Main image of article The Rise of The Alternative Workforce

Freelance engagements, temporary work, contract projects, and ad hoc gig work were once – and for the most part still are – considered apart of the alternative workforce. However, the prevalence of self-employment in the United States is growing significantly – not as a supplement to full-time jobs, but instead as full-time work itself.

By 2020, the number of self-employed workers in the United States is projected to reach 42 million, according to research from Deloitte. Gig work – especially contract gigs – gained early attraction in tech work, as it allowed businesses to streamline singular projects as needed. Currently, it’s quite common to find tech freelancers and contractors working side by side with in-house staff in nearly every department from Marketing to Finance.

While an alternative workforce shows potential for businesses to find relevant assistance with their tech needs, many organizations haven’t yet fully realized the opportunity. Deloitte data found that 54% of organizations have few or no processes for hiring and managing an alternative workforce, which suggests that if your business allows for this model, it could be an immediate and measurable advantage to search for tech talent in a largely untapped segment.

However, it’s important to note that in the same Deloitte study, 51% of respondents indicated intent to develop an alternative workforce plan in the future, meaning that this segment could soon be far more competitive.

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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, consider:

Working with an agency that has a vetted roster of freelancers, temporary staff, and contractors in your vertical. Agents at these firms can often 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 pre-existing staff.

Creating focused recruitment campaigns targeted at an alternative workforce. Pay specific attention to 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.

Building your own freelance platform, especially if you’re hiring at scale. Companies like PwC and The Washington Post have developed their own talent networks and platforms in order to 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 ready to assist in specific projects.

Fully understanding who you are working with and if anyone else is also hiring them on a freelance basis. Before you recruit a technologist for any project, you and the hiring manager should have a clear understanding
of how much work the position requires, and the scope of that position’s responsibilities: will the person hired work on a single project primarily, or will their efforts be spread across multiple projects (and employers)? If your needs are significant, consider contracting a worker who’s available to focus exclusively on your projects.

Developing a clear process for working with your alternative workforce, both for freelancers and in-house staff. Remember, freelancers are often juggling several 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.

Knowing marketplace rates and paying fair rates. In IT especially, companies are expected to be very transparent for the rates they pay for gig work. Now more than ever, freelancers and contractors know precisely 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.