Six Mistakes Companies Make When Tapping into Independent Talent Navigating the on-demand talent economy strategically grants access to global talent, fills skill gaps efficiently, and provides agility.

By Vikram Malhotra

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The on-demand talent economy has become a vital component in today's business landscape, especially for startups and SMEs grappling with skill gaps, productivity scaling, and evolving employee expectations. In a 2022 survey by Bayt, 70% of MENA employers indicated plans to hire freelancers, while 78% of workers aimed to freelance part-time. In the UAE, which hosts more than 557,000 SMEs, the appeal of tapping into a global pool of on-demand talent lies in its flexibility and cost-efficiency. While this approach offers promising opportunities for growth and innovation, there are common pitfalls that companies must avoid to effectively harness the power of on-demand talent. Here are six of them:

1. FAILING TO IDENTIFY NEEDS The on-demand talent pool offers a variety of specialized skills, but misjudging the type of talent needed can lead to inefficiencies and wasted resources. Organizations, especially those with limited resources, should evaluate whether leveraging professional freelancers aligns with their specific needs and objectives. To determine if they need freelancers, companies should evaluate whether the skill gap is temporary, assess the availability of full-time resources in specific niches, consider their ability to attract permanent talent, and gauge the urgency of the hire.

2. INADEQUATE ROLE SCOPING Once the need for on-demand talent is established, companies often make the mistake of not scoping roles effectively. Poorly defined roles can lead to mismatched talent and project goals, resulting in subpar outcomes. Defining the required skillset in detail, including specific technical skills, soft skills, and industry experience, helps identify the right fit. Clear key performance indicators (KPIs) should be established by defining project objectives, performance metrics, and timelines to measure freelancer effectiveness. Moreover, considering preferences such as duration, capacity, and location might help avoid contract issues and streamline choices.

3. POOR INTEGRATION INTO EXISTING TEAMS Establishing efficient onboarding processes for professional freelancers is imperative for fostering successful collaboration. It's not uncommon for freelancers to join a team without a complete understanding of the deliverables, timelines, and cultural integration. To mitigate this, briefing relevant team members and arranging early one-to-one meetings is essential. This approach ensures independent professionals feel as valued as permanent ones. A well-planned onboarding process goes beyond administrative formalities; it acts as a strategic tool to minimize downtime, maximize engagement, and expedite peak productivity.

Related: Making Change Happen: The Talent That Will Bring Saudi Arabia's Vision 2030 Into Focus

4. NEGLECTING FEEDBACK AND COMMUNICATION A culture of effective communication is essential for successful engagements with freelancers, yet many companies neglect this aspect, resulting in ineffective collaborations. Freelancers are eager to demonstrate their value with clear KPIs from the outset and ongoing assessments of progress. Regular meetings with managers offer opportunities for growth and improvement. Establishing this ensures the freelancer's work aligns with company objectives. Initial catchups may need to be more frequent to maximize integration and capitalize early on the experiences that freelancers bring from their previous projects.

5. OVERLOOKING KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER Startups and SMEs often overlook the significance of knowledge transfer when collaborating with professional freelancers. These independent professionals often bring specialized skills; therefore, it is essential for the in-house team to absorb this knowledge for long-term benefits and to carry forward the work seamlessly. For example, if a freelancer contributes to a client strategy, it's vital to prepare the team to execute and communicate it effectively to prevent over-reliance on external expertise and ensure long-term sustainability.

6. NOT DEVELOPING AN ATTRACTIVE FREELANCER VALUE PROPOSITION (FVP) In the competitive on-demand talent economy, a compelling FVP is vital for attracting top talent. To create a strong FVP, organizations should shift from sporadic to consistent engagement, provide a supportive work environment, offer fair compensation, cultivate long-term loyalty through retention strategies, and extend their work culture to freelancers. This will not only enhance freelancer appeal, but also strengthen partnerships, contributing to higher engagement and output quality.

Navigating the on-demand talent economy strategically grants access to global talent, fills skill gaps efficiently, and provides agility. The MENA region is also witnessing this sector grow rapidly. Indeed, we at Outsized -a leading talent-on-demand platform for large enterprise clients and consulting firms- have found the independent talent market grow by 359% in 2022 on the platform. Success thus hinges on precise talent identification, effective role scoping, seamless integration, clear communication, knowledge transfer, and a strong FVP, enabling companies to thrive in the gig economy, and achieve sustainable growth.

Related: Seven Common Mistakes New Technology Leaders Make (And How Not To Commit Them Yourself)

Vikram Malhotra

Managing Director- MENA, Outsized

Vikram Malhotra is the Managing Director for the MENA at Outsized, a leading talent-on-demand platform for large enterprise clients and consulting firms. 


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