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Related Expertise: People Strategy, Digital, Technology, and Data

A Strategic Approach to On-Demand Talent

By Joseph B. FullerManjari RamanJames PalanoAllison BaileyNithya VaduganathanElizabeth KaufmanRenee Laverdiere, and Sibley Lovett

This article highlights our joint findings with Harvard Business School’s Project on Managing the Future of Work in Building the On-Demand Workforce.

Many companies are rethinking their approach to talent and beginning to rely on highly skilled freelancers and the ever-growing gig economy.

The expansion of remote work and a dynamic need for new capabilities have given way to an on-demand talent model that allows companies to expand or contract their access to specialized, experienced workers as required.

The pandemic is accelerating this trend, as companies put more work online and try to adapt quickly to turbulent market conditions and a widening skills gap. It’s perhaps no surprise in this challenging landscape that 60% of leaders believe their core workforces could be smaller going forward.

Above all, the proliferation of digital talent platforms—such as Fiverr, Toptal, and Upwork—has enabled this blended model of acquiring and deploying skills by allowing companies to experiment with hiring freelancers. More than 330 such platforms exist today, up from just 80 nearly a decade ago.

Despite the increasing demand for highly skilled freelancers—and the fact that 90% of business leaders believe that using digital talent platforms will be a key source of competitive advantage in the future—few companies have realized the full potential of this new working arrangement. Our research suggests that most companies depend on talent platforms to fill skills gaps in a hurry, but many fail to see the bigger picture.

By making the most of the on-demand economy, organizations can compensate for the lack of in-house skills that holds them back. They can more easily pursue a course of growth and transformation to stay competitive, supported by sped-up operations and an improved ability to deliver on strategy.

Businesses must ask themselves how they can harness the full potential of the on-demand economy. The answer lies in fully embracing digital talent platforms and rebuilding their organizations for the future of work. They should take the following five steps to create an effective on-demand workforce and maximize its value:

  • Remake the culture of your organization. Focus on achieving outcomes instead of generating new ideas and managing head count.
  • Rethink your employee value proposition. Help employees at all levels understand how they can benefit from new talent platforms.
  • Redefine work into discrete components. Determine which work should be tackled by internal contributors and which should be given to external contributors.
  • Reassess capabilities within your organization. Tap into the underutilized talent of full-time employees and give your people the opportunity to do what is most meaningful and exciting for them.
  • Rewire organizational policies and processes. Make it easier for teams to integrate temporary talent.

Businesses that want to keep up in an uncertain and rapidly changing world will need continuous access to the latest skills and the ability to deploy them effectively. Digital talent platforms allow companies to put the right people in the right place at the right time. But unlocking the greatest value takes rethinking business models for operating in a new reality.

The BCG Henderson Institute is Boston Consulting Group’s strategy think tank, dedicated to exploring and developing valuable new insights from business, technology, and science by embracing the powerful technology of ideas. The Institute engages leaders in provocative discussion and experimentation to expand the boundaries of business theory and practice and to translate innovative ideas from within and beyond business. For more ideas and inspiration from the Institute, please visit our website and follow us on LinkedIn and X (formerly Twitter).

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