Brexit, incoming IR35 reform and the latest Coronavirus pandemic wave are together creating an uncertain hiring climate for contractors, many of whom are concerned about their business prospects in 2021.
This combination of factors, which looks set to dominate the conversation for contractors in the coming year, means independent professionals need a fast, effective and straightforward hiring process. This process needs to source contractors new projects in real-time and unite them with clients who require their exact skills.
If last year taught us anything, it’s that predicting the future is nigh on impossible. However, there is perhaps one thing we can say with some certainty – that businesses are adapting despite economic challenges and digital technology uptake is rapidly increasing across the board.
In my opinion, this at least plays into the hands of contractors, who stand ready to benefit from faster and more efficient ways to find and win new work. HMRC agrees, and recognises the growing popularity of online platforms in the UK economy: “These business models bring opportunities to maximise effective use of assets, and allow people to engage with the labour market more flexibly.“
With this in mind, I think we can safely expect a rise in the number of digital recruitment platforms that make it easier for contractors to connect quickly and compliantly with clients who need their services. Assuming this is the case, and digital platforms represent the future of contractor recruitment, how exactly can they help you win work in 2021 and beyond?
Finding a contractor, let alone the right contractor, is a time-consuming, costly and stressful job for many businesses. Equally, as a contractor, you fight a constant battle to find the right project at the right time at the correct rate.
However, as clients streamline their business operations – and the pandemic has accelerated this trend – the move towards real-time hiring will be vital to bridging the gap between supply and demand for skills in the most efficient way.
To that end, digital hiring platforms can be an effective solution to connect with more relevant clients faster. By harnessing smart technology, everyone will save time, reduce costs and increase productivity.
The relevance of contracts is arguably the primary concern of contractors. In my experience, contractors perceive clients’ requirements as vague, and they have difficulty extracting the critical issues from generic job adverts and role descriptions. As a result, they end up frustrated, perform tasks that they don’t want to do or ones that don’t match their core skills.
A hiring platform can provide a detailed Statement of Work (SoW) document to match you with clients who need your specific skills. They should also deliver comprehensive skills libraries that are sector-specific. In short, digital platforms help you win more relevant clients and ensure that you’re well-placed to provide a better service that results in repeat business.
From 6th April, contractors engaged by medium and large businesses will no longer be responsible for determining their IR35 status, with the client to be tasked with making these decisions. As a result, IR35 assurance will be vital to digital hiring platforms in the coming years. By providing a new ecosystem that creates value by combining an integrated SoW, IR35 status determination, substitution, insurance, and review process, clients can engage contractors confidently on digital platforms that offer this aspect.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak, businesses now rely on video tools to interview and engage contractors they’ve never met before. With the rapid uptake of Zoom and Microsoft Teams, contractors are already showing their resilience and adjustment to change. But is the hiring industry ready? In my opinion, yes. Take the construction sector – while sites continue to operate during the UK-wide lockdown, when it comes to recruitment, remote onboarding and interviewing is fast-becoming the norm.
In the short-to-medium-term, I expect businesses to continue engaging contractors remotely. Digital hiring platforms can help with this by offering in-built video rooms to help secure and facilitate interviews.
Transparency is a core pillar of relationships, business and personal. In the past, recruitment agencies used to withhold information from you – whether the client’s name, budget, deadlines, specific skills, technical requirements or even feedback. The lack of this vital information can adversely affect your performance and your relationship with your client.
How can digital hiring platforms help contractors? They get rid of frictions and complexities by giving you full visibility into the marketplace. You connect directly with clients, set your rates, agree deliverables, send invoices and get honest feedback.
Keep your options open. To succeed as a contractor this year, you need to make it easy for your clients to find and hire you. That means to increase your visibility, embrace IR35 compliance and foster transparency in your business activities. In 2021 and beyond, digital platforms can help you source work, enhance your reputation and build more trust between you and your clients.
This article was written by Paul Njonga, founder of Survehub, a digital platform that makes it easy for businesses to connect with professional contractors.