The Business Case for Joining the Contingent Knowledge Workforce Movement

Emily Crookston

The rise in U.S. firms hiring independent professionals is not a fluke. It’s not a trend. It’s not a last-ditch effort by companies that are rapidly losing market share to try to become competitive again. Strong evidence suggests that the on-demand workforce is becoming a major component of most businesses’ recruitment efforts and for good reason.

There is a serious business case to be made for hiring specialized project-based contractors across many industries. Directors and VPs are quickly realizing that this tactic could not only reduce costs and increase outputs, among other benefits for their organizations, but also propel their own careers further, faster.

What are the best arguments to convince business leaders and decision-makers to join the contingent knowledge workforce movement? This is a great question! Without further ado let’s delve into the business case for hiring on-demand knowledge employees.

A Real-World Example

Consider this scenario: Maria, the VP of marketing and communications for a prominent pharmaceuticals company, needs to develop and implement a go-to-market strategy for a new drug in the final development stages. However, most of her in-house marketing team is working overtime to push an advertising campaign geared toward the top 25 cardiac surgeons across the United States.

Maria has considered hiring a marketing and sales consultant to take the lead on the new marketing strategy, but past experience causes her to hesitate. She recently suffered through a 60-day hiring process only to then have the chosen candidate hired away by a competitor 12 months later. She wants to be able to present her superiors with a better solution.

Here are three arguments she’s keeping in her back pocket to sell her bosses on the idea that contingent workers will solve their skills gap:

1. Industry influencers are excited about the opportunity.

Because she has been relatively successful at convincing her superiors to make refreshing changes to business operations, Maria understands how they think. She knows that she must paint the picture of hiring on-demand workers as the view from the top-down. She is careful to put her proposal in terms of solving a problem that key influencers care about.

Also, Maria knows that her bosses keep an eye on thought leaders in her industry and beyond. She has been combing national publications for empirical data and high-quality articles with positive discussions of contingent knowledge workforce trends. She carefully chooses content that will resonate with her company’s executives and uses concrete examples of, for instance, independent experts keeping a project from going over budget and helping industry leaders land big clients by increasing versatility.

What’s her angle? She pitches this as an exciting opportunity to be on the forefront of an evolving recruitment ecosystem. Capitalizing on her company’s push toward an “incubator culture” where all employees are encouraged to bring their personal experiences to the table, she discusses the boost to morale and excitement around fresh talent infusing new ideas and perspectives into a mature industry.

2. An increase in outputs paired with a reduction in costs makes this a no-brainer from a business development standpoint.

The best business leaders look at every worker as an investment. This is good for both companies and employees. Successful executives weigh the costs against the benefits for business development and make decisions that both advance the careers of employees who deliver and make their companies more efficient. When it comes to vetting on-demand expertise, the costs-versus-benefits formula nearly always comes out in favor of hiring.

In terms of outputs, it is widely known that project-based workers produce more results because they are free to focus all of their energy on the deliverables for each of their clients. And the pay-per-project business model adds a built-in incentive to increase productivity. Plus, choosing talent on a project basis allows for a better match between the work and the skillset of each contingent employee or team.

On the cost reduction side, hiring in the gig economy reduces the cost of vacancies, the cost of projects that face unexpected delays and the cost of redundancies. On average, it costs $4,129 and 42 days to fill an open position using traditional channels. By contrast, a typical contractor hiring process takes less than 48 hours to complete, which means Maria can have her marketing and sales consultant by the end of the week. With an online expert marketplace, a director or VP like Maria can use filters to eliminate unacceptable candidates and sort acceptable ones, communicate with candidates en masse and access ratings by her peers.

The availability of independent professionals also allows companies to hire on flexible terms to meet a surge in demand. Why hire someone full time whose particular set of skills may not be needed 12 months from now? The result? Better outcomes achieved with less effort.

3. The contingent knowledge workforce is a huge competitive advantage for firms like ours.

Maria also does a bit of reconnaissance work by asking other VPs and directors whether they hire on-demand talent. Not only does this give her powerful anecdotal information to take to her bosses, but also it helps her develop an argument around competitive advantage.

Maria realizes that by accessing contingent marketing expertise, she can put together teams to handle special marketing projects that tend to pop up without much warning. This will allow her to serve her clients in a more specialized way, strengthening her department’s UVP (unique value proposition).

Especially in industries where competition for the best talent is fierce, for instance, marketing and sales, business development, finance, consulting and software development, working with independent professionals is a serious competitive advantage. The technology available allows companies to locate highly sought-after experts quickly and deliver these individuals precisely where market trends dictate.

Additionally, switching to strategically working with contingent specialists offers a huge competitive advantage against hiring in-house consultants. Depending on your particular industry, your company may not need to spend the resources on full-time consultants. You may be able to save costs and retain more highly qualified consultants on a temporary basis.

Making the business case for hiring independent workers is as simple as locating a problem that your superiors care about, finding concrete examples that they will find exciting and showing results rather than telling.

A final piece of advice: Don’t get discouraged if a few executives are skeptical of your idea. Keep close to those who are supportive. Continue to tweak your arguments seeing this as an opportunity for you to increase your value to your company. Be confident that this change will make a significant contribution to the way your business runs and in turn boost your own career. You will be able to win over those naysayers in no time.

We believe in the power of the on-demand workforce. For more advice about internally selling the idea of contingent knowledge workers, check outCatalant Solutions. We’ve heard it all and have plenty of resources to help you strengthen your case.