Remote work requirements and staff shortages can be solved by “flexible and open talent”.


Jul. 22



Although hybrid and remote work models appear to be well-established, there are still new approaches to employment and recruitment. Flexible and open talent is the latest addition to the list. It combines hybrid work with outsourcing and freelance staff hiring to allow employers flexibility.

Flexible and open talent combines the idea of remote and hybrid work with outsourcing and hiring freelance staff while also answering employees’ home-based needs. Employees can take the greatest benefit of being able to grow their business whenever it suits them.

Harvard Business Review states that project-based work, or temporary work, is the key feature of this model. This is where workers aren’t permanently tied to a company. These ways of working, if done right, can allow organizations to access skilled talent and provide flexibility that many workers are increasingly looking for.

What are the benefits of open and flexible talent?


  • It can accommodate fluctuating labor demands.
  • This allows for small-task outsourcing in situations where full-time staffing is not feasible or cost prohibitive.
  • Flexible talent strategies allow for access to diverse or innovative skills beyond traditional recruitment pipelines.


Harvard Business Review stated that, although the emerging model meets all the requirements of this pivotal period in human history, many companies are still hesitant about adopting it.

Upwork, a labor market platform, notes that there are some obstacles to implementing this model right away.


  • It is not common to find flexible talent.
  • Security and IP
  • The lack of familiarity among employees with new tools


Upwork’s survey also found that over 50% of hiring managers said that remote work had opened up opportunities for them to use or hire remote freelancers.

Respondents indicated interest and opportunities to use more freelance options. Respondents who have worked with or hired independent staff over the past year stated that they would do the work without external help (35%) or ask their teams (28%) — options which could lead to burnout.

Twenty percent of respondents said that they would hire an outside company, while 3% would employ a staffing agency. Only 8% of respondents said they would make new full-time employees, while 6% stated that the work couldn’t be done.


Why use flexible and open talent?


Traditional flexible models served three purposes.


  • First, flexibility allows organizations the ability to adjust staffing as needed, so they can meet labor demand fluctuations.
  • Second, flexible models are ideal for small-task outsourcing in situations where a full-time employee would be unjustifiable or where overhead costs of traditional temporary staffing solutions could slow down the project or make it prohibitive to hire.
  • Flexible talent strategies, third, allow for access to diverse and innovative skillsets that are not available through traditional recruitment channels. NASA and Netflix, two industry leaders, have discovered that contests with outside participants are more innovative than internal innovation benchmarks for similar projects.


Despite this, organizations still face barriers when adopting an open model. Upwork, an online labor marketplace, had some issues with potential clients. Because remote work is so common, it was a significant problem. Enterprise inertia, bureaucracy, security concerns, and a lack familiarity with tools and management practices that allow open talent to be effective are all reasons for resistance. Companies sought out talent in local labor markets, de-facto recruitment networks, and traditional hiring arrangements.

However, things are changing. Ozimek conducted surveys among a representative sample of companies and found that more than half of the hiring managers said that remote work had increased their willingness or ability to use remote freelancers during the pandemic as well as in the future.

These models have attracted more workers. The self-employment rates have risen in the last year. This supports anecdotal reports from people who are considering a Great Resignation to gain more control and flexibility over their lives. A representative survey of Americans of working age found that one in five people who could work remotely during the pandemic considered freelancing. A more flexible schedule is what people value the most when considering freelancing.

Respondents to Upwork surveys reported interest and opportunities for more freelance work. Respondents who have worked with or hired independent staff over the past year stated that they would do the work without external help (35%), or ask their teams (28%). These options could lead to burnout. 20% said they would hire an outside company, while 3% said they would hire a staffing agency. Only 8% of respondents said they would make new full-time employees, while 6% stated that the work couldn’t be done.

Respondents also stated that they used more remote freelancers during the pandemic (compared to pre-pandemic baseline of 6%), and plan to continue to use it for the next two year (47% vs 11 %).


Which Jobs and Tasks are most suited to the Flexible/Open Talent Model


Flexible/open models have proven to be effective in a variety of jobs and tasks. Administrative support, which includes repetitive tasks such as data entry, and web/software programming are the top skills on Upwork. These skills range from common, highly specialized, and well-paid to difficult-to-find. Topcoder is another platform that focuses on contests. This model has been incredibly useful for innovation. Tournaments typically contain high-level programming, machine learning, or subjective design work.

Open talent is a good option because of the wide range of skills that are available on these platforms. Specifically, when:


  • It is not possible to redeploy insiders easily.
  • The cost of hiring an outsider is less than paying overtime or hiring a new insider.
  • High-skilled skills are required and are not readily available within the company.
  • The returns on exceptional solutions can be high.


The first three scenarios are simply about companies needing talent. However, the last highlights another motivation: Outsiders often beat insiders in many situations. The organization can choose from many solutions or approaches to a problem outsiders may offer.

Perhaps even more important than the circumstances that led to firms opening talent is the nature of the job itself. Before deciding how to use open/flexible talent, there are several important factors that companies need to consider.

One, the amount of knowledge needed for a project will often tip the balance between outsiders and insiders. Although freelancers are able to build web-based applications with complex databases from scratch, this may not be as efficient as the internal staff of many companies. A project that involves interfacing with existing applications will require an internal employee to create the bridge. Alternatively, an internal employee must learn the internal systems (potentially at a higher cost than an employee). Alternatively, an internal employee will take on an integration role that builds upon the freelancer’s work.

There’s also the issue of whether a task or project is recurring. Every hiring or onboarding involves some cost, whether it’s screening freelancers, setting up contests, or hiring full-time employees. A project or task that is likely to be repeated often will result in a higher cost for permanent hiring. This is especially true if it involves training new employees on company-specific processes. If the task is repetitive and does not require any firm-specific context, open talent may be able to take it on.

Integration costs are also involved in integrating work from open talent solutions into a larger organization. They are usually low for projects that do not require firm-specific knowledge, but can rise to a great extent for projects that involve highly specific task


Lets Nurture
Posted by Lets Nurture
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