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The alternative workforce
It’s now mainstream
The alternative workforce can be a long-term solution to tight talent markets—but only if treated strategically.
For many years, people viewed contract, freelance, and gig employment as “alternative work,” options considered supplementary to full-time jobs. Today, this segment of the workforce has gone mainstream, and it needs to be managed strategically. Given growing skills shortages and the low birth rate in many countries, leveraging and managing “alternative” workforces will become essential to business growth in the years ahead.
The breadth of the alternative workforce
Once considered a workforce for information technology (IT) or other technical or repeatable tasks, today alternative workers perform a broad range of activities. In this year’s Global Human Capital Trends study, 33 percent of respondents reported extensively using alternative arrangements for IT, 25 percent for operations, 15 percent for marketing, and 15 percent for research and development (figure 1). One of our pharmaceutical clients outsources all of its research, for example; others outsource product design, development, and support.