Talent Marketplaces and Permanent Talent - no big deal from Upwork

Dorothy Mead

A freelance platform for permanents?

There has been plenty of buzz this year that Upwork, the doyen of freelance platforms, has added permanent hiring to its offerings. The general feeling is that somehow this goes against everything that marketplaces are meant to stand for – accessing this new, independent and agile workforce. And how does it stack up with the figures that more and more people are going freelance, or doing some freelance assignments – according to Upwork’s last Freelance Forward report, the share of professionals freelancing increased to 60 million Americans, up three percentage points from 2021 to 39%.

Nothing new here

Here at Talmix, the news landed with more of a phut than a bang. The reasoning is quite simple: we’ve long recognised that using the extended workforce means creating the right mix of talent. It’s not binary, it’s about getting the best skills in to do the work that needs doing, and sometimes that may not be in the form of independent talent.

For us, this journey started with – and I believe this is where Upwork had their realisation – conversions. The consultant who’d worked on a project, and the client wanted them to stay on – indefinitely. And then clients starting to ask if there were talent that would be ‘permanent’ from the start.

These questions were predicated on the quality of talent available, and the skills profiles of that talent – the classic ‘hard to find’ talent that is exercising every organisation right up to the C-suite. Could they find this at Talmix, with the same speed and convenience we’d brought to the on-demand talent piece. We never thought of this as a formal product –just something we were happy to work with for our client base.

Doesn’t everyone want to work independently?

There’s a very critical second factor here – the talent that has registered on to marketplaces and platforms as independent talent. That registration comes with the expectation of finding opportunities that match their independent direction. What we’ve found, through talking to our network and our regular surveys is that there is a ‘never say never’ attitude in many of those.

The Talmix approach

Putting all this together we realised the value in providing the talent marketplace experience for permanent opportunities. Our experience so far said that this had to be focused, much like our continuing focus on Business Talent as a category, and that it must work for both sides of the marketplace.

We looked at where there was a frequency of requests and where there were clear examples of converting talent into permanent hires, and decided to focus on three main areas – Finance, Operations and Transformation talent. Again, critical to this was the talent buy-in, so we updated the registration process to enable people to show that they are willing to consider permanent opportunities – currently running at about a third of the network -  that way we can quickly segment those talent views.

We now curate talent pools in these categories, building them based on expertise and that ‘permanent’ tag being switched on. We don’t see this as a new service, or moving into the exec search space, but a logical extension of the best way to find business talent for project and interim work, into those other areas of the talent mix. An extra layer of convenience for clients wanting the right quality and skills – and fast – because the great matching technology still comes into play

What does all this mean – surely not that the move to independent working is losing its edge?

We don’t believe so – many people want to work independently for a host of reasons (mostly to do with autonomy, specialism and flexibility as our survey that is underway right now is already showing) – but some are still dipping their toe in the water, and some will be sworn off their vow of independence when a particularly fascinating opportunity or client presents itself. We don’t see any slowing of the move to independent working, but if that is driven by flexibility, then surely we shouldn’t be inflexible into our adoption of other working styles. That’s why we’re not surprised that Upwork is doing what it is (and we’re fairly confident that many talent marketplaces will follow, if they’re not already there).

Once again, reinforcing that the Talmix belief is that with the right mix of talent anything is possible – and it’s up to our clients and talent how they want to create that mix – and we’re here to make it happen.

Dorothy Mead

Dorothy is VP Marketing & Brand at Talmix. Passionate about the changing workforce and the future of work, she is driving market share for Talmix globally.