Faster living is now a given. Your taxi is one click away. Your family is one chat message close – and your new purchase must have a “next day” delivery. Collectively, we now demand “instant” or at least “accelerated” experiences.
But…most companies can’t sustain that crazy-fast pace of work. Even the biggest ecommerce giants are phasing out same-day deliveries because their fulfillment centers and logistics partners can’t cope with the load.
On the service side, 50% of companies surveyed by Mavenlink had to turn down work over the last year due to limited human resources.
Indeed, the demand for talent is pressing. On average, 75% of global businesses report talent shortages with nearly every industry affected:
Source: Manpower Group
The talent crunch will remain acute as the Great Resignation continues. One in five workers plans to quit their job in 2022.
But great talent isn’t disappearing from the workforce altogether. Instead, many people choose to join the booming freelance economy.
Given the current trends, perhaps it’s time to shift the focus from on-demand service provisioning to on-demand recruiting.
An on-demand workforce (on-demand talent) includes all self-employed people who can be engaged on a temporary, demand-driven basis.
Compliance-wise, on-demand employees can be classified as either independent contractors (self-employed people) or payrolled professionals with temporary, episodic work schedules.
The on-demand workforce includes:
Cumulatively, that’s millions of highly-skilled people available for hire on short notice.
Research from Harvard Business School x BCG suggests that since 2009, the number of on-demand talent platforms increased from 80 to over 330. Most of them emerged over the past five years.
Source: Harvard Business School
The boom in platforms was largely driven by growing employers’ demand for flexible talent sources.
Today almost all Fortune 500 companies hire talent on-demand through at least one platform – and additionally:
Given larger changes in society – the pursuit of better work-life balance, growing acceptance of remote work, and a shift towards greater flexibility – the on-demand workforce will only continue to grow in the future.
A 2022 survey by Slack found that knowledge workers feel unhappy since returning to the office.
Source: Future Forum by Slack
People who are unsatisfied with their current level of flexibility are three times more likely to “definitely” look for a new job this year.
Also, after returning to the office, the work-life balance scores of non-executives are now 40% worse than those of their bosses. Regular workers also report 2X the level of work-related stress and anxiety, compared to executives.
What does this data tell us?
Corporate cultures don’t match the talent’s work preferences. Long work hours, lack of schedule flexibility, and low personal autonomy have already led to a mass employee exodus.
More times than not, heavy workloads are a result of inadequate staffing (and poor management practices). But as hiring remains constrained, companies keep putting extra pressure on in-house staff, which eventually prompts them to leave. That breeds a vicious cycle.
To reduce the pressure on your workforce without compromising your corporate cruising speed, you can (and should) tap into on-demand talent.
Quick disclaimer: Don’t treat this as a suggestion to switch all people to “on-demand work”, but rather as an acknowledgment that many employees want more flexible work arrangements (and perhaps shorter working hours).
Larger enterprises and budding startups alike choose to leverage talent on-demand due to:
Read more about the benefits of hiring freelancers.
Because an on-demand workforce is a relatively new concept, there are no “universal management theories” or “battle-tested collaboration frameworks.”
But there are several best practices you can use to establish a solid foundation for partnering up with on-demand service providers.
Before you get into the field, decide which specialists you need in your corner and in what capacity.
To do so, map talent skill gaps in your workforce to determine which:
Your goal is to have a clear list of tasks, projects, and roles you want to fill in via the on-demand workforce and mapped to anticipate engagement duration.
Then determine which service model might best work for you – hiring temporary workers, having contractors on a retainer (day rate), or commissioning productized services.
Let’s say you want to add extra on-demand talent to your marketing team. Then you should go with something like this:
Type of work
Email marketing consultant
Audit/optimize user onboarding sequence
Create a new user welcome sequence
FT temporary contractor, hired remotely for 3-6 months
Freelancer with 15-20 hour/mo availability
Remote job board
± 3 months on FT
± 6-12 months on retainer
Podcast transcription/content creation
Create subtitles and transcriptions for the latest episodes
Write blog posts, based on the latest episode
Biweekly (new podcast episode every other Thu)
Blog post (every other Fri)
Create an address book of on-demand talent you can regularly engage as needed.
For example, Omniscient Digital curates a list of freelance writers they’ve worked with and can recommend to others.
Make a similar database in Notion, Airtable, or *your app of choice*. Include the person’s contact details, specialty/niche, availability, rates, and any other deets your team might need to make a hiring decision.
OK, but how do I fill this list? So glad you asked! We talked about freelancer hiring strategies earlier, but it’s always worth repeating the best tips.
Here’s where to find talent on-demand:
A unified onboarding system is essential for hiring, engaging, and scaling your on-demand workforce.
As a freelance writer, Komal Ahuja rightfully notes on Twitter:
If you are re-inventing onboarding steps each time for each contractor, you:
To prevent all of the above, build clear-cut process for onboarding your freelancers and independent contractors.
When it comes to paying freelancers and independent contractors, follow three simple rules:
You can also keep your on-demand workforce payments low and lean by using a platform like Xolo Teams. We let you pay contractors in bulk from a single convenient interface (plus deal with all the related compliance). You can hire, onboard, and pay freelancers in 186 countries in 10 minutes (or less!).
On-demand workers love flexibility, but they don’t thrive in chaos.
Packing multiple gigs into a freelance schedule is no small task (and requires some great project management skills!).
While an on-demand workforce is available on short notice, it doesn’t mean such workers should be:
Doing either of the above will get you branded as a “nightmare client.” That label will then follow you across the freelancer grapevine (the community is very close-knit!). Because of your poor reputation, the really good talent might become wary of working with you.
On the other hand, when you are an amazing client, you’ll have no shortage of on-demand employees, eager to work with you!
Why? Because the freelance economy runs on referrals. Freelancers flock to groups (because the profession can get lonely at times) – and usually know a lot of other people in their niche and beyond it. When you are a delight to work with, your freelancers can introduce you to their network and help you fill in more skill gaps.
To create a positive work experience for your on-demand workforce, adopt these practices:
Read more about best management practices for freelance teams.
Your on-demand workforce can be built fast, but it isn’t “instant.”
…At least, not until you’ve created a streamlined process for sourcing, onboarding, and managing external workers.
The most effective way to get started is by creating sample cases – tasks and roles you want to try filling on-demand.
Then experimenting with different collaboration models – via online marketplaces, talent match-making agencies, direct retainer-based engagements, or productized services.
Analyze which options bring in the best candidates and the most strategic value. Then double down on using it!
And to keep your “experimentation phase” lean, let Xolo Teams deal with all the admin, compliance, and payments overheads.
Elena Prokopets writes content for tech-led companies & software development businesses, marketing to them. Her empathy for the customer, expertise in SEO, and knack for storytelling help create content that ranks well and drives industry conversations.
Elena uses Xolo so she can focus on her solo B2B content writing business without stressing over the compliance and admin overhead.
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