In The Great Resignation, freelancers hold the key to growth

Back in 2018, we thought that the biggest change in employment would be the gig economy.

That was before the pandemic. Before furlough, before remote working became the norm, before homeschooling and the massive tip in balance brought on by a killer virus.

The biggest shift in employment was yet to come. And it wasn’t the remote life; it was The Great Resignation. It’s still happening – accelerating, even – and it’s got businesses worried. But they really shouldn’t be, even if it seems worrying now. The end game is better pay for the lowest paid, a stronger economy and a generally optimistic outlook on life and work.

Sounds too good to be true. And if you can’t fill skills gaps short-term, then maybe it is.

1 million job vacancies and counting

In August, UK job vacancies surpassed 1 million for the first time ever. And while the rate of turnover is highest in hospitality, food and retail, it’s pretty much across the board in most industries.

We don’t think this is the peak, either. And the fact that the freelance workforce is positively swelling means that the candidate pool is likely to be shrinking, too.

Reasons for quitting aren’t solely based on the hopeful “I can do better!” attitude. While it’s certainly a factor, it’s not able to account for the whole story. Yes, some people are leaving good, stable, well-paying jobs for better opportunities. But others are looking for more flexible working arrangements now that the world has settled back into commuting and office work.

And for some, quitting hasn’t really been a choice.

The danger that Covid represents to so many people might have made voluntary resignation the only way forward. Increased pressure and demand, in sectors already clamouring for human capital, may have driven people to burnout. Toxic and unhealthy working environments may have reached their absolute worst during lockdown, as shaky businesses scrambled to save themselves by squeezing every last calorie of energy from their workforce.

Right now, the statistics can’t tell us the sentiment; just the numbers. And while they’re high, the number of people actively thinking about quitting could be even higher (up to 73%).

It’s a worrying time for leadership and HR departments. But could it actually be a good thing?

Are there any benefits to mass resignation?

Yes, there actually are some economic benefits to The Great Resignation. Pretty good ones, too – especially for workers.

The demand for workers has driven pay up substantially in some sectors. Take the now infamous lorry driver shortage of 2021, which drove salaries to £56,000 in some areas, with golden hellos running into the thousands.

That’s an extreme example, but it’s happening everywhere there’s a demand for skills. And it’s causing low-paying sectors to rethink their offering. The power is firmly with workers right now, using the free market to sell their skills for more.

It’s almost the opposite effect that the gig economy had on salaries; paying for tasks instead of people brought about tumbling wages and devalued trades, occasionally offsetting the hits with upsells and higher order values.

Better pay isn’t just good for workers; it means a stronger economy. That’s a huge sign of progress, especially after decades of wage stagnation. It’s a welcome relief to the real-terms shrinkage of salaries against a tide of inflation and the raised cost of living.

The effects of this economic boost won’t be felt for a while, though. And that’s only if businesses can survive with the short-term lack of skills they find themselves in.

The downsides are pretty hard-hitting

You might have seen pictures of – or experienced in person – the empty shelves at supermarkets. This is what happens when there’s not enough people to do the work. Those empty shelves are an analogy for the missed deadlines, overflowing inboxes and unfinished projects plaguing countless other businesses where demand for skills is outsripping supply.

Take digital services, where a rise in demand is being scuppered by a digital skills shortage disaster”. And many who felt short changed or hard done by in employment have taken to freelancing and contract work – for better pay, better flexibility and more meaningful experience.

In the long-term, this means economic vitality and entrepreneurship – and that the silver lining of the horrible pandemic we’re in could be a major rethink about our views on work and life. But short-term, this means skills shortages, missed deadlines and unfulfilled projects.

But if you know where to look, skills are in abundance – in just about every trade – if your business is willing to work in a new way; with contractors.

Why hire contractors?

The skills are there – and they’re often sharper than the rest of the job market. For some companies, hiring contractors is going to shape their future working practices – and could even be transformative to their business. Here are just some of the reasons that leaders are hiring freelancers right now:

  1. Get rare, in-demand skills
  2. Save money
  3. Start projects faster
  4. Less hand holding, more expertise
  5. The risks are lower if it doesn’t work out

Read more – 5 Reasons To Hire A Contractor

Adapt to a new way of working – with an expert in your team

ClearHub specialises in finding the best Atlassian freelancers that propel businesses into the future. Want to know more? Get in touch with the ClearHub team today – call +44 (0) 2381 157811 or send your message to

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