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On-Demand Talent Maximizing the Gig Economy

By Karen Dybis 

If the pandemic taught companies anything, it’s that flexibility should be a core value. 

With ongoing labor shortages and “The Great Resignation,” experts say more businesses should look to on-demand talent help them innovate, stay nimble and be more productive.   

Whatever your company calls them – gig workers, freelancers, or independent contractors – these human-resource experts say you likely already have them in the office. Moreover, their numbers are going to climb with hybrid workplaces and digital platforms proliferating. 

With think tanks such as The Conference Board saying labor shortages will become the norm going forward, experts agree that companies should be elastic and adapt to include these highly skilled consultants. Businesses that do are likely to thrive, experts agree, while others may struggle with talent deficits.  

This evolution to embrace freelancers or on-demand talent requires a strategic approach, says Tammy Browning, president of KellyOCG, Kelly’s Outsourcing and Consulting Group. Browning is a longtime proponent of workforce agility in terms of talent acquisition and management. That means creating a blended workforce of full-time workers with on-demand talent that feels valued and a part of the team.  

“It starts with a philosophy that says your business wants to support freelance workers,” Browning said. “Then, look at your jobs that absolutely could be outsourced and job functions that make sense to be done by freelancers. … You want to tap into that talent.” 

-Tammy Browning, President, KellyOCG 

Browning said organizations also need to challenge their assumptions around the cost of on-demand talent. At first blush, a gig worker may seem more expensive because of his or her hourly rate versus a full-time employee, Browning says. In reality, she said companies will see more costs savings with short-burst labor versus hiring a worker with fringe benefits and a salary. 

“Take price off of the table and look at how you might carve up the work to see how gig work might make sense,” especially in terms of core and non-core parts of your business, Browning said. “Then come back and do the math–does it make sense to pay a little more when (those other costs) aren’t part of the equation?” 

At Strategic Staffing Solutions (S3) in Detroit, Vice President of Human Resources Tracey Kenty said while S3 mostly works with consultants (who are not considered freelancers), it sees businesses looking toward this workforce trend. That means coming up with new ways to find, recruit and hire on-demand talent.  

“One of the biggest ways we have adapted our own talent acquisition practices is by meeting candidates where they are, accommodating their preferences on where and how they look for jobs, and communicating with them the way they choose,” Kenty said. “We certainly use the top digital platforms as well as social media for everything from pipelining to recruiting, and if texting is their preferred method of communication over phone calls, then we do that.” 

Browning said another crucial step toward making on-demand talent feel welcome is bringing them into the business across the board. That means include these gig workers in company events, activities, and internal conversations on channels like Slack. Creating new traditions is key to inclusion for freelancers and contractors, Browning said, who want to feel valued. 

Moreover, Browning said she wants to see gig platforms themselves acting as advocates on behalf of on-demand talent, making sure they have what they need once they get into a job, whether it is remote work, on-site communication or retirement strategies for the future. 

“Invite (on-demand talent) to your town halls and rallies. That will allow them to become more culturally aligned with your company, and you will likely get a better work product,” Browning said. 

Karen Dybis a freelance writer in Metro Detroit