Since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, 76% of surveyed executives plan to increase their use of independent workers. Today the benefits of embracing a workforce that is fluid are proven and well documented. Having access to an extended workforce — freelancers, 1099s, independent contractors and other contingent workers — with the right skills at the right time can give a company the agility and cost savings to survive and thrive during turbulent times.

However, relying on manual, repetitive tasks to identify, vet, offer work assignments and measure worker performance can keep program managers from using that contingent labor — freelancers and 1099s — effectively. Despite the increasing use of technology, WorkMarket’s 2020 In (Sight) Report found that a whopping 70% of business leaders still spend anywhere from 45 minutes to 3-plus hours per day on mundane tasks.

How can companies reduce the time spent on these mundane tasks? Enter the cloud-based freelancer management system or FMS as it is popularly known. Little wonder that more and more organizations are deploying FMSs such as WorkMarket — a platform acquired by ADP in 2018 — to manage their end-to-end relationships with members of their extended workforce.

Automating critical parts of the talent management lifecycle within a single platform can help forward-thinking companies attract top independent talent, streamline processes and workflows, and improve efficiency. Here’s how.

Talent Magnet

Leveraging one of a company’s most valuable assets — its employer brand — can consistently attract world-class freelance talent and tap retirees and alumni with valuable business and operational knowledge for remote, part-time and flexible work. Specifically, research shows that a strong employer brand leads to 50% more qualified applicants and a 43% decrease in cost-per-hire.

“An FMS should support the business as a talent magnet,” says John Murcott, VP of solutions engineering at WorkMarket, an ADP company.

The WorkMarket platform helps speak to the employer brand. “For instance, our platform enables you to create a customized portal and user experience that reflects your employer brand,” he explains. “We also provide bulk tools, making it easy to engage with hundreds or thousands of prospective contractors with just a few clicks.”

Moreover, because the gig economy is altering the way that people find and perform work, offering native mobile apps for Android and iOS can help you connect your vetted talent pool with suitable, gig-oriented assignments, and enable them to submit bids or proposals and communicate in a way that’s convenient for them, adds Ali Din, WorkMarket’s VP of marketing.

There is no need for an intermediary on the FMS. Program managers can save time by messaging contractors directly and collaborating in real time without leaving the platform. Then, once you’ve identified potential rock stars from a wide range of sources, simply invite them to join your self-curated talent pools from the same platform.

Organized via Talent Pools

What good is a massive database in a product, if it takes hours of searching and emailing to find, for example, a language translator who specializes in PowerPoint presentations? Instead, organize talent by skill sets, location, credentials and more with easy-to-use customized talent pools.

It can be hard to find the perfect candidate hiding in plain sight in a spreadsheet or series of databases. An FMS like WorkMarket uses a powerful search engine, rich worker profiles and engagement rules around business-defined compliance to find the right worker for the assignment, Murcott says.

In addition, look for features and tools that enable you to manage and evaluate supply and demand, such as geolocation capabilities, which visualize contractor availability (on a map, for example) to determine where you have market gaps and coverage density. Having analytic tools, reporting and ongoing opportunities to engage means that your team and organization are ready to handle an influx of demand for freelance talent anytime, anywhere.

Eliminate Tedium, Maximize Talent

Attracting top talent is only half the battle. Then there’s the onboarding process — before freelancers or 1099s can actually start an assignment, they need to complete a company-specific vetting process that aligns with the nature of their gig to ensure compliance and reduce risk.

Forget checklists and emails. With a mobile-enabled FMS, you can set parameters around insurance, drug tests, certifications, driver’s licenses and other requirements, track fulfillment, automate reminders and use advanced algorithms and engagement rules to shoot out assignment notices to a group of vetted and qualified freelancers. Eliminate steps, tedious follow-up and compliance mistakes by integrating directly with background check, drug test and other partners.

“The consequences of over- or under-skilling can impact your bottom line,” Din adds. “To maximize the return on an extended workforce, program managers need the ability to access the right talent, with the right skills at the right price and most importantly, be able to do it at scale.”

“However, automation doesn’t stop at onboarding,” Murcott points out.

Manage Work at the Task Level

With an FMS, you can break down an assignment into tasks that align to skill levels of different workers, enabling you to deploy resources in a more agile approach based on their availability — while saving money.

Spreadsheets require manual entry, so they’re just not scalable. With a seamless API integration, such as with the WorkMarket platform, users can pull work tickets or requirements from other applications such as ServiceNow or Salesforce, solicit bids or assign specific tasks within larger projects to find the most capable and cost-effective contractor.

“There’s no rekeying or recopying, so a program manager can handle tens, hundreds and even thousands of assignments per week,” Din notes.

For instance, a vacation rental company can reach out to a pool of vetted and equipped photographers to shoot photos of hundreds of properties each week simultaneously around the world.

Manage Performance, Track Results

The gig economy provides a vital and growing source of talent to many organizations, but there are unique challenges when it comes to managing the performance of freelancers who may be working intermittently or providing incremental components of a large, complex project.

As a program manager, how do you track the achievement of key deliverables? Do you know how long it took an independent contractor to complete an assignment, when they get paid on a flat-fee rather than a time-and-materials basis? Do you know which freelancers consistently exceed expectations?

Program managers need a platform that’s flexible enough to accommodate the working arrangements and performance standards of a modern extended workforce and also cater to unique business needs through customizable fields.

With a platform such as WorkMarket, a program manager can track performance and automatically send out reminders to freelancers and exception notices to line managers when a project task needs to be completed or a deadline is approaching, Murcott says.

They can also use mobile access to address specific issues with workers on-site or consumer-like buyer and seller ratings to quantitatively and qualitatively rate contractors based on performance, timeliness and overall satisfaction.

Using an FMS can not only increase effectiveness and productivity, it can ensure that program managers and their stakeholders are equipped to lead the workforce of the future while maintaining their employer brand and delivering to the bottom line.