A growing number of UK employees are running their own businesses in addition to their main employment, yet employers are proving slow to recognise the opportunities this presents.
As many as one in four UK employees have at least one business project outside their main nine-to-five job, according to research from Henley Business School. These aptly named ‘side hustlers’ contribute a staggering £72 billion to the UK economy already and it’s on the rise. It’s expected that 50% of all UK employees will have an income-generating side project by 2030.
So if 50% of the talent pool is actively finding ways to monetise its interests, passions and ideas, employers are faced with a choice – to harness this for their own advantage or to risk losing this talent altogether.
The two main enablers of this entrepreneurial boom are almost certainly technology and security. In a digital age, it is the proliferation of devices and connectivity that has made it possible for employees to turn their ideas into commercial reality with minimal investment. In many cases a mobile phone is all they need to get started. The second enabler is stability, something that employees have been increasingly seeking since the financial crash of 2008. With more and more people wanting to take control of their own careers and reduce their reliance on one source of income, it’s not surprising that small-scale entrepreneurship has considerable appeal.
The research certainly bears this out and suggests that the main reasons for taking on a side project are to supplement income, fulfill passions and take on new challenges. However, while the advent of the side hustler shows that entrepreneurial spirit is running high, there are still many employers with mixed feelings. For some, secondary jobs are seen as an unnecessary distraction, a sign of poor commitment or a discontent worker with an intention to leave.
It is forward thinking and progressive employers that see this as an exciting, dynamic and free way to strengthen their workforces and boost productivity. The Henley Business School’s report suggest that ‘side hustlers’ tend to feel more content in their work life, have strong networks and wider contacts, bring new skills and ideas to the table and are excellent innovators. In other words, these employees bring more skills, insights and ideas to the table and show themselves to be passionate and focused self-starters. They have the power to deliver business transformation.
Flexibility is one of the biggest requirements of this group, as they actively want to choose how, when and where they work in order to pursue both their main job and their own projects. It will be the employers that ingrain flexibility and agility into their operations and that empower employees to make choices about how, when and where they work, that will do the best at retaining these entrepreneurial talents and their skills. Ambivalent employers who are suspicious of outside interests and slow to support employees’ wider ambitions will inevitably lose out as their talented workforce goes elsewhere.
Those business leaders that value ‘side hustlers’ are already experiencing very tangible business benefits. Sixty percent said that supporting employees in the pursuit of side projects has made their employees happier and more productive, 49% said it has actively helped them to retain talent and 50% said it had helped to attract new talent.
‘Side hustlers’ are growing in number and that means they’ll grow in power too as their economic contribution and collective worth does the same. The question is are you flexible enough to support the hustlers and harness their power?