Navigating the future: Transforming industries through on-demand talent

Azeem Zainulbhai, co-founder and chief product officer at Outsized, emphasises the transformative potential of on-demand talent in reshaping workforce dynamics

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Published: Mon 19 Feb 2024, 5:08 PM

Can you discuss the role of on-demand talent in enabling companies to adapt quickly to changing market demands?

Traditional hiring processes often impede companies from swiftly accessing the skilled talent required to meet evolving market demands. The lack of flexibility in talent deployment not only hampers business operations but may also sideline companies from engaging in national initiatives such as the UAE's Strategy for Talent Attraction and Retention, designed to place the UAE among the top ten countries in global talent competitiveness indices. This strategy inherently involves attracting individuals with diverse skills and knowledge and requires businesses to shift towards more agile talent models that enable them to access specialised expertise efficiently and facilitate global knowledge-sharing.

On-demand talent offers a viable solution, and with the industry encompassing diverse segments, companies have the flexibility to leverage. Outsized primarily operates within the realm of professional, full-time independents that typically possess 5–15 years of experience and are composed of committed career independents.

Embracing an adaptable approach to talent deployment is key for companies aiming to navigate market fluctuations and seize emerging opportunities. This flexibility not only enhances operational efficiency but also fosters innovation, knowledge transfer, and the effective execution of competitive strategies.

On-demand talent allows companies to adapt quickly to changing market demands by providing access to a pool of highly skilled freelancers globally. This flexible workforce model enables organisations to achieve agility, quick execution, and flexible cost bases.

How can companies ensure a seamless transition from traditional workforce structures to on-demand talent approaches?

To effectively leverage on-demand talent, companies must navigate potential pitfalls and adopt best practices to ensure a seamless transition from traditional workforce structures.

Accurately identifying talent needs is paramount in this transition. Companies should thoroughly assess their project requirements, considering factors such as specialisation, duration, and urgency. By understanding the specific skills and expertise needed, organisations can efficiently tap into the diverse on-demand talent pool and avoid inefficiencies. Once talent needs are identified, scoping roles effectively is essential. Clear communication of project expectations, deliverables, and required skill sets ensures alignment between freelancers and project goals. Well-defined roles minimise the risk of mismatched talent and promote successful project outcomes.

Integration of freelancers into existing teams is another critical aspect. Establishing efficient onboarding processes and facilitating collaboration fosters seamless integration. Additionally, companies should focus on developing an attractive freelancer value proposition. Offering competitive compensation, consistent engagement opportunities, and a supportive work environment enhances freelancer engagement and output quality. By extending organisational culture and loyalty incentives, companies can effectively attract and retain top talent in the on-demand talent economy.

Can you provide examples of industries where the adoption of on-demand talent has significantly improved agility and talent deployment? Include interesting stats/data?

In terms of sectors experiencing the highest demand, our data indicates strong growth in the following areas:

Technology and IT: Businesses undergoing the transition to digital platforms are actively seeking a diverse range of professionals, including web developers, software engineers, IT consultants, and digital marketers. This demand stems from the necessity to strengthen their online presence and adjust to evolving consumer preferences.

Banking and Finance: Roles in risk management, digital banking, and product management are particularly sought after, as organisations strive to enhance their offerings and stay competitive.

Management Consulting: The evolving business landscape has caused a rise in demand for business consultants, especially in areas like digital transformation and business strategy.

These trends are substantiated by our recent Mid-Year Demand Trends report, which showed a remarkable 125 per cent increase in demand for risk professionals and a staggering 200 per cent rise in demand for consulting roles from the first half of last year to the corresponding period in 2023. Overall, the freelance market in the UAE remains robust, driven by a combination of market needs and supportive government policies.

What is the role of on-demand talent platforms in bridging skill gaps?

Skill gaps present a pressing concern for a vast majority of businesses, with 87 per cent currently experiencing or anticipating such gaps in the near future, according to a survey by McKinsey & Co. Furthermore, 67 per cent of executives reported difficulty filling certain specialised roles, which contributes to a noticeable talent shortage in various industries, according to the same report. On-demand talent platforms play a crucial role in addressing this challenge.

Moreover, marketplaces help solve access-to-talent and quality assurance problems. For example, Outsized offers flexible solutions tailored to specific company needs, providing access to a diverse pool of skilled talents and ensuring high-quality professionals through rigorous quality assurance measures.

Depending on the specific need, marketplaces consolidate a broader and deeper variety of talent that would otherwise not be discoverable to enterprises, while also ensuring quality through testing, interviews, and other mechanisms. These platforms also help connect different regions, which was earlier seen as a challenge. With remote work now an accepted practice, clients can access higher quality, even when that talent does not exist within the region. While still in the growth phase, on-demand marketplaces are getting better, and more focused, and that brings in more competition which helps increase the breadth of available talent and increases the bar for quality.

Can you provide insights into the future trends of on-demand talent utilisation and its impact on workforce agility and talent deployment practices?

On-demand talent utilisation is expected to evolve continuously, driven by technological advancements, changing workforce preferences, and market dynamics. Businesses are actively moving towards incorporating a large percentage of their professional workforce as agile, flexible talent. This shift is driven by the need to remain effective in a turbulent world. Moreover, by making the transition, businesses gain a workforce that enhances skillset management and operational agility while also saving costs. Companies like Outsized are pivotal in this transition by providing the curation and quality assurance of independent talent, thereby reducing the risks associated with non-permanent hires. This approach addresses historical concerns about the risks of non-permanent hires, as the same professionals once sought for permanent roles are now thriving in the independent ecosystem, turning agile talent access into a competitive advantage.

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