Have You ‘Ubered’ Talent Yet? If Not …What’s Holding You Back?

If you remember the days when we used to have to stand on city streets in downpours, hoping to spot a taxi with a light on that might deign to stop if we flagged it down with enough animation and energy, then you’re probably old enough to be extremely grateful for ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft. By removing uncertainty and randomness from the short-trip transportation business, these core gig economy businesses found ways to match willing service providers with eager customers, and in the process, invented a new industry.

Let’s face it: life moves at a different pace today than it did even a decade ago. Waiting to find the perfect long-term talent match is no longer an option for many businesses facing tight deadlines and pressure to perform on a monthly and quarterly basis. In a world where all the world’s knowledge (and a frightening percentage of its goods and services) is right in our hands, at our fingertips, 24/7, on demand, talent-acquisition professionals are feeling the Hurry Up Right Now squeeze.

Ten thousand Baby Boomers per day are heading into retirement. On the opposite end of the demographic scale, a growing group of talent is not available to be recruited on a full-time employee basis at any rate of pay — but these individuals are available through the gig economy.

Not all activities in a company need to be performed by a full-time person. Bringing in expertise for specific projects or activities can help keep an organization lean and flexible, bolstering productivity and the bottom line.

So: Have you “Ubered” talent yet?

Isn’t Gig Economy Talent Just Low-Level Temp Labor?

Talent available through gig-economy models goes well beyond ride-sharing, freelancers, coders, and creatives. Large pools of talent who have chosen to embrace the independent employment model are available on project, part-time, contract, and consulting through platforms such as Upwork, Freelancer, OnForce, or directly. And like Uber and Lyft, the technology platforms and intermediaries that match organizations to the talent they need have resolved many of the challenges we have seen in the past regarding identification verification, payment, and compliance.

Expertise can be brought in to assist with troubleshooting, special projects, short-term medical leaves, and other gaps at all levels of the organization. From virtual assistants to technology professionals, marketing specialists, project managers, and even leadership levels including those who can operate among directors and in the C-suite, it’s possible today to send out a carefully crafted call for help and find the right match within a matter of days — not weeks — if the prep work and the job requisition specifications are detailed enough and centered around skills, expectations, results, and outcomes.

Leasing vs. Buying Talent: Pay Less, Get More

Companies are more open to using independent talent compared to hiring full-time for a number of reasons.

  • Lean and flexible
  • Speed
  • Level of available talent to fit within budgets

The option to “rent” or “lease” talent in the short-term is following a similar trajectory as the auto industry. The most recent statistics show that 28 percent of new cars on the roads in the United States today are leased. With the contingent workforce now accounting for approximately one-third (33 percent) of the U.S. workforce, it is not difficult to draw parallels between these two pools of short-term, non-owned, needs-based solutions.

The one area where the two situations differ is the total cost. Unlike a car lease, which ultimately ends up costing more than an outright purchase, organizations can actually afford to upgrade and get a higher caliber of talent for less money when they bring in high-level “gig economy” (interim) talent to a business on a part-time or temporary basis. Rather than committing to a full-time, fixed salary, plus bonuses/profit sharing, plus benefits, plus allowances, interim staffing on a part-time or temporary basis only takes a comparatively small bite out of the total budget, since the enterprise uses these services for a shorter period of time.

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Gig Economy Talent Sourcing Best Practices

Within our areas of practice, during the past year or two, we have seen talent-acquisition teams building organization-independent contractor talent pools and best practices. Entire conferences are dedicated to understanding and creatively using the gig economy. Many of the best practices involve the collection of information beyond the resume.

What information helps create a great short-term ride for both hiring organizations and talent?

  • A full, multidimensional candidate profile, including detailed information about types of work at which s/he excels (and the opposite — types of work that are not in the person’s primary areas of interest or competence)
  • To which projects and activities has the individual already contributed inside the company?
  • Feedback: Not just a star rating system, but why raters assigned feedback (e.g., “5, Because she caught on quickly,” or “1, because he was unreliable.”

Using independent talent can also remove the frustration of the five-page job description and every item on the list being “required.” Rather than searching endlessly for candidates who seemingly need split personalities to fulfill the job description, gig-talent hires are more activity- and outcome- based; “other duties as assigned” aren’t typically a part of the job.

Finally, the recruitment timeframe tends to shrink when searching for specific expertise rather than someone to perfectly fit a five-page job description. I have never met a talent-acquisition professional who hasn’t faced a handful of hiring situations wishing they could combine two candidates into the perfect candidate. It is much easier to find discrete experts, each with individual expertise in (for example) writing/copy editing, SEO, advertising, and analytics, compared to a marketing coordinator with some knowledge or experience in each.

Conclusion

The “new millennium” is nearly 20 percent gone; it’s time to upgrade our hiring practices to reflect new realities. Today we can order a car to meet us wherever we are, whenever we need it, and the experience is better, faster, cheaper, and more pleasant than cab rides used to be.

The gig economy is not going to solve all the world’s challenges with talent, but it is another solution to a few of the problems. If you’re intrigued and want to pilot “Ubering” talent, start with the first question: “Does this work need to be performed by one full-time person, or can it be distributed to a couple of part-time people?” If a hiring manager’s needs can be broken down into a series of activities that make up a project, outcome, or deliverable, then there is prime potential to start leveraging gig-economy talent.

Photo by Sandy Huffaker

Kristen McAlister is co-owner of Cerius Executives. She has spent most of her career helping companies establish and improve their infrastructure for high growth. She has grown companies and created optimal infrastructure from both an operational and client management perspective. She has spent the last 10 years teaching companies how to use executives for transitional situations such as high growth and turnarounds. She is a mother, Ironman, and Marine wife.

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