stop it becoming mainstream – is this hesitance coming from the employees or the employers?

I think it’s a degree of both. Employees who want to push for it will raise it. If their employers won’t budge, then they’ll just move to work for those who do offer it. So I think the companies who do provide this will have the edge over people who don’t.

 

Do you think there will come a point in the near future where the businesses who don’t offer this will begin to fail? 

We’re still a way off this – not in the next 3-5 years, but down the line? Yeah. I do think a lot of these companies will suffer. In the tech industry the number one issue I see is that companies are struggling to recruit strong, world-class employees. So they need to throw a lot of things at candidates to win them over. If you’ve got an interesting workplace and work/life balance then people will say ‘Yeah, I’m interested!’, whereas the companies that don’t will have a very narrow workforce in terms of ideas, creative thinking and innovation. The CEOs and heads of HR need to think about their competitive advantage. If they’re not offering great experiences, then they’ll suffer over the longer term.

 

Speaking of interesting workspaces, what are the trends we’re experiencing now and what will they be in the future?

I think we’re going to continue to see growth in collaborative working spaces, open floor plans, people who can come and go when they need to.

Larger companies are not necessarily growing their headcount. The fastest growing space in the British economy of job creation is the scale-up economy. It’s next wave beyond start-ups. They’re the smaller companies who are growing their businesses by around 20%. It’s not the big corporates, because they’ve flat-lined their staff levels, it’s the smaller companies who are going to grow and get bigger faster, and instead of growing their space, they’ll just utilise collaborative working spaces like We Work for their extra employees.

Companies will grow in size and shrink in size and having that flexibility puts a lot of pressure on – these work spaces will be a flexible thing that many companies will want to adopt.

 

What would you tell people to convince them that collaborative working and flexibility is better for them?

I’m a nomad – I move from location to location every day. I meet different people all the time. It’s not the same cohort of 20-30 people every day – instead, I’m being exposed to new faces, new ideas and new ways of working every day. And that’s really good. If I’m part of a close-knit team that could be part of the trade-off. Teams do work well together but the physical spaces they’re in can change from week to week or month to month. Now, I could go into the same office every day for the next three years, but I think it’s refreshing to get people out different places, to see how others are working. That’s how ideas get formed, that’s how you keep ahead of the pack.

 

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