Once considered an option for IT or other technical or repeatable tasks, today, contract workers perform a broad range of job functions.
The alternative workforce has arrived. There will be a projected 42 million self-employed workers in the US by 2020, according to research from Deloitte. Thanks to a shortage of tech workers, use of contract workers is becoming more attractive because it allows businesses to streamline singular projects as needed.
Now, it's quite common to find tech freelancers and contractors working in tandem with in-house staff in nearly every department from marketing to finance, says the tech recruiting firm Dice.
Deloitte's 2019 Global Human Capital Trends study found that 33% of respondents reported extensively using alternative arrangements for IT, 25% for operations, 15% for marketing, and 15% for research and development.
The firm defines the alternative workforce as one that includes contractors, freelance and independent workers, gig, and crowd workers.
The wave of alternative workers also extends to part time: Deloitte's latest millennial study found that 64% of full-time workers want to do "side hustles" to make extra money.
Even though an alternative workforce is a good solution for businesses that need help fulfilling tech needs, many organizations haven't yet fully taken advantage of the opportunity.
Deloitte data found that 54% of organizations had few or no processes for hiring and managing an alternative workforce.
However, this figure could soon change. The same Deloitte study found that 51% of respondents indicated they intend to develop an alternative workforce plan in the future, meaning that this segment could soon be far more competitive.
Tips for finding and building an efficient temporary workforce
The alternative workforce presents an opportunity to temporarily hire specific positions that would otherwise be difficult to fill with a full-time employee. To succeed in building a team that incorporates remote and alternative workers, Dice recommends the following:
- Work with an agency that has a vetted roster of freelancers, temporary staff, and contractors in your vertical. Typically, these firms are able to find several qualified candidates within the same day, sometimes even candidates available that can start the next day. This can be invaluable for high-growth companies working on heavy-lift projects that are essential strategically, but tactically difficult to manage with exclusively existing staff.
- Create focused recruitment campaigns targeting an alternative workforce. Hone in especially on attracting millennial and gen-Z workers, 84% and 81% of whom, respectively, report that they would happily consider alternative work as opposed to a full-time, single-employer job.
- Build your own freelance platform, especially if you're hiring for multiple positions. Developing custom talent networks and platforms can help streamline hiring processes for specific projects. This strategy enables you to build a network of freelance professionals who are already familiar with your business' processes and are ready to work on specific projects.
- Fully understand who you are working with and whether anyone else is also hiring them on a freelance basis. Before recruiting a technologist for any project, you and the hiring manager should have a clear understanding of the scope of work for the position, including what the position's responsibilities are: Will the person being hired work on a single project primarily, or multiple projects -- and employers? If your needs are significant, consider contracting a worker who's available to focus exclusively on your projects.
- Develop a clear process for working with your alternative workforce, both for freelancers and in-house staff. Bear in mind that freelancers are often juggling multiple assignments at once – as are recruiters and project managers. Clear operating standards allow your company to address inefficiencies and other snags before they have a chance to grow into larger problems.
- Know marketplace rates and pay fair rates. Particularly in IT, companies are expected to be very transparent on the rates they pay for gig work. Now more than ever, freelancers and contractors know exactly what they're worth and are more likely to decline work opportunities that don't offer pay that falls in line with their experience and skillset.
"Organizations that take this workforce seriously can build strategies and programs to access and engage talented people wherever they may sit in the labor pool," the Deloitte report concludes, "driving business growth and extending the diversity of the workforce."
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