Having a diverse workforce is widely recognised as a key factor in business success. Not only does it mean that employers are offering equal opportunities to everybody in society, but it also ensures that organisations benefit from a range of perspectives and ideas, while avoiding falling for ‘groupthink’. In fact, a 2013 report by Deloitte found that when organisations are ‘committed to and supportive of diversity’, their ability to innovate increases by 83%.
But achieving diversity isn’t always easy, requiring employers to look outside their normal circles in order to attract and retain a wider variety of people. Furthermore, some people simply have less inclination to work within a traditional workplace environment or find it hard to adapt to the structures involved, because of their personal needs, lifestyle or responsibilities. This is where freelancing offers an important advantage.
Freelancing has come into its own in the last decade, with research showing a 47% rise in independent professionals between 2008 and 2018. One of the big benefits of this is that it has made many areas of employment more accessible to certain underrepresented groups who need more flexibility or control over how they work. And at the same time, it gives employers a way to engage with talent from a wider range of backgrounds.
A recent report by the IPSE found that one in seven self-employed people are disabled, with the independent lifestyle giving these individuals an important alternative to traditional employment. The report found that disabled people enjoy the flexibility of freelancing, having more control over how they work, and the power it gives them to pursue a passion and improve their self-worth. While traditional workplaces can sometimes be inflexible and have accessibility issues, the flexible nature of freelancing makes it much easier for those with disabilities to design work around their needs rather than having to adapt to existing structures and timings.
A wider range of age groups
Recent hikes in the retirement age, combined with shrinking pension pots mean that people are having to work longer than ever before. But, after 40+ years in the workplace, it is understandable that many older people want to introduce a greater level of flexibility into their work routine, or even try something completely new. Freelancing gives them the perfect opportunity to do that. So it’s perhaps no surprise that the over 65s have seen the biggest rise in self-employment of any age group since 2008 and that the proportion of people in self-employment tends to rise with age, reaching almost half of all those in employment among the over-70s.
Workplaces are gradually becoming more family-friendly, but it is still notoriously difficult for Mums to get back into work after having a baby. Ongoing childcare responsibilities mean that Mums frequently want a job with more flexibility over their hours, or with the opportunity to work from (or close to) home. This can be difficult for some employers to accommodate, so freelancing can be the ideal compromise. Currently, one in eight solo self-employed people are working mothers, a rise of 54% since 2008 – that’s 584,000 Mums across the UK. Plus, over half of these are in highly skilled occupations, highlighting the valuable contribution they make to employers and the economy as a whole.
As freelancers frequently work on a remote basis, this also gives employers the opportunity to hire talent outside of their usual geographical catchment area, whether that is in another area of the UK, or even further afield. While the highest concentration of freelancers is still in London (19%) and the South East (20%), this is changing, with one in ten freelancers now based in the South West, and the North East seeing the largest rise in freelancers between 2017 and 2018. This increasing spread of talent helps to bring valuable employment to less affluent areas of the country, while also giving employers access to talent and perspectives, outside the usual ‘London bubble’ – particularly useful for marketing and comms, where understanding a wide range of target audiences is vital.
The huge rise in freelancers shows how many employers are now tapping into this growing, flexible talent pool, whether to plug skills gaps, provide temporary cover, or provide cost-effective consultancy and support. However, it’s worthwhile also giving some thought to how freelancing can be used as a tool to boost diversity, by enabling your organisation to widen its recruitment net. Talent platforms like The Work Crowd have members hailing from all backgrounds, from all around the country – and even around the world. So, it’s easier than ever to look beyond the usual suspects.
The Work Crowd gives clients a head-start when looking for marketing and communications freelancers, thanks to our community of fully vetted professionals, spanning a range of skills and expertise. To find out more, or post a project, then drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or give us a call on 020 3828 8440, and we can chat through how it works.