More and more small businesses are turning to online hiring as a way to increase productivity while still keeping an eye on costs in an economy struggling to remain on a path to recovery.

According to the annual global survey on the hiring practices of small companies by Elance, more and more businesses are including online hiring as an important part of company strategy.

The survey found that 73 percent of small companies questioned said they have increased online hiring in 2012. In addition, 84 percent believe that relying on the Internet as an employment strategy helps them competitively.

“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.”

Rosati says the study’s results are significant given the present employment climate around the world. Nearly 3 out of 4 small company owners said they intend to rely more on online hiring this year than in 2011.

The major benefits cited for online hiring include hiring from a deeper pool of talent and being able to quickly find workers with skills needed for immediate projects. In all, 84 percent of companies in the survey said online hiring provides flexibility, fuels productivity and can save money compared to traditional hiring methods. Seven out of 10 companies said the online hiring process is faster.

Within the next five years, 54 percent of small business owners in the survey predicted the bulk of their own workforce will have online origins. Graphic design, content development and web programming are three of the main skills that a majority of businesses are seeking online.

The survey included more than 1,500 businesses and was conducted between May 21 and May 28 by Elance.

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