Digital is shaping the global marketplace. The evolution of technology is only getting faster; where once people marvelled at the humble fax machine, now, consumers expect high-clarity calling and 4K content streaming wherever they are. Meanwhile, businesses transfer terabytes of data every minute via highly secure fibre network connections. This is even more so the case as the COVID-19 pandemic ushers in a major shift towards home working (and indeed home entertainment), which is set to stay even after restrictions are lifted.
Businesses are expected to deliver greater convenience, more personalisation, and high-speed customer interactions, by digitising their business processes. However, these businesses are met with a significant obstacle: skills gap. Digital transformation requires specific profiles and expertise, many of which are dried up in traditional labour pools. This is for a variety of reasons; many highly specialised professionals have been snapped up by the corporate behemoths and tech giants such as Google, Amazon or Microsoft. Or, many of the most experienced or niche experts have moved to the freelance market, offering their services on a roving basis to players of varying sizes.
That said, this shift towards the freelance market should be seen as an opportunity rather than an obstacle. Here, we make the case for freelance talent and explain where to find it.
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The skills gap in digital projects
Businesses have to put together highly specialised teams, encompassing very different and complementary skills, to ensure the successful deployment of digital transformation projects. The early stages of a digital transformation require the right combination of experienced business strategists and digital solution architects, together with the support of specific and ad-hoc subject matter digital experts, such as market analysts, financial modellers, data scientists or CRM experts.. Then the solution design and rollout demand high-calibre technical experts, from process redesign design to data engineers, to technical PMOs. Going forward, other skill areas such as marketing, business intelligence and customer service experts are essential.
However, they face significant challenges; the fact is, in TMT and digital particularly, companies are experiencing significant skills gaps. According to market research by McKinsey & Co, 87% of companies say they are experiencing skills gaps or expect them in the next few years. This doesn’t only relate to changing tools and processes that require fresh talent but also teaching and training existing staff. Right now, 64% of executives think they’ll have to replace or retrain 25% of their staff over the next five years. Meanwhile, executives also report that 67% of roles are difficult to hire for. Altogether this represents the biggest talent shortage of modern human history.
But why is this the case? Why are these competencies so lacking in the talent marketplace? One reason is a surprising lack of digital competence in the workforce; in Spain for instance, a Digital Maturity Survey conducted by FOXIZE showed that 46% of employees could be defined as digital starters, lacking the right digital skills and maturity to work in a digital environment. So where are the experts that businesses need?
Mining the freelance market for expertise
The answer to filling this skills gap lies in the freelance market as we are assisting to a massive migration of talent from the traditional employee model to the new freelancing world. This is creating a phenomenal paradigm shift in the way talent and companies engage with each other, and require businesses to rethink and adapt their talent acquisition strategies.
Just take the example of a young Data scientist, the demand for his skills is so high that he will soon realise that the best way of progressing professionally is not by having a traditional job but becoming a freelancer and being able to choose the most interesting projects out there. On top of this, once being a freelancer he will also realise he is earning more money and having a better, more flexible personal and professional balance. So, there are little chances he will reconsider going back to a traditional employee job.
So the higher the demand for a specific skill, the stronger the migration to freelance market is taking place and the fewer chances to find the right talent in the employee world.
Today, the average digital freelancer is a worker with the most in-demand skills, such as subject-matter experts in big data, AI or digital marketing strategies. Many of these young professionals opt for the freelance market for independence and flexibility, while being able to cherry-pick the most exciting projects and clients.
This attraction is undoubtedly driving talent to freelancing. According to statistics gathered by the US Bureau of Labor, and a further study conducted by USA Today, the freelance market currently comprises 160 million professionals. This accounts for approximately 33% of the American and European workforce, with a further 40% of highly-skilled, digitally literate millennials looking to abandon their jobs to enter the freelance marketplace in the next five years.
It comes as no surprise, then, that telecoms and the corporate world more broadly are reappraising talent recruitment. After all, there is no sign of the shift to freelance faltering; right now, 90% of freelancers say they’re highly satisfied. A further 97% say that they have absolutely no desire to return to traditional work – which shows that the freelance model is here to stay.
The business case for hiring talent on demand to fill the skills gap
Moreover, there is a strong business case for tapping into the freelance talent marketplace. According to Salim Ismail, Canadian serial entrepreneur, angel investor, technology strategist, and author of Exponential Organizations, leveraging talent on demand is key to staying agile in today’s environment. Whereas once a large workforce differentiated an enterprise, today, that same asset can become a crutch. Ultimately, large, cumbersome workforces can reduce maneuverability and slow down the operation.
Furthermore, no matter how talented your employees are, the pace of technological advancement means they’re likely to become obsolete before your very eyes. Moreover, training staff takes investment (in terms of both time and money) and often, companies need to react fast. In contrast, staff on demand facilitates speed, functionality and flexibility, giving firms access to relevant, highly-skilled talent on-the-fly.
Navigation app Waze is a good example of this model. This ExO organisation is a turning traditional business model on its head; rather than owning assets or workforces and incrementally seeing a return on those assets, Waze is leveraging external resources to achieve their objectives. For example, they maintain a very small core of employees and facilities, allowing enormous flexibility as margins soar. Meanwhile, they enlist their customers and leverage offline and online communities in everything from product design to application development.
This model isn’t just agile, it’s also highly cost-effective. According to The Society for Human Resources Management, it takes an average of 36 days to fill a single position and costs approximately $4,425.. In contrast, talent on-demand significantly reduces market friction – by reducing the time to find the right candidate to hours instead of days and a no cost. We we’ll look at this in the next section.
How online talent platforms are transforming the marketplace
But how do HR departments find freelancers? How can they properly capitalise on this reduction in hiring costs and timelines? To answer this demand, online platforms have risen to prominence as a solution. According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), online talent platforms are “one of the most important transformations in the world of work over the past decade.”
However, some HR managers approach online freelance marketplaces with some trepidation. Calls on non-specialised platforms can lead to an avalanche of inappropriate applications, draining the time and resources that hiring managers were seeking to conserve. Thus, identifying a specialist partner is essential.
Outvise was created to fill this skills gap for digital and TMT specifically. As a curated network of more than 29,000 high-end technology professionals, companies can rapidly connect with relevant experts. Thanks to our dedicated talent search team and bespoke project matching algorithm, hiring managers are saved from the headache of sifting through stacks of so-so proposals, and instead, can connect with the right expert in as little as 48 hours.
Equally, Outvise understands that companies need flexible options. This is especially the case in the wake of COVID-19. Primarily, it’s not only the shift to working from home that will affect how companies hire; it’s also the economic impact. Recruiting will be restricted and companies reducing their staff. Thus, enterprises everywhere are looking to source talent more economically, which Outvise seeks to facilitate – while helping companies capitalise on the flexibility remote working brings.
Leveraging freelance talent for digital transformation
Digital projects need top talent. These workers need to be experienced and multidisciplinary, with deep business and technical expertise. They need to have a good handle on how to navigate regulations; distribute resources; and optimise their benefits, particularly in regard to the long-term success of the project. Undoubtedly, the time to seize opportunities is now – as customer expectations become increasingly aligned with a digital world, companies that don’t act risk irrelevance.
However, the expanding skills gap is compelling companies to reappraise their approach to talent acquisition. As the necessary competencies become all the more specialist – just take the fast-moving regulatory environment as one example – businesses are struggling to source the expertise they need via traditional means.
Now, the freelance marketplace holds the solution. The industry’s most promising talent is moving to freelancing in their droves, making it the most fertile ground for human resources. Moreover, this shift should be seen as a significant opportunity in terms of efficiency and economy. By embracing freelance talent, HR departments can dramatically cut hiring costs and onboarding times.
Connect to top talent with Outvise
Outvise is big players in every industry source these talented individuals. With clients including O2, Vodafone, Sky Deutschland and SSE, Outvise has connected companies of every scale with certified professionals. Our comprehensive, curated selection of experts enables companies to bridge the skills gap and rollout projects with agility. With profiles including managerial, digital and technological expertise, companies can source talent for every stage of a digital project. Explore Outvise’s portfolio of exceptional digital, tech and business talent here.