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The Professional Services Industry Needs Freelancers

August 8th, 2019

The professional services sector is knowledge-intensive, using expertise as a primary differentiator and largely relying on people to stay competitive. While talent is undoubtedly a key asset in the industry, talent management continues to be one of the biggest challenges. In 2018, two-thirds (65%) of executives in service-centric industries stated that their organization had to turn down work because they lacked the necessary resources and skills to deliver that work, up from just 35% in 2017.

Traditionally, professional services organizations have relied quite heavily on subcontractors and freelancers to perform some of the work. However, the focus has been on augmenting existing resources during busy periods rather than using external talent as a primary recruitment strategy. As maintaining full-time in-house talent across disparate competencies has become increasingly difficult and some skills continue to be in short supply, professional services companies need to think beyond the traditional operating models.

Use the open talent economy to source expertise

While only a quarter (26%) of professional services executives claim to use on-demand, online marketplaces for freelancers, two-thirds (66%) expect to use them in three years’ time. Additionally, 58% report that they would be unable to conduct business as usual without an external workforce, the highest among all industries.

ON24 Tips:

Capitalize on webinars to showcase the expertise you have access to.

Webinars are a gateway to your most important asset: expertise. Feature both in-house and external experts in your webinars to reveal what your brand is all about. A combination of market insights, case studies, video interviews and in-depth testimonials can prove highly effective.

Demonstrate thought leadership with a comprehensive webinar program.

To capture new business, you need to be at the center of industry conversations and improve your position as a thought leader. Webinars can help you drive those conversations, focus on your points of difference and show how you’re using technology to augment the services you provide.

Develop proprietary data-fueled insights to establish authority.

Understand your prospects’ motivations and pain points, then use that information to create data- or research-focused webinars to highlight your expertise in the areas they’re interested in. Establish authority by contextualizing insights, not just processing information.

Forming external talent networks allows professional services companies to tap into infinite capacity and pull together virtual teams to work on client projects on an as-needed basis. Technology can now automate the process of sourcing and commissioning contingent and freelance workers, and will continue to play a key role in managing and maintaining these ‘talent clouds’.

Why Talent On-Demand Is Necessary

Adopting a more flexible approach to talent management also provides easier access to so-called ‘smart creatives’, who combine technical knowledge, business acumen and creativity. Google’s Eric Schmidt believes these people can have a transformational impact within organizations: “When you put today’s technology tools in their hands and give them lots of freedom, they can do amazing things, amazingly fast.”

Executives in the professional services industry report that 43% of their total workforce spend is on non-payroll workers and service providers. However, there’s evidence that contingent workers are usually undermanaged as only 16% of professional services executives strongly agree that their organization has a talent strategy that encompasses both employees and the external workforce.

Embracing the open talent economy and managing the external workforce more effectively enables professional services providers to deliver innovative services and respond more quickly to new opportunities, as they have permanent access to critical capabilities and skills – many of which are usually in short supply. It also empowers them to gain a firm foothold in the Knowledge as a Service (KaaS) economy.