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SMEs are turning to freelancers to fill skills gap

Skills shortages have been a major concern for British business for many years now, and recent research by PeoplePerHour (PPH) has revealed that the problem has reached its peak, with almost two thirds of SMEs admitting that in the last three years they’ve abandoned the search for permanent staff members and have instead turned to freelance and remote workers.

This move was driven by necessity following an inability to find staff with the relevant skills in the local area, with a third of SMEs saying that they are seeing fewer qualified applicants than before for roles they advertising. One in four said that they had less time and resources to devote to hiring, and almost a third confessed they found it hard to keep employees up-to-date on skills training for certain roles, which could also be contributing to the problem.

Designers take the top spot in the PPH poll of roles that businesses have been struggling to fill, and while it might be expected that highly specialised or technical roles may be more difficult to fill, three out of four in the remaining top five are roles linked to recent technological developments; software developers, marketing managers and social media specialists. This suggests that technology may be developing too quickly for businesses to cope.

The number of freelance workers registered on PPH has increased by 433% in the last three years, and the freelance marketplace’s own figures reaffirm that it’s these emerging skillsets that are in most demand, with the top five most sought-after being copywriting, social media specialists, development, designers and email marketing.

PeoplePerHour Founder & CEO Xenios Thrasyvoulou comments: ‘Hiring a freelance worker on a temporary basis is considered to be less of a risk than taking on someone permanently, so when time and local talent are both short, outsourcing seems like an obvious solution. When using a rated website, like PPH, employers have the added benefit of being able to select from a pool of talent already used and reviewed by other professionals, so the risks are reduced even further.

‘Our research showed that more than half (54%) of SMEs struggle to find the right talent locally for certain roles. If you’re prepared to work with a remote team you can spread your net so much wider, which allows you to access skilled professionals from all over the world, and it’s often more cost-effective because you’re freed from all of the overheads associated with full time employees.

‘There may be a local skills shortage in certain parts of the UK, but freelancers allow businesses to shop around, and I believe that that is a good thing.’

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