Food manufacturing jobs are becoming increasingly difficult to fill. There’s a shortage of qualified job applicants, especially for jobs that require more technical skill. Making matters worse is the projection that 2 million manufacturing jobs will go unfilled by 2025, according to “The skills gap in US manufacturing 2015-2025 outlook,” published by Deloitte Consulting LLP, New York, and The Manufacturing Institute, Washington, D.C.

To combat these growing issues, food manufacturers must adapt to the trends of today’s workforce. A recent study by Intuit, Mountain View, Calif., predicts that 40% of Americans will be independent contractors by 2020. In manufacturing, the gig economy—a temporary workforce for short-term engagements—can provide businesses with a gateway to a large pool of on-demand workers who are able to effectively and efficiently fill workforce gaps.

As the American workforce continues to embrace the gig economy and its base of 53 million freelancers, it is imperative for the food manufacturing industry to take advantage of the opportunities provided by an on-demand workforce that can be scaled up or down to meet their needs.

Here are three reasons the cold food industry should be tapping into a gig economy.

Data-driven hiring opportunities

In March 2015, LinkedIn, Mountain View, Calif., released “Why Data Empowers Recruiters to Hire Better, Faster,” which revealed that 75% of recruiters did not use data in the hiring process, despite its use resulting in companies being three times more likely to reduce costs and gain efficiency.

By shifting to a data-driven hiring process, food manufacturers can learn which employee factors are making the most impact on productivity by examining key performance metrics of their existing workforce. By using this type of data-driven decision making, it helps target and hire freelance workers who possess the traits and skillsets that manufacturers need and identify potential workers based on location, skillset, previous experience, past interactions and reviews.

Companies that provide and screen large talent pools of freelance workers for food manufacturers can use predictive analytics to identify the candidates most likely to excel at the unique demands of their manufacturing plants. Reviewing key performance metrics can also determine the correct quantity of freelance workers needed to reach production goals.

Leverage mobile technology

The incorporation of gig workers in manufacturing heavily relies on one key factor—mobile. Not only is mobile essential for daily operations, but it is also fundamental to keeping workers engaged. And, mobile devices are utilized for practically everything, from social networking to job searching. In fact, according to the Freedom Economy Report, published by Spera, Inc., Pleasant Grove, Utah, 87% of Millennials say their smartphone never leaves their side, night or day. And, nearly half of the Millennials surveyed (45%) use personal smartphones for work. 

With Baby Boomers nearing retirement, it is essential for manufacturers to turn to mobile to manage processes important to the daily operation of their plants and better communicate with the younger generation of talent.

Mobile apps can also be designed to include mobile training that allows freelance employees to arrive on the first day of their job with a basic understanding of the tasks at hand, as well as any important job safety information.

“Test-drive” gig workers for full-time positions

For full-time job vacancies that are challenging to fill, food manufacturers can use the gig economy to “test drive” freelance workers for more permanent positions. By monitoring performance and skills on the job, plant managers and leadership can more accurately evaluate gig workers than they can during a traditional hiring process.

Food manufacturers that capitalize on the power of the gig economy will be well positioned to improve productivity, better meet customer demand and increase earnings. In today’s increasingly competitive workforce landscape, the gig economy provides food manufacturers with a scalable solution to combat the workforce shortage problem and grow their businesses.