A new study of hiring trends among European and British employers has found a rapidly-expanding “professional gig economy” comprised highly skilled contracting workers.

The study, which was published by Odgers Connect (the consulting wing of executive search firm Odgers Berndston), was compiled by Source Global Research, a world leader in the provision of research, data, and strategic advice about the global management consulting industry. The findings indicate that growing numbers of organisations in the EU and Britain have been paring down their core staff and turning to outsourced independent contracting professionals instead.

Researchers surveyed senior executives based in 250 British and European organisations and revealed a significant change in outlook among them, in favour of outsourced professional support which is driving rising demand for independent flexible workers.

The Source study found that the largest impact occurred at the highest tier of the professional workplace. British organisations, for example, spent approximately £2bn (out of a total of £9.75bn) on contracting management consultants, who between them supplied 20% of all consultancy to UK organisations.

According to Source estimates, if this proportion reflects similar trends in the broader market for flexible workers and independent professional services (which wat estimated to be worth £215bn in 2016), Britain’s professional gig economy (defined as outsourced independent professionals engaged on a project-by-project basis) is currently worth more than £40bn a year. While this is an approximation because no solid data currently exists, it nonetheless provides an initial “educated estimate”, so to speak, of the magnitude and worth of Britain’s independent professional contracting sector.

Emphasising the rapid growth of a new army of independent consultants and professionals within both the private and public sectors, the Principal of Odgers Connect, Adam Gates, said:

“Brexit is accelerating this trend due to the uncertainty it is creating. Companies need professional support to navigate through these uncertain times, without increasing costs and headcount –further encouraging them to bring in independent operators.

“All organisations – across both private and public sectors – want more flexibility, expertise and value, and independent professionals deliver it. A quiet revolution is underway in the professional workplace, across both the UK and Europe, driven by the changing needs of employers – and this genie isn’t going back in the bottle.”

The Source survey polled board-level hiring decision-makers in more than 250 mid-sized organisations, over half of which were located in Britain. The remainder were distributed between Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland. The key conclusion of the study is that conditions are optimal for a boom in the engagement of high-end independent professionals who provide a skilled talent pool at a time when organisations are increasingly seeking greater flexibility.

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