More than half of US workforce will have worked independently in next decade, MBO report says

Gene Zaino


From Staffing Industry Analysts, MBO Partners’ research indicates that more than half of the US workforce will be independent workers:

More than half of the US workforce will work as an independent professional at some point over the next decade, according to predictions released today by MBO Partners, a provider of independent contractor engagement solutions. More than 40% of the American adult workforce reports currently or previously having worked as an Independent. In the next decade; that number will grow to nearly 60%, the firm predicts.

“It’s no secret that the number of Americans choosing independent work is growing,” said MBO Partners CEO Gene Zaino. “The very nature of work in America is changing rapidly, resulting in a fundamental shift in the landscape over the course of the next decade.”

MBO’s 10 predictions for the next decade of independent work include the following:

  1. By 2027, more than half of the workforce will be, or will have been, an independent.
  2. Independence will become an episodic destination, not an end state. Satisfaction levels for Independents are the highest they’ve ever been, but many will return to traditional work to gain new skills, cycling back to independent work several times.
  3. The barbell effect will continue. There will continue to be large-scale growth at both the high and low ends of the independent economic spectrum, with gig workers continuing to partner with commodity platforms (e.g. Uber, TaskRabbit) to provide task-based services, while demand increases for highly-skilled Independents, even more of whom will earn more than $100,000 annually.
  4. People will buy results, not labor. Organizations will begin to place a premium on results achieved rather than the worker. Work will become productized and broken into smaller deliverables, and Independents will learn how to deliver and charge for scalable units of work.
  5. Independents will team up for maximum results. When bigger and more complex project needs arise, Independents will become increasingly savvy about teaming. Many Independents already pull together teams to work towards a product or deliverable, and this more modern approach helps avoid the complex, permanent decision of traditional partnership businesses.
  6. Automation and AI will impact high-skilled and less-skill independents differently. Technology is evolving at an exponential rate, and shrewd Independents will take advantage of these developments rather than resist them. At the high end, many Independents may work closely with robots that do more of the menial and automated tasks (so-called “co-boting”), while some less skilled gig workers may be displaced by self-driving cars or drone-based delivery machines.
  7. Gen Z will be the most independent generation yet.  By 2027, a large portion of Gen Z (currently aged five to 19) will be in the working world, and these digital, mobile-literate natives are expected to greatly impact both traditional and independent work. They are the most entrepreneurial and independence-driven generation yet, making them ideal candidates for the independent work lifestyle.
  8. Traditional retirement will no longer be the goal. Many baby boomers are taking up second careers as independents. This trend will continue, with workers pursuing passion projects well into their 80s and beyond. Older workers also prefer highly flexible, part-time work, and being independent is the best way to achieve this.
  9. Companies will compete aggressively to attract top independent talent. The unique combination of a skills gap, talent shortage and increasing desire among workers to have an independent career means companies will have to compete in a war for talent, both for traditional employees and Independents. Companies will continue to refine policies to attract top talent, with a focus on becoming a “client of choice” for the independent workforce.
  10. Public policy will evolve to match the changing nature of work. The current administration has pledged to continue cutting regulations, so changes are likely to be made to the tax code to benefit independent professionals, including establishing a safe harbor with protections and guidelines for properly engaging such workers. In the coming years, there may even be a certification or licensure established for compliant independent professionals, as championed in MBO’s Certified Self-Employed proposal.

MBO Partners made its predictions into the future of the US workforce based on data from seven consecutive years of research and insights from its 20 years in the industry.

Source: More than half of US workforce will have worked independently in next decade, MBO report says

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