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The engagement and ultimate management of non-employee talent has been revolutionized by advancements in both the perception of the contingent workforce and the corresponding solutions and platforms for finding and sourcing top-tier skillsets and expertise. The hard fact of this industry is that 2016 will be unlike any other year for businesses that continually rely on independent talent to fuel critical projects and initiatives…and the biggest reason why is that technology will continue to adapt to a complex and evolving market.

Not long ago, the business travel and expense management space faced a similar issue: with a dearth of travel options available to the modern professional and the “integration” of travel-booking, analytics, automated expense management, and compliance-tracking required to manage the back end of this category, the technology market for this industry changed, adapted, and now represents an “ecosystem” approach. TMCs, online travel-booking solutions, expense management automation providers, alternative booking options (a la Airbnb), and mobile-enabled and on-demand transportation services (i.e., Uber) all form a complex ecosystem of technologies and platforms that have the ability to integrate and “talk” to each other to present a clear, real-time picture of travel spending, travel budgets, compliance risks, etc., while also providing near-endless content and booking options to the contemporary business traveler.

There is no reason why this approach will not work for managing the non-employee workforce, considering:

  • 35% of today’s total workforce is considered non-employee, a 10% increase over last year.
  • The contingent workforce is expected to comprise nearly 50% of the world’s workforce by 2018/2019.
  • The composition of the modern external workforce includes staffing suppliers, alumni, retirees, silver medalists, online talent platforms and marketplaces, freelancer networks, job boards, business networks, and SOW-based services.
  • The above sources of talent require a tightly-integrated, technological approach to maintain visibility, compliance, quality, costs, etc.

The “Ecosystem” Approach to Contingent Workforce Management (CWM)

What would an ecosystem approach for managing non-employee labor look like? The very notion of a technological ecosystem for the CWM industry is a bit different than integration, due to the fact that some solutions/platforms do not directly “plug into” more complex systems. The ecosystem approach, rather, revolves around the “core” systems used in this space and complemented by peripheral platforms that offer nuances and functionality to improve or expand the impact of non-employee talent:

  • The core. The core serves as the “heart” of the ecosystem, and provides professionals with automation, centralization, holistic processes, and standardized capabilities for the sake of operational prowess, total visibility, and ultimate management of non-employee labor. Vendor Management Systems (VMS) are regarded as the “nexus” of contingent workforce management due to their ability to enable a wide range of capabilities, from SOW management to supplier management, as well as compliance mitigation, project management, talent management, and analytics/reporting. Any peripheral solutions and platforms will link back to VMS, which is the official “system of record” and central platform.
  • The peripheral solutions. Peripheral solutions hover only slightly from the core, keeping close enough to make an impact, enable intelligence, and provide data. In this “talent ecosystem” approach, the peripheral platforms are founded in human capital and procurement technologies, such as spend management/supplier management, talent acquisition, background/screening/verification technology, video/voice interviewing, candidate-matching/”talent alignment” tools, workforce intelligence, and other HRIS/HRMS systems. These solutions have a tremendous impact within the ecosystem, helping to 1) bridge the gap between procurement and HR, 2) progress the concept of “total workforce management” (“total talent management”), and, 3) foster an intelligent environment that promotes total workforce visibility.
  • Sources of talent. The arrival of online talent platforms and Freelancer Management Systems (FMS) has certainly revolutionized how talent is engaged. Any ecosystem approach in this industry must include the various platforms (which also include social networks) that provide access to global talent in an on-demand manner, while also “linking,” in some manner, back to the core for total talent visibility (as well as understanding which projects and initiatives are leveraging non-employee labor, the status of those projects, performance measurement data, compliance, etc.).
  • Unanticipated, future platforms that may interact based on the evolution of the market. There is no question that the contingent workforce industry is growing year-over-year; in just a few years, the business world could be facing an environment in which 50% of its total workforce is considered non-employee. With more and more roles actively being filled by non-employee talent, the systems and software in use by those workers that are directly linked to their projects could be plugged  back into the core for visibility and control purposes (think business intelligence, CRM, ERP, etc.). Also, as business interconnectivity continues to progress, there will inevitably be new sources of non-employee talent that organizations cannot conceive today; in any event, the “ecosystem” must be ready for future partners based solely on evolution.

Technology is a critical component of today’s contingent workforce management programs. As the lines between traditional and non-traditional talent continue to blur, businesses will find that an ecosystem approach to software and automation is the best means for not only better integrating all talent types under a single program, but also for engaging new, global talent while maintaining proper visibility and control.


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