As the economy has improved, businesses have gradually found that good talent is harder to find. The local talent pool of professionals with the specialized skills companies need is limited, and each company must compete with other nearby businesses to recruit and hire them.

As if things weren't already complicated enough, talented professionals are increasingly leaving the workforce to live a freelance lifestyle, which allows them more flexibility than they would have on salary.

Yet despite the fact that there are more than 42 million freelancers in the U.S, only 50 percent of companies are prepared to on-board freelancers. Here are a few reasons you need to start preparing your business to accommodate a rapidly changing workforce.

1. Millennials Seek Flexibility

Millennials have recently replaced Generation X as the largest generation in the American workforce. For that reason, businesses can't afford to ignore the data coming in on this unique generation, which almost always includes some form of "flexibility" in their work preferences.

In one study, 77 percent of millennials said that flexible work hours would make the workplace more productive and experts predict that in the coming years, the nine-to-five-workday will be a thing of the past.

2. Employers Need Flexibility

By hiring freelancers, your business escapes the commitment that comes with salaried workers. You can choose a professional to work with you on one project or for a period of time.

If you find you work well with a freelancer, you can eventually extend a job offer, which can give you a chance to try out workers before bringing them on board permanently. If your contractors are working from home, you'll also save on office space and utilities for that worker in addition to not having to provide benefits.

3. Freelancers Focus on Results

Salaried workers show up each day and log a set number of hours at a desk. Even remote employees tend to be seen as working as long as they're available for incoming phone calls.

Freelance workers don't have the benefit of a time clock-punching mentality, since they're often paid for accomplishing a set goal. If businesses need a list of hours for time-tracking purposes, software is available, but for the most part freelancers can be tracked by the work they produce each day.

4. Freelancers Can Specialize

When choosing a freelancer, businesses have a wider talent pool than when they search for employees. Additionally, since freelancers charge by the hour or project, businesses can often afford a higher level of expertise than they would find if they used salaried workers.

This can help businesses work with highly-skilled software developers to complete a complex application or bring in a social media consultant for a few hours to provide content strategy suggestions.

5. Freelancers Can Be Put on Hold

Budgets can fluctuate, especially for small businesses that are starting out. When money is rolling in, it can be tempting to build a full team, especially if you sign a long-term contract with a client. However, the unexpected can happen, leaving businesses with the tough decision of terminating one or more employees.

Freelancers can be chosen for one small assignment, multiple assignments, or a short-term tenure where they work on a specific project. Whatever the decision, when funds get tight businesses can eliminate freelancers without going through the complicated termination process involved with a salaried employee.

6. On-Boarding Is Faster

When a business realizes the need to hire an employee, the first thought is how long the hiring process will take, especially if the worker is needed soon. After a quick interview, freelancers can begin work immediately.

Some processes choose to make the search even easier by working with a freelance specialist who finds the perfect match for their needs. This allows them to skip the vetting process and increases the likelihood they'll find a great fit.,

The workforce is gradually shifting to become more freelancer driven. It's important that businesses embrace the new work style to attract younger workers and remain competitive. In the coming years, businesses will begin increasingly focusing on output from workers rather than time logged each day, which makes it easier to hire and manage freelancers.

Published on: Jul 30, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.