The Changing Face of the Irish Workforce

by Dan Potts, Director of Contracting at Executive Connections

The Irish workforce is changing. There has been a radical shift in workforce dynamics that, for the most part heretofore, has gone unnoticed. Independent professional contractors are now becoming a more mainstream solution to staffing needs, having mainly operated in small groups or working on the periphery of businesses in the past. The introduction of the Gig Economy has only accelerated this process, with the need for flexible working becoming one of the main drivers attracting talent.

We are seeing more and more people removing the shackles of the traditional “permanent job” and venturing into the realm of Contracting as self-employed workers. University lecturers in NUI and Trinity have already seen this shift in mentality with over 75% of business undergraduates indicating they plan on being self-employed; a tenfold increase in the last 25 years.

Did you know that 72 new companies were incorporated daily in Q1 of this year? The highest recorded number since the peak of the boom. The emerging trend towards self-employment is gathering significant momentum. Independent professional contractors enjoy greater levels of autonomy, as well as a greater variety of work challenges and environments than the traditional permanent employment routes can offer.

For some this may seem like the latest ‘fad’, however, having personally spent over a decade working with senior level contract professionals around the world I can safely say this ‘fad’ will go the distance and become a mainstay feature of our workforce. According to a report* from the McKinsey Global Institute, up to 162 million people in Europe and the United States are currently engaged in some form of independent work — that equates to 20 – 30 percent of the working-age population in those geographies. A snapshot of some of the leading economies demonstrates this phenomenon:

  • USA accounts for 58 million independent workers
  • Germany – 21 million
  • United Kingdom – 14 million
  • With the remaining countries ranging from a few hundred thousand up to 12 million.

Now we understand the more central role contracting will play in the Irish economy’s future, it’s a great time to look at the value which independent professional contractors can deliver towards business growth!

So, let’s look at the typical characteristics of a quality Contracting Professional;

  1. They are subject matter experts in their field with a wealth of extensive experience
  2. They enjoy the ever-changing landscape and variety that contracting offers
  3. They provide impartial independent analysis and advice – unconfined by corporate structure and established norms
  4. They are driven to succeed… in a market where you are only as good as your last project! Failure is not an option.
  5. This also means that they have no desire to become part of the furniture and they are at their best when they can deliver and fly off to the next client/ project in need of their extraordinary set of skills and abilities.

With over 33% of Irish CEO’s saying they are missing growth targets due to lack of availability of key skills a key finding in PWC’s 22nd Annual Global CEO Survey, combined with Ireland falling to 21st in the world rankings for attracting and retaining talent (IMD World Rankings), there has never been a better time to embrace new talent strategies.

The Rise of the Contractor model offers an extraordinary opportunity for businesses of all shapes and sizes to challenge and change outdated thinking and processes and embrace a more flexible workforce.

*(McKinsey Global Institute – Choice, Necessity and the Gig Economy

Categories: Recruitment

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