After years of dominance by startups like Uber and Airbnb, the gig economy is finally becoming a feature of America’s corporations.

According to Deloitte, up to 30 percent of many large companies’ procurement spend now funds contingent work — that is, work performed by independent contractors, temporary workers, statement-of-work contractors, and similar non-employee workers.

The business world’s embrace of gig work stems from a perfect storm of factors. With the national unemployment rate sitting at just 4.1 percent in December, competition for the best talent is cutthroat. At the same time, technologies like freelancer management systems have made it easier than ever to manage large crops of contingent workers. And workers across the board — 97 percent of them, according to FlexJobs’ fourth annual Super Study — say flexible work would improve their quality of life.

How to Win With Gig Work

Clearly, contingent work is a win-win for employers and workers. So if your company is looking to dive deeper into the gig economy, take note of these three strategies that leading companies use to make the most of it:

1. Use direct sourcing for hard-to-find talent.

Believe it or not, leads for top-notch gig talent already exist within your company. Direct sourcing taps into your employee and alumni network for high-quality contacts. What’s more, it means you can offer internal positions to talented “silver medal” candidates. It just takes a little legwork to get employees on board with direct-sourcing efforts.

For example, we partnered with a global defense company that needed technical workers with security clearances. To win employee buy-in for direct sourcing of these valuable individuals, we helped the company craft an education initiative. Together, we held events and webinars to promote the benefits of direct-sourcing gig workers.

Once it was all said and done, about half of the client’s gig talent was secured through direct sourcing activities, while the client tapped several runner-up candidates for internal roles. By partnering with IES to develop the program, the client said, “It allowed us to respond quickly and effectively to the unpredictable and ever-changing hiring needs characteristic of our industry.” So don’t underestimate the power of your existing network to find elusive talent.

2. Trust gig workers to get emerging initiatives off the ground.

Growing a business initiative from the ground up requires capable, out-of-the-box thinkers. Fortunately, gig workers can be hand-picked for specialized tasks without breaking the bank on an untested program. According to the AFL-CIO’s Department for Professional Employees, using the contingent workforce can cut labor costs by up to 40 percent.

That’s why a digital media company we work with brought in gig workers to boost its emerging brands. In particular, it needed creative and IT workers to make a name for the youngest members of its brand family. We helped it engage contingent workers who fit the bill, enabling it to build some of the best-known media and internet brands on the market.

3. Mix and match to accommodate changing workloads.

Workloads ebb and flow at almost every company. Contingent employees can be brought in during periods of high volume, and they don’t need to be retrained if work dwindles.

For one IES client — a behavior-change marketing company — a fluctuating workload is the norm. To craft and deliver its campaigns, this client needs a flexible workforce, including traditional employees and contingent workers. We handled everything from onboarding to compliance for its contingent workers, ensuring it had the help it needed for a busy season of behavioral campaigns.

In another instance, an IES client expanded its workforce using the gig economy after winning a government contract. This science and technology solutions provider supplemented its full-time team with about 30 contract workers. IES provided a customized onboarding and payrolling program, as well as expertise around hiring people on military bases. Quick and compliant contingent workers helped the client fulfill its contract and win new business.

Whether you’re building a new arm of your business, dealing with variable workloads, or simply looking for the best talent in your field, the gig economy has what you’re looking for. Contingent workers are a quick, cost-effective, and flexible solution for startups, enterprises, and any company in between.

Curious how your company can go big with gig? Share your story with us, and we’ll help you decide which contingent workforce strategies make sense for your business.


Sara Jensen is the Vice President of Business Development at Innovative Employee Solutions (IES), a leading nationwide employer of record that specializes in payrolling and contractor management services for today’s contingent workforce. Founded in 1974 in San Diego, California, IES has grown into one of the city’s largest women-owned businesses and been named one of its “Best Places to Work” for 10 years in a row.

Prior to joining IES in 2011, Sara served as director of distinguished events for the American Cancer Society. She also worked as a development resource specialist for the San Diego branch of nonprofit Social Advocates for Youth. A Washington native, Sara earned a Bachelor of Arts in communications from Western Washington University.


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