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The Future of Sourcing Professional Freelancers is Platform-based

October 14, 2020
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In early 2019, as agency professionals, we conducted research to get a better understanding of how marketers’ needs were shifting with respect to sourcing quality outside talent.  Much of what we learned foreshadowed the trends that have been accelerated by Covid.  Our research’s key takeaways are even more relevant today than when we conducted our outreach.

Our main finding validated what we had assumed from the very beginning:  in an environment where brands have to do more with less and move with greater speed, marketers were increasingly turning to on-demand freelance talent.  This path provided flexibility, access to in-demand skills, and lower cost options.  In many cases organizations mandated this shift to outside talent by setting target ratios for what percent of staff is FTE vs. contract talent.    

To meet the new challenges associated with sourcing quality flexible talent, we learned that businesses were looking outside the old models for answers.  Staffing firms and agencies were not adapting fast enough to meet the changing talent needs of their clients.  Leaders making talent decisions were craving a solution similar to the digital experiences they use to manage their professional and personal lives.  Through our discussions, it became clear that a talent sourcing software platform could uniquely address these evolving needs, but must offer 5 critical features:

1. Options for Sourcing the ‘Right’ Talent. With the use of outside talent taking on more strategic importance, marketers must have access to top quality freelancers with the right roles and skills to get the job done.  A platform’s ability to intelligently match a marketer’s talent needs with the right freelancer equips businesses with confidence that their requirements will successfully be met .  We also heard from hiring managers that the freelance talent solution must extend beyond individual freelancers.  They expressed a need to source complete project teams, built with a specific mix of capabilities to tackle distinct initiatives.   These teams are often referred to as flash teams or an enterprise freelance team.   They can be dynamically formed on a platform based on the predefined roles and skills required to deliver specific projects.

2.  Enhanced Flexibility.  Businesses require talent sourcing flexibility to manage capacity, meet changing customer behavior sand adapt to dynamic budget constraints. A platform can deliver the required flexibility in the form of direct access to highly skilled on-demand talent that can be ramped up and down as needed.  And by offering flexible contracting structures, as well as preferences for different ways of working(e.g. remote and/or onsite, agile delivery, co-creation models), a platform with personalization can deliver greater freedom to get work done on ‘your terms’.

3. Consistency & Standardization.  Marketers also said they were looking for greater standardization, consistency, and reliability.  By using technology that productizes talent sourcing end-to-end, organizations can have greater success in achieving desired outcomes.  This is not to say that there is an expectation for 100% standardization and automation.   A platform will have to offer configurable solutions to meet unique circumstances and seamlessly integrate the human touch throughout the process to provide guidance, coordination and ensure overall satisfaction.  

4. Transparency.  Not surprisingly, with brand sunder growing pressure to deliver results, leaders making talent decisions told us they want greater transparency into what they’re getting and how much it costs.  Upfront, this means no black box scoping and pricing, more information about talent, and direct access to candidates for interviewing.  And of course, with more transparency, people want more data. Talent sourcing dashboards that report on key metrics will drive better staffing decisions and support accountability for results.

5.  Ease of Doing Business.   Last, but certainly not least, our findings highlighted a lot of frustration with a process that is not adapting fast enough to the new reality.   Every conversation was punctuated with the need just to make things easier.  Budget friendliness of course makes doing business easier, but it goes beyond just the money.  There are too many layers and rigid  processes, i.e. inertia, that get in the way.  A platform’s automation, reduced overhead, personalization and greater speed will take a lot of friction out of sourcing qualified freelance talent.  

After reaching our conclusions above, we came across an article in Forbes by John Winsor (August 13, 2019) that nicely summed up the case for why a platform approach will win the day:

“It’s ironic that now with digital tools you can replace the 60 to 70% bureaucratic costs of matching and managing the right talent to a project and instead put more resources into expanding the creative and strategic talent that can help drive your business forward.”

And there’s probably no better way than that to closeout.  


Related Links:

More on EnterpriseTeams by Jon Younger

More on FlashTeams by Stanford University

A Perspective on the Productization of Agency Services by Media Post

Forbes; YourAd Agency Is Dead. It's Time To Stop Grieving And Move On by John Winsor



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