Scaling a direct sourcing programme

How to scale a direct sourcing programme using on-demand workforce software

Mercer’s 2019 Global Talent Trends report shows 79% of executives are expecting contingent and freelance workers to substantially replace full-time employees in the coming years. This creates a huge opportunity for organisations to save costs, not only through having a more flexible workforce but also through implementing a direct sourcing program that can operate at scale.

In this guide:

  • Exploring the two growth strategies for direct sourcing
  • Where recruitment agencies and MSPs fit in (and flourish) with a scalable direct sourcing program
  • Using technology to effectively manage the growth of a direct sourcing program

Exploring the two growth strategies for direct sourcing

Most forward-thinking organisations have (or have started to) implement a direct sourcing program to leverage such benefits as lower recruitment costs and longer-term retention of talent.

When considering how to further increase savings, reduce time to hire, or improve EVP with a direct sourcing program, there are two main strategies:

  • Growing the percentage - increasing the percentage of spend on directly engaged contingent talent versus those engaged through an intermediary
  • Growing the number - increasing the number of freelancers or contractors

Growing the percentage

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This strategy is more applicable to those organisations who have established a mature contingent workforce. The guiding principle is to slowly shift the percentage of the on-demand workforce towards being directly sourced.

There are several important considerations when shifting the focus of an existing on-demand workforce to direct sourcing:

It should be done over time to ensure business continuity. Flipping the switch on your entire contingent workforce instantly is likely to cause disruption to existing engagements and a potential talent exodus, along with a short-term talent supply challenge by isolating recruitment suppliers while they are still needed.

Employer Brand
EVP (and FVP) and employer brand is key to attracting and retaining on-demand talent directly. Before pushing for an increase in directly sourced engagements, an organisation should ensure its employer brand proposition is primed and ready to be communicated to their contingent workforce.

Supply and demand need to scale in harmony. Without the right number and type of projects, an organisation will struggle to keep a private, directly-sourced talent pool of contractors engaged. And vice-versa.

Recruitment Agencies and MSPs
The focus for an organisation’s recruitment agencies and MSP will have to shift. The role of a recruiter will likely become one of specific skill acquisition, whilst the MSP will likely evolve into an important on-demand workforce curation and engagement function.

Growing the number

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The second strategy is applicable to an organisation regardless of the maturity of its contingent workforce. However, it is arguably more beneficial for those organisations who have a small contingent workforce but are under commercial or operational pressures to adopt a more flexible, liquid workforce model.

The guiding principle of this second strategy is to simply increase the number of directly engaged freelancers or contractors. For example, going from a private talent pool comprised of a handful of freelancers to an extensive vetted population of hundreds of freelancers and contractors, organised into many private talent pools.

When growing the number of workers in your directly sourced contingent workforce population, there are three main considerations:

The first, and most crucial, consideration is visibility. Without having the ability to view and understand every freelance or contract engagement in your organisation, it is difficult to make the right decisions as to where needs additional support or resources.

Strategic Workforce Planning
With the right levels of visibility and reporting, strategic workforce planning should confidently include directly sourced freelancers and contractors alongside permanent and temporary employees in resource and budget planning.

Controlled acquisition
A direct sourcing program is really only as good as the quality of its on-demand population. This makes it absolutely critical to retain control over the vetting and on-boarding of new freelancers and contractors.

Where recruitment agencies and MSPs fit in (and flourish) with a scalable direct-sourcing program

At a quick glance, an intermediary recruitment business may perceive an organisation’s desire to scale a direct sourcing program as a threat.

When a large organisation begins to scale its direct sourcing program, it will undoubtedly change the agency-organisation relationship. However, it can present a significant opportunity for both recruitment agencies and MSPs to add value and play an important ongoing role.

Organisations will continue to need specialist agencies who provide an important acquisition service, helping the organisation attract new or in-demand skills to compliment their existing private talent pools.

In addition, MSPs will be able to provide synergistic ‘human-touch’ services to manage, curate, facilitate and optimise an organisation’s direct sourcing program. As an organisation’s directly sourced talent population grows, so does the MSP’s ability to offer new and innovative supporting services.

Using technology to effectively manage the growth of a direct sourcing program

Using technology to manage an organisation’s direct sourcing program is a must when operating at scale. Manually organising, engaging and reporting on thousands of individual freelance or contract engagements is simply not viable.

Technology is also the only scalable way to provide the necessary centralised view of the directly-sourced talent population to enable holistic strategic workforce planning.

In addition to these fundamental reasons to use technology, there are a number of additional reasons why technology should be used to facilitate the growth of a direct sourcing program:

Real-time resourcing decisions
On-demand workforce software like Talon for Direct Sourcing can use advanced matching algorithms to find the ideal freelancer or contractor for any given project instantly based on factors like skills, experience, reviews, past projects and location and other AI-powered data insights. Intelligent 'applicant funnels' can also help the hiring manager see exactly what the hiring funnel or pipeline looks like for every project.

Optimising engagement
As discussed in 'overcoming the challenges of direct sourcing', it is important to engage your private talent population - especially while they are not working on a project.

TalonFMS, for example, through its integration with some of the popular email marketing platforms can create and sync mailing lists in real-time so it's easy for you to keep your on-demand freelancers and contractors engaged with meaningful, timely, relevant communication.

Predictive acquisition
One of the key features of modern on-demand workforce software is the ability to produce reports that enable better resourcing decisions. For example, reporting can provide important insights into the departmental trends present in project briefs, or highlight a rising demand for specific skills.

Where technology makes a real difference is being able to quickly activate acquisition campaigns based on these insights. TalonFMS provides the ability to create channel agnostic talent acquisition campaigns, meaning new talent can be taken from any required source and guided through a controlled on-boarding processes.

Scaling a directly sourced population through the acquisition of known and unknown workers
Modern on-demand workforce software, like TalonFMS, facilitates campaigns to invite 'known workers' to join a private Talent Pool either via individual invites. TalonFMS also enables an organisation to run talent acquisition campaigns to build their talent population from the wider market by attracting new 'unknown workers' through any acquisition channel they choose to use.


Effectively scaling an organisation’s direct sourcing program, regardless of strategic route, is a result of a synergy between powerful on-demand workforce software and a specialised human-touch.

Overall, when managed correctly, scaling a direct-sourcing program creates benefits for the organisation, its MSP and recruitment partners and, most importantly, its community of freelancers and contractors.

Useful resources

The big problem with small statement of work engagements

This guide looks at what the SOW is and how smarter technology can help improve the management of this critical resourcing model.

External link

The Rise of the Liquid Workforce

Gone are the days of the rigid organisational structure, today's forward thinking organisations are adopting a resourcing model that's much better at flexing and scaling.

How to overcome the challenges of managing a freelance workforce

Freelancers are not employees. They are not bound, or managed, by the same rules and it is common for hiring managers, line managers and operational teams to experience challenges as they start to engage a larger number of freelancers.