Over a quarter of organisations rely on freelancers to complete core business tasks, according to survey data from HR services provider SD Worx and Antwerp Management School.

The survey, conducted across five European countries: Belgium, France, Germany, The Netherlands and the UK, also found that HR departments are being cut out of the hiring process.

SD Worx and Antwerp Management School’s study examined how organisations are using freelancers, in which departments, for how long and for what kind of tasks they are hired. It found that businesses employ freelance workers especially for highly specialised tasks, with 50% of organisations bringing independent workers in to capitalise on their specialist skills.

“Organisations understand the need to be agile, but are struggling to achieve this with their internal workforce alone,” the study stated. “With only 36% of organisations reporting that most employees have skills that can be used outside of the current job.”

The research also shows that, across Europe, organisations of all sizes are hiring self-employed workers for a mixture of peripheral and core business tasks. Over a quarter (27%) of respondents frequently trust and rely on freelancers to perform core business tasks. Germany is most likely to use independent workers for core tasks (31%), while companies in Belgium are least likely to (18%).

Meanwhile, the number of businesses using self-employed workers for peripheral tasks is less than core tasks, with 22% of European businesses doing so.

SD Worx and the Antwerp Management School’s study also found that 43% of European businesses frequently use independent workers for short-term assignments, with firms in France doing so most often (47%) and companies in Belgium doing so the least (33%). Fewer European businesses (29%) use independent workers for long-term assignments. Firms in Germany do so the most (34%), with Belgium closing the list at an adoption rate of 20%.

SIA, Staffing Industry Analysts