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Freelancers can solve the corporate innovation conundrum

Using freelancers can solve the challenges 2020 has in store

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Shahar Erez
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Shahar Erez

Co-Founder & CEO, StokeShahar has over 15 years in various management positions in a wide range of organizations, including Hewlett Packard, VMWare, and Kenshoo building stellar teams and leading them to new levels of succe… (show all) Shahar has over 15 years in various management positions in a wide range of organizations, including Hewlett Packard, VMWare, and Kenshoo building stellar teams and leading them to new levels of success in highly competitive markets. Shahar has BA from IDC University as well as an MBA from the Technion Institute of Technology in Israel.

While startups have been hot since the early 2000s, the last decade has seen many large corporations, long past the days of actually being considered startups, embrace the startup mentality. With “move fast and break things” being the prevailing wisdom in Silicon Valley over the past two decades, tech companies have sought to innovate faster and yield greater returns more rapidly than traditional timelines dictated.

With shareholder expectations on the line, companies have sought to distill the startup mentality into a few ideals and mimic those tactics which have made startups so successful. 

The problem is that while having the startup mentality and pace in a larger company is sexy as an ideal, the reality is that “move fast and break things” does not work well with many established company norms and there is no place where this is more apparent than hiring.

Talent is the weak link of innovation

The key to success in any company is having the right team in place; the right talent in a good environment can get almost any task done, yet even as the way we structure and run our companies has evolved, our hiring practices have remained practically prehistoric. We’re trying to operate an advanced cloud network with dial-up internet and, unsurprisingly, it’s not working well.

How can companies be expected to scale and disrupt their markets when the average time to fill a position is 42 days? And the reality is only worse with technical jobs. There are currently over 900,000 open IT jobs in the United States alone and with an average of 56 days to fill an tech related position, the idea of “moving fast” is almost laughable. At that rate it can take longer to find someone to develop the software than it will take to actually create the code. 

It is, of course, important to be thorough with the interviewing process for a full-time employee. You want to make sure that the candidate fits in well with the existing company culture, has the requisite skills to be a worthy addition, and will grow on the job to provide more value over time. All of these things are very important, however, that process is not suited to the “move fast” culture we are striving for.

Freelancers to the rescue

With roughly 33 percent of the American workforce (about 57 million workers) actively choosing to freelance, freelancers are readily available to the market to pick up projects and supplement teams with skills that full-time members are lacking in. Freelancers are no longer the cliche blue-collar laborers picking up shift work in the factories. In fact, a recent study revealed that 49 percent of freelancers are highly skilled professionals who work in in-demand areas such as computer programming, IT, and consulting. 

One of the most valuable resources on the market, the freelancers of today are highly trained professionals who can be dropped into existing teams to help complete specific projects, fast-tracking specialized tasks that less experienced team members might have struggled with for far longer. They have the right skills, they are proven in their fields, and the best part… it takes days to find them as opposed to months.

On-demand is going to be in-demand

While companies such as Google have already made the shift towards freelancers, employing more freelancers and contractors than full-time employees, most companies have not yet fully embraced the gig-economy. 

If the ultimate goal is to move quickly and churn out constant innovation then the status quo must change. Current hiring practices slow down the rate of production, leaving jobs open and teams understaffed for weeks, potentially months, as they follow procedures to fill positions. 

As the freelance market continues to grow around the world, it’s fast becoming clear that more talent is looking for per diem work rather than full-time positions, and companies are going to have to adapt hiring practices to embrace this reality. 2020 will be a landmark year in the history of the freelance market.

Recognizing the trends of the marketplace and the shortcomings of current hiring processes, companies will begin to adapt their policies to harness this far more agile workforce and place a much more concerted effort on utilizing the resources afforded to them via the freelance marketplace.

Published January 16, 2020 — 09:00 UTC