In case you’ve missed it, it seems the world is going freelance – literally. World Bank data shows that 46.4% of all workers globally are self-employed; the total number of freelancers is estimated at 1.6 billion people, out of a total worldwide workforce of 3.4 billion. In the U.S., more than half the workforce will be freelance by 2027. How does this affect the way teams work together, are managed, and recruited? Let’s take a look. 

Blended teams are here to stay

A number of strong forces are shaping the rise of blended teams that comprise a mix of full time employees (FTEs) and independent talent (also known as freelancers, contractors, gig workers, or vendors), which are becoming a new normal in enterprise environments; Deloitte takes it one step further, noting in its 2021 Global Survey of Chief Procurement Officers that “high-performing firms invest in agility with blended teams.” The higher-skilled nature of independent talent is clear: 51% of post-grad workers are doing freelance work, up 6% since 2020. 

It’s yet another workplace change that can be linked back to COVID, which changed the nature of work, and the way companies employ and engage. While remote work existed prior to the pandemic, it was not widely accepted nor adopted. COVID broke down geographic boundaries, allowing people to work anywhere, for any company. This, coupled with the Great Resignation and now layoffs, is accelerating the trend toward enterprises using blended teams that work across geographies.

Granted, people are coming back to offices post-COVID, but there is still a lot of flexibility; 30% of US workers are hybrid, which opens the door for independent talent. From a corporate perspective, using independent talent makes a wider pool of skills available without having to be physically present in a particular place. This makes it easier to think about shorter, project-based work with specific objectives, which are important to define. (More on that in Part 2 of this blog.)

Implications for enterprises

The process for onboarding independent talent is not easy. In addition to decisions on how to pay freelancers – either as vendors or through payroll – and track their earnings for tax documents, there are many issues to consider, such as data security and intellectual property (IP) protection. With freelancers working with your organization for a few months to a year or more, they will have access to a broad range of information that must be protected.

In short, it’s important to encapsulate independent talent with a cocoon of security. And it’s not easy. While many companies, large and small, have put guardrails around data security and IP, it’s important to keep information security top of mind at all times, as infosec systems and best practices are always changing. Certainly, when risks are identified and mitigated up-front, companies are able to access a much wider talent pool, to their immense benefit.

On a separate but related issue, full-time employees choosing to moonlight may also create information security issues – particularly if they end up working for a rival in the same industry. Employers’ options in this case vary according to the market and should be closely examined before taking action. 

The right tools are in place

Again, the pandemic necessitated the accelerated adoption of many technologies for internal teams that have, in turn, enabled blended teams. When COVID burst onto the scene in March 2020, it took some firms just a few days to move their internal teams online and start collaborating. Work with colleagues internationally instantly became easier; BC (“Before COVID”) teams relied on phone calls and emails. AC (“After COVID”), it was a lift-and-shift to Microsoft Teams and Zoom. People literally picked up those tools and ran with them, cementing their use as enabling technology for post-pandemic blended teams. 

Other enabling technologies took root and flourished during the pandemic, such as electronic document signing. Before the pandemic it could take independent talent several weeks to get onboarded, but the urgency with which legal teams and finance teams worked in the BC world carried over to benefit entire organizations in the AC era. Whereas solutions like DocuSign had previously been used in contract-heavy departments like legal and finance, during the pandemic all manner of agreements became routinely emailed and made official with electronic signatures, including contractor agreements and onboarding. During the pandemic, consultants were routinely onboarded in a week or less. 

How do companies recruit independent talent?

In some ways recruiting independent talent is the same as attracting FTEs: through job boards, although they are more correctly called talent marketplaces. The two tend to be fairly segregated; a recent search on LinkedIn found that only 5% of U.S. job listings were for projects targeted at independent talent, despite LinkedIn’s launch of a freelance services marketplace in October 2021.

companies recruit independent talent

Instead, employers are looking to attract the right talent at marketplaces such as Catalant, Communo, Contently, Fiverr, Topcoder, Toptal, Upwork and Vicoland, to name a few. Many of the processes for recruiting independent talent are the same as for FTEs; employers can meet freelancers online, create a shortlist, share details about the project and schedule, agree on a rate, do a video interview, and get started. 

Some marketplaces have users fill out comprehensive profiles, making the process more efficient for recruiters. Others have simple job postings or allow you to send select freelancers for specific projects. Upwork and other platforms handle client billing and payment to the freelancer, taking their commission off the top of their payout.  

Given the proliferation of independent talent marketplaces, it’s important for companies to find the right freelance candidates quickly and efficiently. Just like with job ads recruiting FTEs, programmatic job marketing makes more sense than ad placements based on hit-or-miss guessing. 

Coming up in Part 2

In Part 2 of this blog I’ll dive more deeply into the similarities and differences of managing the blended workforce, ranging from building trust to pay structures, benefits, and best practices for productivity monitoring. Come back for more!

In addition to helping companies optimize their programmatic advertising spend for FTE recruiting, Joveo can help employers find the right places to post their opportunities for independent talent. Learn more about how our global team can give you total picture of recruitment advertising costs by requesting a demo of Joveo solutions today. And follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn, where we’re always working to help you get the most out of your recruitment advertising.