Navigating the Shifting Landscape of Contingent Labor: A Strategic Approach to Direct Sourcing 

By Alex Khouri | December 6, 2023

consultants working

Key Points

In a labor market characterized by scarcity and dynamic shifts, the statistics speak volumes about the evolving nature of the workforce.

A noteworthy trend is the surge in independent workers, emphasizing the enteprise's need to adapt strategies to attract and retain top-tier contingent talent. 

High ROI direct sourcing programs and a more diverse workforce mix are becoming competitive requirements.

In a labor market characterized by scarcity and dynamic shifts, the statistics speak volumes about the evolving nature of the workforce. As of October, there were 9.6 million open jobs, significantly outnumbering the 6.5 million job seekers (October BLS Report). This staggering gap emphasizes the ongoing challenge of talent acquisition, pushing organizations to explore innovative strategies to meet their workforce needs. 

A survey of over 600 HR leaders revealed that contingent labor constitutes 28% of their workforce, and this figure is projected to rise to 38% by the end of 2027. The significance of contingent labor in the overall workforce strategy cannot be overstated. As of early 2023, nearly 80% of organizations either have a direct sourcing program in place or are planning to explore this approach within the next two years. This shift underscores the growing recognition that traditional approaches to talent acquisition may no longer suffice in the face of a rapidly changing employment landscape. 

One of the most noteworthy trends is the surge in independent workers. In 2023, 72.1 million Americans were engaged in independent work, constituting 45% of the entire American workforce. Full-Time Independents also witnessed a substantial increase, growing by 20% to reach 26 million. These statistics not only reflect the evolving nature of work but also the need for organizations to adapt their strategies to attract and retain top-tier contingent talent. 

The data is novel but the shift is certainly not unnoticed. Over the past several months I’ve had the opportunity to meet with program leaders with priorities ranging from “staying abreast” of contingent worker strategies to build or grow a direct-sourcing/independent workforce program to those looking to get their ducks in a row in a worker engagement/risk-mitigation workflow.

Here are a few important takeaways: 

Tight Labor Market

The persistent gap between job openings and available talent underscores the tightness of the labor market. Organizations must navigate this challenge strategically to secure the best contingent talent. 

The Critical Role of Contingent Workforce Programs

Contingent workforce (CW) programs continue to play a pivotal role in the overall workforce strategy of enterprises. As the proportion of contingent labor grows, organizations must refine and optimize their CW programs. 

Direct Sourcing is the Norm, Not the Exception

The prevalence of direct sourcing programs or plans to explore this approach in the near future highlights a shift towards greater internal control and autonomy in managing contingent talent. This trend is reshaping the traditional boundaries between full-time employees and contingent workers. 

Untapped Potential in Independent Talent

Ignoring independent talent means missing out on a substantial portion of the contingent labor market. Organizations need to recognize and capitalize on the opportunities presented by this dynamic and diverse pool of workers. 

Bridging the Gap

Regardless of the model, size, or scope of a CW program, a common theme persists: the quest to attract, build, and retain the best contingent talent. With direct sourcing offering increased internal control and flexibility, organizations find themselves navigating a blended workforce where full-time employees and contingent talent seamlessly coexist. 

The fundamental question arises: If top full-time employees are drawn to organizations due to their success, reputation, and brand, why not leverage the same competitive advantage for contingent talent? 

Leveraging Competitive Advantages 

Top-tier contingent talent possesses a myriad of choices in selecting where and how they work. By adopting a perspective that aligns with their priorities, organizations can better position themselves as attractive destinations for this sought-after talent. Directly courting contingent talent without intermediaries puts reputable brands at the forefront of the priority list for these skilled professionals. 

The evolving landscape of the contingent workforce calls for attention and strategic adaptation. High ROI direct sourcing programs and a more diverse workforce mix are becoming competitive requirements. I am excited to see what’s in store for our industry ahead and looking forward to sharing more insightful content as we navigate this dynamic landscape together! 

Direct Sourcing CTA

Related Posts

Learn more about the MBO Platform


Start, run, and grow

your independent business with MBO


Engage, scale, and optimize

your independent workforce