Much like the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century, technological innovations today are transforming the work we do and how we do it. While people are gaining more freedom and opportunities as a result, technology also generates new challenges for companies seeking to remain competitive. My company, Upwork, is based in the San Francisco Bay Area, which makes us intimately aware of the pace of change and ongoing struggle for talent. It’s why we’ve built a distributed team to access critical skills.

Flash in the Pan?

Today’s hot skills might not matter tomorrow. The World Economic Forum predicted that “five years from now, over one-third of skills (35%) that are considered important in today’s workforce will have changed.” Keeping up with changing skills is just part of the challenge. The other is that the US is nearing full employment. For the first time in history, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the US has more job openings than people looking for employment. How can you keep up under such conditions?

Remote and Flexible

As competition for talent intensifies, most companies leverage flexible talent such as freelancers and agency workers. According to the Future Workforce Report, 53% of companies are utilizing more flexible talent compared with three years ago.

Companies aren’t adopting flexible talent just for cost-effectiveness and greater agility — it’s how people prefer to work. More in-demand professionals are leaving traditional jobs to freelance and run their own businesses. At the current growth rate reported in the Freelancing in America study, the majority of US workers will be freelancing within 10 years.

Here are three ways you can extend your workforce capabilities.

1. Update traditional talent models. Organizations and staffing agencies can streamline how they find and engage contingent workers and agencies by implementing online talent platforms like Upwork alongside their existing MSP and VMS models. In addition to the efficiencies gained, online platforms enable staffing agencies and MSPs to remain competitive. Agencies and MSPs can bundle their offerings with a complementary suite of related contingent worker services including classification.
2. Leverage multiple solutions and services for sourcing talent. The potential efficiencies gained by leveraging a flexible workforce are enormous. For instance, by tapping into distributed expertise, engineering teams can move from idea to working prototypes in days instead of months.
3. Treat contingent workers as more than spend. Independent contractors make up more than one-third of the US workforce. Yet most companies follow a traditional model where HR manages employees and procurement handles contingent workforce needs. The separation makes it difficult for organizations to gain an accurate account of their total talent supply, spend, and usage trends.

HR should create a structure that bridges the two groups, enabling them to:

  • Understand the skills that are available and those that are needed. More accurate talent matches help ensure you cost-effectively get the best talent.
  • Control cost and optimize spend. Visibility into the total talent supply enables HR to make better informed decisions about human capital investment.
  • Find and source the best talent. A streamlined talent acquisition process will increase speed and efficiency.

It’s predicted that the pace of technology- driven disruptions will continue accelerating. However, as a forwardthinking leader, you can position the company for success during these dynamic times. Begin by updating traditional organizational structures to embrace a flexible workforce.