You may not be able to predict the future, but you can get a glimpse of it in the latest Future Workforce Report. Upwork, the largest global freelancing website, commissioned the report to examine hiring challenges and tech-induced work changes companies face today. Independent research firm, Inavero, surveyed over 1,000 U.S. managers across multiple industries and companies with five to over 5,000 workers. Here’s a recap of the report’s findings.

Hiring remains a challenge

It’s no secret that talent is still hard to find. At some point in 2017, nearly all hiring managers (91%) had unfilled positions on their team. On average, positions remained open for 36 days, up to 45 days for engineering jobs. Why the difficulty? In large part, it’s because skills are changing.

Evolving technology demands more specialized skills. While most of the survey participants believe companies should invest in retraining, they admit that may not be enough.

The new skills in highest demand are in big data and analytics, marketing/sales automation, and the Internet of Things (IoT).

Flexing to get (and keep) talent

Flexible workers don’t just apply to temporary workers and freelancers. They can also be employees who want more freedom and relief from slogging through commute traffic every day. It appears companies are responding to employee needs as 63% of teams overall have remote workers.

Hiring managers predict that within the next few years, over one-third (38%) of their employees will spend most of their time working remotely. The trend may foretell a time when the option to work remotely will graduate from a perk, to a requirement for attracting and retaining top talent.

If you can’t hire them locally, engage them remotely

When Silicon Valley-based Chess.com, the largest online Chess community, started in 2005, the founders had a hard time finding qualified talent. They were either working for another company or starting their own. “We didn’t set out to build a virtual workforce,” says Erik Allebest, co-founder and CEO at Chess.com. “Looking outside our local market became the quickest way to access the skills we needed. Today, our team is entirely virtual, with team members located across 12 countries. I’m a firm believer in the remote workforce model. At the end of the day, we want to give our team members the freedom to choose how they work and the ability to live their best lives.”

Of the more than 1,000 companies surveyed, the majority (59%) utilize flexible talent—a 24% jump from 2017.

Sometimes, companies must go where the talent is, rather than the other way around. Chris Barber is a blockchain consultant living in a small Canadian town. There’s not much demand for his skills locally, but many companies worldwide want his knowledge. By working remotely, Barber can help companies understand this nascent technology without having to compromise his lifestyle.

Incentive to establish remote workforce policies

While most organizations (64%) feel they have the resources in place to support remote work, the majority (57%) lack a formal remote workforce policy. Companies without work-from-home policies may be shortchanging themselves.

Of the hiring managers with remote workforce policies, 61% believe hiring has become easier in the past year.

What’s more, adopting remote work policies isn’t as daunting as some companies may believe. In fact, companies with policies in place are becoming more lenient and inclusive. Employees are working from home more days of the week, and a greater number of remote workforce policies include freelancers.

Shifting mindsets

In a webinar with Spend Matters, Kevin Dawson, executive director of software innovation at GE Digital, says the future of work requires assembling agile, flexible teams on demand. He suggests hiring managers stop thinking about what roles they need filled. Instead ask, what skills do I need to get the work done? What skills exist inside my company already? How do I best leverage those skills or find the external talent I need? Then you’ll see how the future of work is less about talent acquisition, and more about talent access.

This mindset is permeating all businesses from startups to global enterprises. Companies are embracing that model to increase productivity, innovation, and speed. In the report, twice as many hiring managers say being the most skilled person for the job is more important than being able to work from the same location as the rest of the team.

With the plethora of collaboration technology available, it’s easier than ever to work with remote teams. Tango, a popular mobile messaging app, engaged customer support agents in 10 countries to provide 24/7 support nearly overnight. GoDaddy engaged over 70 remote website designers to create and launch a new revenue stream.

The Future Workforce Report suggests that companies that support remote work get critical work done and have fewer talent shortages. Perhaps that’s why nearly nine in 10 companies (88%) have developed a more agile, flexible talent strategy.

For further insights, see the Future Workforce Report 2018 results deck here.

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