The freelance market has expanded rapidly in recent years drawn in by the flexibility of creating own schedules and skipping the 9-to-5 grind. While the gig economy attracts strong participation, many of the space’s workers and employers still rely on old-fashioned payment methods. The Gig Economy Index outlined that a significant share of employees are still paid using cash and checks, and the lack of additional options could inhibit freelance work. More than 84 percent of surveyed gig workers said they would take on more jobs if they were paid faster. The rise of smarter payment systems could shift the space toward more modern options, like direct deposit or real-time solutions, which could meet a gig worker’s need for speed. Dave O’Flynn, Chief Product Officer at Engage, recognises that systems used to pay freelancers must get smarter before they get faster, which involves streamlining the sometimes-complicated freelancer hiring process. “A very large percentage of the time, [a] recruitment agency will outsource some or all of the payroll to an employment business or a [professional employment organization],” O’Flynn told PYMNTS in a recent interview. “It’s a very inefficient and mistake-prone process.” Time to retire timesheets? Many inefficiencies involved in hiring and paying freelancers are tied to how they report their work. Companies are still using outdated timesheet forms, which O’Flynn noted. “Horrendously, in 2018, the standard way that all these people communicate is by emailing Excel spreadsheets full of sensitive, personally identifying information”. This can cause trouble if the wrong recipient mistakenly receives a file. O’Flynn also pointed out that if an old Excel spreadsheet file is submitted, the wrong worker could receive payments. In these instances, some workers may be paid twice while others go unpaid. Engage Tech addresses these freelance hiring process frictions with our cloud-based solution that automate work verification documents and payroll requirements. “The hard part is not filling in a timesheet,” O’Flynn said. “The hard part is making sure everyone involved with that timesheet sees it safely, correctly and securely without anyone doing double entry.” This automated verification approach prevents freelancers and gig workers from having to submit original documents or to verify and retain original copies. It also shields employers from potential data breaches or GDPR violations. In the UK companies can face fines of up to £20,000 per illegal worker, while employers can face up to five years in jail. Engages platform allows only relevant parties to view the necessary data until the assignment is completed. This helps securely store workers’ data on the platform and keep it from being shared or accessed by new employers until a new assignment is initiated. “The fact that it lives in one place, where everybody who needs to see it can see it,” he said, “takes away this whole informal network of horribly insecure practices around people’s private information.” Smarter payments, happier workers Removing cumbersome and manual identity verification elements in the gig economy can encourage more workers to participate, O’Flynn said. Another strong step, however, would be removing common payment frictions. Faster payment systems global rise is an encouraging sign that workers will encounter fewer payment process delays. O’Flynn is also interested in how digital banks develop services that utilize faster payments’ infrastructure. Services that deliver or come close to delivering real-time capabilities could have the most impact on freelancers’ lives. “If you’re filling out a timesheet as a freelancer, generally you’re filling out one timesheet per week and you’re getting paid maybe a week later.” While this arrangement might satisfy freelancers who are on high day rates, the wait is considerably more difficult for minimum wage-earning freelancers who face greater financial stress. The availability of near-instant payments could alleviate that stress and inconvenience by helping freelancers use their smartphones to digitally submit timesheets. Once timesheets are submitted and approved, funds can enter their accounts within two minutes to two hours, which keeps workers from waiting up to a week for checks. Removing common payment frictions also eliminates barriers to gig economy participation. “It becomes worthwhile to work one shift as a barista, one shift as a security guard or one shift as a nurse,” he said. “Being able to do hour-by-hour payments opens up a whole world that wasn’t previously there.” As payments become smarter, faster and more secure, they can also promise freelancers more stability and security, which could bring more participants into the gig economy.
Engage Tech is calling recruiters to streamline their compliance checking and recordkeeping as a matter of urgency with Brexit and its potential impact on Freedom of Movement just one of the hurdles agencies face in 2019. With a potential shortage of labour across a number of industries and the possibility for greater employment and right to work checks after 29th March 2019, recruitment firms need to ensure they have efficient processes in place now in order to limit the potential impact on their business. Ben Wardleworth, Business Development Director at Engage commented: “While we’re still relatively in the dark as to exactly what will happen once the UK leaves the Bloc, we can say with some certainty that there will be hiring challenges for most agencies. The likelihood is that right to work checks will become more stringent and possibly complex after our exit, and we would advise that agencies don’t take a ‘wait and see’ approach when it comes to their compliance procedures and record keeping. “Businesses sourcing EU contractors who are still unaware of their rights to work, could also see a drop in staff over the next few months. This means recruiters need to tighten their relationships with existing clients and candidates and utilise technology to gain visibility to all existing databases in order to remain competitive. Ultimately, compliance drives efficiency which in turn reduces costs. By ensuring that you, and indeed your clients, are recording the required information from workers and, crucially, that there is visibility of this in order to limit time-impacting duplication, firms can better weather the coming storm.”
Facilities management firms are turning to financial incentives to lure top contract talent as the Brexit vote drives EU citizens out of the UK. The staffing software supplier’s pay data has revealed that since the vote to leave the Bloc in 2016, hourly pay for skills-short roles has increased, with maintenance positions in particular noting an uptick in money. Handymen and mechanical maintenance professionals reported the greatest increase in the three years since the vote at 13% and 10% respectively, while electricians saw a 5% rise in hourly rates. This data has been revealed amid news from the CIPD that talent shortages are already being felt ahead of the UK’s exit from the EU next year. According to its latest Labour Market Outlook report, a third of employers of EU citizens have reported that the Brexit decision has led to an exodus of these professionals from their UK base. Drey Francis, Sales Director at Engage commented: “For Facilities management firms, maintaining reliable access to a team of maintenance professionals was already an issue before the Brexit vote. Since the decision was made to exit the EU, this issue has deteriorated further, with many of the FM firms we have a relationship with reporting that availability of these professionals is one of their biggest concerns going in to 2019. “Given how sparse some of the talent for these roles is in general, it’s perhaps no wonder that employers are turning to financial incentives to attract staff. However, this isn’t a sustainable approach. Of course, we still need to wait and see what happens in terms of the agreement on the Freedom of Movement for the UK, but action can be taken now to improve staffing efficiencies in order to better cope with the expected upheaval in Spring 2019. For example, where FM businesses have widespread operations, there are often resources that can be utilised in other locations, but a lack of visibility of this information is preventing hiring managers from tapping into these staffing pools.”
In light of the growing demand for fully integrated VMS and Agency Back Office systems, Engage has secured a second round of investment of £5 million as tech specialist investors seek to support the continued growth of our cloud native platform. This latest news comes at a time when we have seen our client base increase three-fold in 2018, underpinned by a 50 per cent rise in headcount across the software engineering team. Howard Hughes, CEO commented on this latest success: “The significant growth in our client base so far this year really is testament to the fact that people are looking to invest in disruptive technology such as ours which lets workers, hirers, and agencies collaborate from vacancy through to employee pay – and it’s clearly working. In fact, during this year to date weekly transactions processed through the Engage VMS and Agency Back Office platforms have doubled. “Securing this second round of investment will enable us to support existing and new customers going forward, we’ll be channelling these funds into increasing headcount in our engineering and client on boarding teams to ensure the first-class service we offer continues.”
Integrating online identity verification into Engage’s SaaS recruitment platform streamlines time-consuming and manual verification process with state-of-the-art verification technologies. As recruiters will be aware, right to work checks are a compulsory step in the UK recruitment process. Applicants must supply original identity documents, which must be verified as valid, copies retained and a record made of the date the check was made. This manual process can be time-consuming for hiring companies and exposes them to potential data breaches and GDPR scrutiny. The maximum fine for hiring illegal workers is £20,000 per illegal worker and employers knowingly hiring someone who does not have the right to work in the UK could face up to five years in jail (whereas the illegal worker would face six months). Employing the same technology used by EasyJet, Monzo and WeWork the integration enables Engage to automatically verify passports, ID cards, biometric residence permits and other forms of identification from over 200 countries to verify workers’ eligibility and actual identity. Workers receive an email or text message invitation to provide their ID and right to work documentation via unique URLs, linking them to the Engage platform, where they can upload or use a camera to take pictures of their documents and of themselves. The automated verification process is then run by Jumio’s Netverify solution, while workers are kept in the loop via notifications. As a PCI-DSS compliant solution, Jumio is also helping Engage meet the stringent data protection and privacy requirements of GDPR. “Our mission is to connect end-hirers, agencies, payrolls and workers on a self-service platform that seamlessly navigates the entire recruitment process with incredible efficiency, from vacancy to billing,” said Alex Fraser, Marketing Director at Engage. “Working in partnership with Jumio, we're able to provide instant verification to prove that employees are who they say they are and can now offer the necessary compliance with right to work regulation to our clients, especially in the contingency staffing market." Ensuring that every employee has the right to work in the UK is one of the core duties of an employer. It’s not an extra, or a nice to have: it’s essential for all businesses, regardless of size or industry sector. Integrating a secure and reliable identity verification solution helps Engage deliver a more complete solution to its business customers, comply with the Home Office guidelines, avoid compliance penalties and reduce the likelihood of regular spot checks by the HM Revenue & Customs.
An all-inclusive approach is still needed in some areas of recruitment In the past decade, recruitment has moved away from the domination of the generalist and now favours the specialist agency. Indeed, the consistent increase of start-up businesses launching over the past few years – with 9,001 new companies set up in 2017 alone – indicates a sharp rise in niche firms operating in the UK. But while niche ‘inch-wide, mile-deep’ recruitment is, arguably, the best way to futureproof your firm, you do need to find the right balance. For both generalist and specialist firms, there’s still a need for an all-inclusive approach across some elements of the hiring process. Recruiters have long discussed the idea that the candidate experience has taken on a consumer-like style. However, I’d argue it’s not just applicants who expect this. We all demand it in everything we do. We want our suppliers to provide us with top-notch, streamlined services similar to the experience we’ve come to expect from Amazon, for example, where you can purchase virtually anything you need in one place. And your clients want this approach as well. The driver of this change – as with most of today’s evolution – is technology. We all want an instant solution, which offers the most seamless option possible – without juggling multiple processes and relationships. Employers, for example, don’t want to be managing several firms that specialise in one particular field through separate emails, meetings and calls to source the talent they need across their entire business. Managing multiple agency relationships through siloed channels, while also ensuring each of these really ‘gets’ the employer brand and represents the company well in candidate communications, is an unnecessary and hugely time-consuming headache for internal hiring managers – hence the strong growth in the managed services/RPO model.
We can’t ignore what everyone is crying out for: a one-stop-shop solutionFor recruiters themselves, jumping across CRM/ATS systems and compliance platforms can be a logistical nightmare. If hiring managers are making use of the managed service RPO model, why aren’t there more examples of inclusive offerings for the recruitment sector itself? If we take technology as an example, there have long been calls to be a specialist in a certain niche rather than look at an all-encompassing solution. Even with social media, we’re told to pick one platform and channel our efforts into this. But is that really the best solution? It’s undeniably difficult in this recruitment realm to buck the trend and go against the advice of our peers. In fact, whenever I’ve discussed the idea of a streamlined and inclusive offering with my network, the advice has always been to stop trying to deliver an all-encompassing solution and pick one area to invest in. But how else is the industry going to evolve alongside the sectors it services. Everyone in recruitment needs to be bold and believe in the power of an inclusive approach. Yes, there will be a need for niche offerings as skills shortages drive this demand. However to survive, recruitment firms of all types have to evolve and look at other service models that complement the specialist niche in which they operate. We can’t ignore what everyone is crying out for: a one-stop-shop solution, whether that be an all-encompassing recruitment partner that delivers specialist talent while managing other generalist suppliers, or a single platform that pulls all your administrative and back-office systems together.
Construction is behind the times when it comes to the successful integration of technology. While there has been some introduction of innovative approaches – drones on site and 3D printing, for example – cases of sustained incorporation are few and far between. So why is the sector so adverse to tech?
Following calls from the House of Lord’s Science and Technology Committee for the construction sector to avail itself of modern technology in order increase productivity, expert insight warns that a full package of investment is required. Investing in small areas of tech won’t cure construction’s dwindling productivity, says software and service providers Engage Technology Partners, with them advising that a focus on outputs alone won’t deliver an increase in production. The Committee advised the industry should increase its use of offsite manufacturing and other new technologies in order to improve productivity. However, Engage explain it is not so cut and dried. Drey Francis, Director at Engage explains: “While investing in more efficient processes such as offsite manufacturing is certainly a step in the right direction, this alone won’t solve the problem of hard to meet targets. There’s immense stress on the industry at the moment, with a high demand of expectations and low availability of talent. What we need to see is a greater focus on the use of technology across the entire construction remit, rather than just pockets of investment in the likes of offsite manufacturing.
“For example, small steps in back office systems which provide real-time, transparent data can help firms keep project costings on track, identify staffing shortages early on and, ultimately, ensure completion targets are more likely to be met. If we look at examples from other sectors – such as travel and entertainment – it’s clear that the integration of technology across all areas of the business can help a firm thrive. With pressure on the sector set to increase, now really is the time for construction to play catch up.”
New research has revealed the effect that the skills shortage within the construction industry is having on wages, with some roles seeing hourly rates more than doubling in the last four years. According to the data from software and service supplier, Engage Technology Partners, Crawler Crane Operators have noted the greatest increase in rates (82%) in the years 2015 – 2018, with much of this demand likely coming from the Crossrail project. EWP operators saw the second greatest rise in pay with a 77% increase, while Electrical Testers ranked third on the list with a growth in wages of 66%. In comparison, roles such as Maintenance Carpenter and Ground / Highway Labourer have reported a dip in pay, noting a decrease of 27% and 19% respectively over the last four years. This information comes at a time when the latest Barbour ABI Economic & Construction Market Review suggests the industry is facing a dip in activity, with the value of new construction contracts awarded in June 2018 reportedly the lowest figure in more than five years. Drey Francis, Director at Engage commented on the data: “The construction industry has long struggled with a skills shortage that has arguably been exacerbated by the stereotype of the industry as ‘male-only’ and the perception that it is not a ‘career of choice’ for most. However, this dearth of talent has led to many employers using financial incentives to source the professionals they need to do the job – hence the stark rise in hourly pay that we’ve noted in recent years.
“Given the current drop in project contracts, though, this increase in pay is certainly a worry for employers who will have to juggle resourcing needs and strict budgets. However, while the likes of Crawler Crane Operators can currently demand higher wages, firms can streamline costs elsewhere – through more efficient administrative reporting and timesheet monitoring systems – to better ensure their business withstands this slow period.”
Louise Skelding has joined Engage as Head of Customer Success. Louise is a recruitment software industry professional who brings with her many years of Customer Success and Account Management experience from management roles at Bullhorn and two leading specialist recruitment companies; Huntress and Office Angels. Her specialties include the Recruitment Process, Driving Product Usage, Minimising Churn, Business Analysis, Training, Database Configuration, Post Implementation Support and Team Management. Drey Francis, Commercial Director at Engage welcomes Louise: “As Engage continues to grow as a business, so too will our team of experts in software management and customer services. In this new role Louise will be ensuring that clients enjoy long term value from their investment in Engage VMS, back office or outsourced payroll systems. We’re all looking forward to working with her.”