The talent shortage, combined with the new-found acceptance of remote work, has increased contingent workforce program managers’ interest in tapping international talent.  Technology solutions and services that help companies find and engage international talent are growing, and despite potential challenges and legal issues, organizations are ready and willing to tap into them.

Case in point, the share of contingent workforce programs using talent and staffing platforms rose to 22% in 2021 from 4% in 2016, according to SIA’s “Workforce Solutions Buyer Survey” report, with an additional 47% planning to consider using such platforms in the next two years. In addition, the worldwide market for temporary staffing platforms reached $11.9 billion in 2021, up 190% year over year, states SIA’s recent report, “Temporary Staffing Platform Update.”

The Platform Mission

The ultimate purpose of a temporary staffing platform is to optimize the matching of the most relevant temporary workers to a given job; leverage automation and digital efficiencies to deploy them faster; and deliver higher fill rates with as little human intervention as possible, according to the update. Such platforms may also provide employer-of-record services, either themselves — handling statutory employment taxes and workers’ compensation as a traditional staffing firm would — or via a payrolling firm. Outside the US, these platforms frequently employ workers under relevant local temporary agency worker regulations.

Challenges and Risks

Those considering looking internationally for contingents should keep in mind that challenges and risks remain.

Security. As with all workers, whether contingent or staff, security protocols and access to your data should be top of mind. This can be more difficult when working across borders.

IC misclassification. When engaging talent through a traditional staffing firm, that firm is the employer of record — but that might not always be the case with workers secured through a staffing platform. Misclassification and other liabilities can result if the relationship is directly between the hiring organization and the worker; these can be further complicated if the parties are in different countries with different regulations.

“There is a legal risk and uncertainty here that is really putting off some organizations,” says Matt Norton, global workforce solutions research manager at SIA.

Product ownership. Ownership of the work generated through the platform process can also be a “grey area,” according to Norton. Is it the worker’s intellectual property or does it belong to the firm they are working for?

Volume overload. Traditional staffing firms typically provide a short list of potential workers to their client. However, a platform’s algorithm for sourcing talent worldwide could come back with 50, 100 or even more options to examine and sort through, adding time and potential administrative headaches to the process.

“There are no skill shortages; it’s just that the workers are in the wrong places,” many SIA thought leaders have said. So, if the best available talent can’t be brought to the work, it may be time to bring the work to the best available talent. Talent platforms and related technologies provide one option that is certainly worth exploring, though programs should approach them with care.