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During the pandemic, many companies accelerated their adoption of technology. This shift in the way businesses operate led to a growing demand for knowledge workers, according to the first-ever Knowledge Work Demand Index from Braintrust. This analysis of more than 150,000 knowledge worker job openings and 800 surveys reveals key differences between employer and employee goals and the need for companies to change how they hire.

Braintrust’s report found that the average enterprise was looking to fill 66 knowledge worker positions. But many companies are seeking to hire even more — nearly 25% of companies had more than 200 open roles for knowledge workers, and 6% had over 1,000. Consumer and technology industries sought the most knowledge workers, at 35% and 25%, respectively.

More tech roles in non-tech companies

While this hiring surge is good news for the job market, the challenge is that half of knowledge worker roles are taking more than 30 days to fill. Part of the reason for this is that one in three knowledge worker job openings in the analysis were for specialized tech positions (e.g., engineering, design, and data science). 

And with companies across industries chasing their digital transformation, it should come as no surprise that it’s not just tech companies looking to hire knowledge workers. In fact, nearly half of open tech roles were for non-tech industries, most commonly in industrial (12%), consumer (12%), and healthcare (8%) sectors.

Companies want in-office employees

It might seem like the increased demand for knowledge workers would lead to a rise in remote hiring, but only 6% of open knowledge worker positions in Braintrust’s analysis were remote-first. Tech (32%) and finance (24%) roles made up the majority of remote-first positions, and technology (50%) and healthcare (20%) sectors were the most likely to post remote-first positions.

Companies based in the Western region of the US had the highest percentage of remote-first (52%) and total knowledge worker (33%) open positions.

Knowledge workers want more freedom

Businesses may prefer their employees to work from the office, but knowledge workers, especially after getting a taste of remote work, are more interested in jobs that offer flexibility. This desire prompted 85% of knowledge workers to consider freelancing.

But the choice to become a freelancer is not an easy one. Nearly 75% of knowledge workers said they’re sticking with a traditional, full-time job because it offers financial stability. What’s not holding them back, though, is employee benefits — only 4% said benefits like 401K programs and health insurance are enough incentive to stick with a full-time job. 

Companies that want to attract more knowledge workers should consider what these employees want most out of their jobs: 

  • Location freedom (63%)
  • Ability to be your own boss (61%)
  • Choice of jobs (54%)
  • Choice of hours (47%)
  • Variety (36%)
  • Ability to set your own salary (36%)

These findings highlight a disconnect between knowledge worker demands and how employers are hiring — another reason it’s becoming so difficult for companies to fill their open positions.

Braintrust predicts that employers will begin to embrace the shift toward distributed teams and double their remote-first roles over the next year. Alongside this, they will acknowledge that freelancers and independent contractors can be near-instant hires who bring immense value to their organization, even if those workers never set foot in the office. 

This report is likely the first of more to come as Braintrust continues to evaluate the changing role of knowledge workers and how they support businesses around the world.