By Daniel Hunter

Elance, the leading platform for online employment, announced results from its annual global survey on small business hiring, revealing a significant shift toward hiring contingent workers, with businesses turning to online talent as an indispensable employment strategy.

“These results are further proof that the online workforce is powering the economic recovery and support our prediction that 1 out of every 3 people hired in 2020 will be hired online,” said Fabio Rosati, CEO of Elance.

“Online employment is expanding as a core strategy for companies around the world as they realize the tremendous benefits of hiring talent on-demand.”

The Online Road to Recovery

While traditional employment continues to struggle around the world, nearly three-quarters (73%) of respondents plan to hire more online contractors this year than in 2011.The increase is driven by the surge in professionals available online — 40% of companies surveyed claim they can find better talent online than what is available locally. By employing professionals online, businesses are able to stay agile and outperform the competition by hiring the skills they need just-in-time and on-demand.

The New Competitive Edge

According to the survey, 84% of businesses state that online hiring gives them an advantage over competitors, through significant improvements in flexibility, meaningful cost savings and increased productivity. Nearly 70% of businesses experience faster times-to-hire, businesses are achieving an average 53% in cost savings and 55% are able to access talent not otherwise available.

Prophecy for an Online Work World

The next five years will be a tipping point for virtual work as small businesses predict the majority of their workforce (54%) will be online professionals. Web programming, graphic design and content development continue to remain the top three sought after skills by businesses, aligning with findings from the Q1 Elance Global Online Employment Report.

Europe Even More Bullish

European small businesses came out even stronger in support of online work, with 88% claiming it gives them an advantage over their competitors, and 45% stating they find better talent online than locally. Companies in Europe are also at the front of the curve with their prediction that 58% of their workforce will be online professionals within five years.

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