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The robots aren’t coming: Permanent employees are the most “flexible friend” of growing businesses, not the gig economy or artificial intelligence, according to new report
01 October 2018

Growing businesses are still far more focused on recruitment of permanent resources than they are on either short-term or gig economy type recruitment or on turning to artificial intelligence (AI) or other software resources, according to a new report on business agility from Thames Valley-based specialist technology law firm Boyes Turner.

The report, “Building agile businesses in a changing world”, finds:

  • 62% of firms say they either predominately or exclusively recruit long-term, permanent employees, with only 4% saying they favour short-term resources and contractors – none are exclusively turning to this type of short-term resourcing.
  • 49% of firms say they see no benefit from the gig economy, and 47% see some benefit, but only 4% say their firm benefits greatly from it.
  • 91% of firms say change-ready people were most important to growing an agile business, while only 9% say AI or other technologies are more important.
  • Three fifths of employers (60%) also say they’re investing in training and coaching their existing workforce to maximise agility and resilience to change.

To provide a dynamic and colourful launch for the report, morning commuters at Reading Station on 27 September were treated to a professional acrobatic performance, illustrating the topic of agility.

Mark Blunden, Partner and Head of the Commercial and Technology Group at Boyes Turner, said:
“The gig economy and AI capture the public imagination, but our report shows businesses still value recruiting, retaining and developing long-term employees and training and developing them in preference to more transient types of employment types or technology and AI. Agility is critical in today’s fast moving, ever changing world – but businesses tell us that agility comes from having a loyal and change-ready workforce, not turning to the gig economy or technology as a quick fix.”

Despite this vote of confidence in long-term employees to drive growth, firms do face constraints on agility caused by both their workforce and their workspace:

  • Only 35% of companies say workforce and workspace go hand-in-hand in supporting agility.
  • 30% of companies say their office space is a constraint on the agility of the business.
  • 35% say flexibility of employees and their capability to handle change is a greater constraint on agility than the physical workspace.

Mark Blunden added:
“The vast majority of fast-growing firms are based in leasehold properties. In our experience, though, far too many assume leasing office space is as simple as moving into your first shared flat. In reality, there are many inflexible contractual rules that can make your office more of a straightjacket than a springboard. A flexible workforce needs an adaptable working environment to deliver on its potential.”

Andrew Chalkley, CEO at Boyes Turner, said:
“The Thames Valley has established itself as a leading hub for technology and innovation firms. Our report highlights the ingredients of agility that have enabled so many entrepreneurial firms, large and small, to thrive in the region, and to attract like-minded firms from around the world to set up bases here. A network of government bodies, funders and the wider technology and innovation ecosystem play a huge part in supporting innovation and growth here – and sharing the lessons on agility that our report explores is a big part of that.”

Consistent with our policy when giving comment and advice on a non-specific basis, we cannot assume legal responsibility for the accuracy of any particular statement. In the case of specific problems we recommend that professional advice be sought.

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