BCG Henderson Institute

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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.

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