The six biggest insights from "Get with the program: revitalize your contingent workforce"

We invited contingent workforce leaders to join our panels to learn more about the future of work

March 7, 2024

The contingent workforce industry is still relatively new and as a result, it’s constantly changing and evolving. It can be hard to stay ahead of those changes. Throughout the past few months we hosted panels with five thought leaders on our Get with the program: revitalize your contingent workforce series. We wanted to learn about the top things they’re noticing, the biggest opportunities for program managers, and where the industry might be heading at large. Here are our top XYZ takeaways from that series. 

There’s actually an abundance of talent — and it doesn’t need to be hoarded

There’s actually plenty of talent on the market right now, but you need to meet them where they’re at. For most organizations, this means being open to more types of talent than traditional freelance candidates and leveraging the ever-growing external talent pool. But this mindset has to be passed from the top down so that it can be institutionalized for the entire organization, and not many companies have been able to do this successfully until very recently. 

“The era of needing exclusive access to top talent is gone. Organizations don’t need to hoard this talent. Everyone can win by accessing top talent in this way. I would challenge people to think that you can share resources and top talent across companies without losing your competitive edge. No company is one size fits all, everyone can create their own custom solutions without worrying. It’s a mindset change we all need to have”

Vinod Kartha, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, UST

Speed is the biggest challenge — and opportunity — for every business when it comes to talent

"Markets today are moving quickly and don’t suffer traditional pacing. So if you have a strong kind of pacing to your organization you can capture markets, you can respond to clients, you can generate more revenue, and your team can be more successful. If you’re locked into traditional models for talent engagement and procurement and sometimes you’re waiting months for talent and sometimes the date arrives and the talent has already moved in a different direction. So with these open talent models enabled by technology, they’re enabling talent procurement and talent access in days and weeks rather than months and years. So the key is to have that intelligent design in place so that you know where the talent clouds are and you have prequalified talent pools that are ready to go for the kinds of work you need."

Dyan Finkhousen, Founder & CEO at Shoshin Works

What does onboarding speed look like for your organization when it comes to external talent? If it looks like close to a month — or more — you need better systems in place to enable your external workers to get started on new projects as soon as possible. Your internal and external workers will both thank you for it. 

Building a dynamic and accessible talent pool is the key to success

"You need to build prequalified external talent pools that are ready to go for the kinds of work you need. You can have technology-enabled onboarding and offboarding so that the pre-vetted talent can be brought on board extremely quickly when the need for them arises. This is what the markets are increasingly demanding. They will not suffer the overly constrained operating models for long."

Dyan Finkhousen, Founder & CEO at Shoshin Works

With the right technology in place, the right talent can be onboarded and get started in just a matter of days. But for the contingent workforces that don’t have this in place, external talent will increasingly avoid working with them for this reason. 

Happy talent means happy customers 

"Happy talent means happier customers. How can we give more value back to our customers by keeping our talent (both external and internal) happier? Open talent has the ability to get access to talent that you wouldn’t have access to through traditional means. That means more innovation. I see a world where everyone has access to it, no one is hoarding talent, and we have a talent-sharing economy where everyone benefits."

Vinod Kartha, Vice President, Strategic Initiatives, UST

Happier workers tend to be more productive and engaged with their work. And the better work they’ll do, which will ultimately delight your customers. Companies have understood this for a while around full-time employees, but extending this to your contingent workforce and creating a great experience for them takes this to the next level. It ensures that all of your workers are committed to doing great work for you. 

The contingent workforce industry desperately needs standards and transparency 

"But there are so many marketplaces that it’s incredibly complex. If you’re looking for data scientists, do you use Upwork, Fiverr,, etc? They’re all good but they all offer services in different ways. There’s no transparency yet on who charges the most commissions or who has the best talent across their platforms. The user experience for buyers is incredibly complex. They’ll never know if they’re on the right platform if the freelancer is treated well, or if the freelancer likes the platform. There are no standards in the industry and we really do need that transparency for enterprises to be able to select platforms in the right way."

Barry Matthews, CEO, Open Assembly

The contingent workforce industry has exploded, but like every new industry, the dust needs to settle. With better transparency and standards companies can start to make informed decisions about which marketplaces make the most sense for them, based on their own unique needs. 

Companies need better ways to measure and manage the total cost of work

Because the way we’re working is changing so much, companies have a lot of data that they don’t actually know what to do with. And without industry standards, measurement and optimization are pretty impossible. Many of our panelists touched on this and hope to see a change in the near future.  

"Information and data are not wisdom. Giving info without telling someone what to do with it is not helpful. What is the role of technology in helping us build this next future workforce, how do you teach people how to actually use that data and information?"

Bryan Peña Workforce Solutions Strategist, Defiant Solutions LLC 

"Nirvana would be if you could measure and manage the total cost of work. If you look at internal and external combined, what’s the total cost? If you have a lens over internal and external in one place you could make sound decisions. You could reduce the full-time headcount here, expand external agencies there, access freelance talent marketplaces here, etc. We don’t as an industry have the standards rules or systems that would enable an organization to do this."

Barry Matthews, CEO, Open assembly

For more insights into how the world of contingent work is changing, check out our report The workforce of the future: The rise of contingent work