Flexible working – the future of talent?

Not so long ago, flexible working was practically unheard of and many employers viewed it with scepticism. However, in today’s market – candidate-driven and facing acute skills shortages in several sectors – it has become more important than ever to tap into talent which is not accessible unless flexibility in the workplace is offered. With an increasing number of jobseekers searching for flexible working opportunities and passive candidates willing to make career moves for a better work-life balance, flexibility is now a concept that recruiters should take very seriously. It’s clear that flexible working is not a fad but rather a trend that is set to rise in the decade to come.  

What does flexible working look like?

The definition of flexible working is flexible in itself. Essentially, it is a term used to describe any form of working arrangements that differs from a traditional 9-5, five days a week in the office job structure. This might be in the form of reduced working hours, flexitime, or remote working within an employed role, or as freelance or contract work.   

A growing trend

According to a 2018 report by Morgan Stanley, freelancing grew at a faster rate than overall employment. ONS data recorded a two-thirds growth of self-employed people as compared to those hired by employers in 2019 and by the close of the year, the number of self-employed workers in the UK had risen to nearly 5 million. A report by Timewise found that a staggering 92% of millennials view flexibility as a top priority when job seeking and research by PowWowNow revealed that 81% of employees in the UK believe that a job would be more attractive if it offered flexible working arrangements.   

The benefits of flexibility for employees

So why are we seeing such a sharp rise in those seeking flexible working opportunities? Technical advances have freed people from working statically. With a laptop and internet access, you can work anywhere in the world and still be in constant communication. Freelance work has become far easier, partly accounting for the increase in those setting up as self-employed. There are of course many benefits, including the ability to be your own boss, a better work-life balance, and the ability to work and travel – the latter being the top reason for a sharp rise in school leavers and graduates choosing to freelance.

Flexible working as a strategic recruitment solution 

The recruitment industry has been hit by declining birth rates reducing the talent pool and skills shortages in sectors such as IT. In many industries, it’s a case of fewer applicants, more jobs. A 2018 talent shortage survey by Manpower reported that 45% of surveyed employers worldwide admitted struggling to fill positions, the largest percentage since 2006. One possible way to resolve this dearth in talent is to use freelance workers, not just as a short-term solution to fill a role in tight times, but as a long-term strategy. What this involves is a rewiring to search for talent in whatever capacity. Not only does offering flexible working incentivise jobseekers to apply and allow recruiters to lure the best talent, it also widens the talent pool massively. If it is a role that can be performed remotely, employing freelancers allows recruiters access to a global talent pool.   

Flexible working comes in many forms, whether offered as a flexible approach to working within a permanent role or as a contract hire on a freelance basis. It is a trend that is forecast to grow rapidly and recruiters can use it to their advantage, both to attract talent seeking a better work-life balance and to tap into a market that could provide solutions to hard-to-fill vacancies.    


Wave is proud to be hosting its 2nd Talent Matters event on February 27th, this time focusing on flexible working and the impact it’s having on the recruitment industry. We feel there has never been a better time to talk about flexible talent and have engaged Emma Stewart, CEO and Co-founder of leading flexible working consultancy Timewise. She will be talking alongside best-selling author of competitive People Strategy’ Kevin Green, as well as Dave Jenkins, CEO of award-winning Wave.