When to Think Independent (and When Not to)

By MBO Partners | February 22, 2023


Key Points

With the pace of change increasing across all business sectors, there are times when hiring independent talent makes the most sense.

Increased productivity and agility have exceeded cost savings an motivations for engaging independents.

Going forward, you might want to “think independent” first when skill needs arise.

With the pace of change increasing across all business sectors and unexpected market events remaining within the realm of possibility, there are times when hiring independent talent—or a team of independents—makes the most sense. These times, in fact, seem to be increasing as enterprises seek the benefit of workforce optimization.

Our 2022 Contingent Labor report offers survey results from 504 Human Resource managers, directors, VPs, and CHROs. Their responses indicate that the top reasons their companies hire independent talent are:

  • Meet temporary workload needs
  • Boost productivity
  • Get tasks done more quickly
  • Access skills in short supply
  • Access talent unavailable within the company

These motivators far exceeded “cost savings,” which until recently was the top reason for hiring contingent labor.

When to Think “Independent”

The high-level benefits of hiring contingent labor translate to a range of applications in daily operations. For example, think “independent” when:

  • Your needs are immediate
  • The project is short-term
  • Your needs are highly specialized
  • The project needs an external perspective
  • You want access to a wider geographic, or global, talent pool
  • The role involves a skill that isn’t central to the organization
  • The skills won’t be needed for a long period of time
  • Your needs might change (e.g., you are just starting out or standing up a new department)
  • You need results quickly, so can’t wait for a full-time hire to get up to speed
  • A full-time employee temporarily vacates a role
  • The skill is very new (e.g., artificial intelligence), so there is a limited number of qualified people
  • You anticipate a role becoming permanent, but you aren’t ready to hire a full-time employee yet

And When Not to

While many of the reasons once cited for hiring an employee over engaging an independent have been dwindling over the past few years, there are still some instances where hiring full-time may be the better option. For example:

  • The project has a long timeline
  • You want to leverage proprietary and confidential information
  • You want to “lock in” a specific skillset or role on a more permanent basis
  • You want to retain critical knowledge
  • The role is business-critical with a well-defined career path

Engaging high-value independent talent can better equip your organization to handle the increasing pace of change in the market. Going forward, you might want to “think independent” first when skill needs arise.


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