4 Ways to Build a Network of Qualified Independent Talent

By MBO Partners | October 25, 2023

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Key Points

A talent network is a group of vetted independent professionals that managers can access for quick project deployment.

When building a talent network, start by adding independents who are currently working on projects at your company.

Employees can be a great source of talent referrals as well as reaching out to people who’ve previously worked with your company.

A talent network is a vetted and qualified on-demand pool of independent professional talent that managers use to fill project roles quickly. An established talent network that has either worked with your company before or been through a vetting process can be hugely valuable. This group of independents will already be familiar with how to work with your company, have already completed basic onboarding tasks, and will have established some level of trust with employees or managers.

9 Steps to Build and Manage a Top Talent Network

How do You Build a Talent Network?

When it comes to building a talent network, there are many different approaches you can take depending on the quality, quantity, and size of your network. If you’ve ever posted an opening to a job board, then you’re aware of the quantity of responses you can receive to each posting. The administrative task of filtering through candidates to find the right fit can be very time-consuming.

In the same way, building (or accessing) a very large, but not-yet-qualified database of talent creates similar challenges. This approach might work when projects require a quick turn-around, there is no onboarding, or if the work product is not very costly. However, when it comes to building a pool of highly-skilled talent—experts who work on strategic initiatives—a different approach is required.

Quality, or qualification, should be considered upfront and be a requirement to join your talent pool. This simple foundation will begin to create loyalty between your company and the talent you invite to be a part of your program. With quality in mind, where exactly do you begin to find this great talent? Here are four proven sources to start building your talent network.

4 Ways to Build a Network of Qualified Independent Talent

1. Consider independent talent already actively working for you

Adding talent currently working on projects throughout your organization is a great first step to curating your own talent network. This group can serve as the foundation for launching your program. However, it is important to keep in mind they may not be responsive to project opportunities until their current projects end.

2. Tap into your alumni talent network

An often overlooked yet potentially valuable resource, “alumni” independent talent are another strong source for building out your talent network. Alumni talent are former independent contractors or employees who have successfully worked for or engaged with your company in the past.

In order find these individuals, your HR, procurement, and business management teams will need strong reporting capabilities and resources to find and invite these individuals to join. Your organization will also need to share enough open projects to ensure talent find the experience engaging. Otherwise, your alumni talent may not see the value in your program.

Try it: Talent Network Management: Tips for Being the Client of Choice for Top Talent

3. Ask employees for talent referrals

Research shows that employees can be a great source for independent talent referrals, and those referred candidates often maintain good working relationships with the client. This tactic has proven to be both efficient and cost-effective, while also being a primary source for a company’s highest-tenured resources.

Invite managers in your company to refer independent professionals they know and trust. Then, take the next step with referrals by soliciting the most valuable independents to assist in identifying others for upcoming project opportunities.

4. Explore talented retirees as an option

The workforce landscape is rapidly changing, especially with Baby Boomers retiring, leaving huge skill gaps in the full-time talent marketplace. Many of these retirees are choosing to work longer but are doing so on their own terms as independent professionals. Companies who are both able to retain their own retirees as independents and attract other talented retirees will create a strong pool of independent talent who have the skills and expertise to take on any challenge.

Each of these sources has a varying level of qualifications built-in and serve as an excellent foundation to begin building a strong talent network.

Up next: When Direct Sourcing, Organizations Must Go From ‘Independent Talent Network’ to ‘Independent Talent Community’

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