With more freelancers in the workplace, L&D needs to adapt

by Michael Mata13 Oct 2016
More companies are choosing freelance workers to support internal staff and provide expertise quickly, according to new research. And as a result, L&D will have to adapt to support more casual workers in the workplace.

As noted by the Harvard Business Review’s new research at the Agile Talent Collaborative, organisations are using freelancers for reasons that go well beyond cost efficiency. According to executives surveyed by the Collaborative, “access to difficult-to-find technical or functional expertise, speed, flexibility, and innovation are the top five drivers of using skilled workers outside [one’s] organisation.”

Using casual workers or freelancers appears to be the road to the future. At a recent conference in Hong Kong (organised by HBR) HR leaders anticipate that full-time, permanent employees will account for only 50% of their staff in five to 10 years’ time.

Moreover, an increasing reliance on freelancers is going to have a significant impact on learning and development. According to Patty Woolcock, executive director of the California Strategic HR Partnership, “The future of learning is three ‘justs’: just enough, just-in-time, and just-for-me.” 

Speed, training and innovation will be the key drivers in this future learning environment. Here are other developments that are shaping the training of agile talents:

Technology-supported peer learning is gaining traction.
More learning is going to take place in teams and on platforms where training can be delivered in any location, at any time, and at the users’ convenience.

Training expenditure hit approximately $70 billion in 2015, an increase of 14% from 2014. A growing segment of this expenditure is being invested in technology-supported peer learning. Instead of spending weeks organising expensive, on-site workshops and seminars, companies are investing in highly interactive, online-based videos and other multimedia content to educate their workers.

Freelancers are increasingly embraced as full members of the team.
In the past, project-based freelancers were often kept at arm’s length, weren’t included in team meetings and trainings, and were treated as outsiders. This attitude is slowly shifting, with more and more organisations including its freelancers in trainings and meetings.

When treated as full members of the team, the job satisfaction and productivity of freelancers improve significantly. In light of this, companies that want to attract the best freelancers need to treat them accordingly in order to develop a positive reputation in the freelance community.