If you recently discovered that your IT bench is missing some important players, you are not alone. As increasing numbers of organizations move toward digital transformation or to strengthen data security, there is a shortage of talent to take them where they need to go. Outsourcing, once a stopgap solution, has become smart sourcing, and it is a strategy that puts a world of talent within reach.
Even before the pandemic, it was clear that IT would be exchanging its street clothes for a superhero costume. Although this rise was inevitable, it was also easy to ignore. Before 2020, most associations weren’t organizing virtual meetings or keeping employees at multiple locations connected.
According to IT and research giant Gartner, IT executives view the talent shortage as the most significant barrier to implementing emerging technologies. As an impediment, lack of talent even trumped the cost of implementation. An (ISC)² Cybersecurity Workforce Study, reported that 3.12 million employees are needed to fill the cybersecurity skills gap worldwide. That shortage is also reflected in other areas such as cloud computing, data analytics, and networking.
On the plus side, we are more aware of staffing options and opportunities than we were several years ago. The freelance economy is booming. Consider these statistics from Upwork, one of the most popular platforms for promoting freelance talent:
- There are 12 million registered freelancers on Upwork
- Fifty-eight percent of workers are considering freelancing in the future
- Fifty-three percent of freelancers believe that the demand will increase
There are many benefits to hiring freelancers to fill temporary or specialized roles in your organization. A typical contract employee is comfortable with limited supervision and adapts easily to a variety of environments and cultures. Whether freelancers work from home, at a client site, or move fluidly between venues, they will change the way associations operate.
Smart sourcing augments teams with talent as needed and builds your bench in ways that are both intelligent and efficient. It is a business model that propels teams from great to exceptional. Several of my consulting clients have already demonstrated how successful this strategy can be. Business units may include a combination of full-time and contract staff, but everyone shares information and works collaboratively.
One of the biggest advantages of hiring freelancers is that location doesn’t trump talent. If that perfect market analyst lives in Anchorage and your office is in Dallas—no worries. Video conferencing and cloud computing make working across geography almost seamless.
Lack of experience rather than lack of enthusiasm is often the reason leaders are reluctant to tap into this significant resource. Hiring and onboarding the right people is never easy. Recruiting temporary staff can seem time-consuming and risky, especially if you are entrusting them with valuable systems and priceless data. Here are some tips to ensure a successful experience.
Update Your Attitude
This recommendation is critical to success. Stop considering freelancers temporary visitors. If you want them to commit to their responsibilities like part of the team, make them insiders. TLC almost always delivers a positive return on investment; so, pay attention to the details like a warm welcome, appropriate introductions, and an inclusive attitude.
Depending on the role, an IT professional may need to interface with a variety of people and departments in your organization. Start this new relationship on a positive note. Whether the position will be remote or onsite, ensure that freelancers feel as welcome, valued, and as comfortable navigating your work environment as your permanent staff.
Leading a team that includes freelancers requires adjustments in communication and culture. Don’t make freelancers work with blinders on. Be sure they understand the big picture as well as their roles and responsibilities. Opportunities for the group to provide feedback and input and to make quick decisions or operational adjustments should be built into the workflow. Location-specific details such as differences in time zones and schedules are among the issues that might need resolution.
Even under a tight deadline, take time for careful planning. Effort on the front end will ensure that important issues like compensation and scope of work don’t cause bottlenecks later on.
Begin with a job description. This does not need to be as comprehensive as the document you would prepare for a full-time employee. But it should outline the project and its parameters, including timeline, significant milestones (if applicable), and deliverables at each stage of the process.
Develop a budget based on the requirements that you’ve identified and the current market. According to Victor Janulaitis, chief executive of Janco Associates Inc., a firm that analyzes information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for IT professionals was expected to rise from about $95,600 in January 2021 to approximately $97,000 by June 2021.
Do your research to ensure that the salary range you offer is appropriate. Remember, freelancers pay their own taxes, insurance, and business expenses. So, price accordingly. Also, if your search is national, consider that expectations will vary with the cost of living. Someone in New York City may expect a higher pay rate than a worker in New Orleans.
Develop a contract that spells out boilerplate policies for freelancers and allows you to fill in job-specific information. Your legal counsel should be able to help.
The Great Resignation is giving rise to greater expectations. Competition for talent, especially skilled IT professionals, is stiff. Freelancers have wish lists, and they pick the jobs that most closely fulfill those criteria.
Salary isn’t always the bottom line. If you are struggling to match your perfect candidate’s rate, enhance your position by accommodating other priorities. Showcase your association’s strengths and your willingness to be a partner in every employee’s success, whether they are full-time or temporary.
Freelancers want to work on impressive projects, build their portfolios, and gain experience with the latest software and hardware. If you can offer a learning opportunity that can be a significant incentive. A forward-thinking culture and the chance to innovate are also perks.
The first question must always be—does this candidate have the skills to successfully complete the job? Don’t let an impressive list of certificates and assorted abbreviations stop you from verifying those credentials. If you are not IT savvy, enlist help to articulate and understand the specific language and complexities that the job will require. Use performance testing, real-time problem-solving, and probing, open-ended questions to confirm that a resume matches the applicant’s ability. And, by the way, understand what each of those certificates signifies.
Now that IT has moved out of its cubicle to occupy space across the office, soft skills are more important than ever. Involving other staff in the interview will help you gain perspective. Include someone with limited IT expertise to assess an applicant’s ability to be an effective communicator and coach.
Lastly, run a background check to avoid unpleasant surprises.
When you are comfortable using freelancers, you tap into a pool of great, new talent. Organizations that leverage that resource can grow beyond what they might have imagined possible—proving that, along with providing access to on-demand expertise, smart sourcing also puts success within easier reach.