The Tech Talent Strategy for Modern Times

Leveraging your workforce to innovate and respond faster to change

Rocket Hero Image

Widespread business shifts are straining IT teams

Perhaps no IT team has ever claimed to be big enough, but recent business shifts are causing even the best-resourced teams to scramble.

One of these is the urgency to transform digitally.

Companies understand that to digitize is to survive, which makes digital transformation (DT) a top business priority. The race toward DT is further propelled by:

Cloud Platforms

Businesses are adopting platforms that keep employees connected, communicating clearly, and productive as remote work continues even after offices reopen.

Cloud Icon

of business leaders will permit flexible work options

Data / AI / ML

Data management and data integration are critical, as they both help integrate data to the cloud, which enables the analytics needed to support AI applications.

Data Icon
6 in 10

businesses will have AI or advanced automation tools in their tech stack by 2022


Security has always been a top priority for CIOs, but digitization and remote work opened a Pandora’s box of cyber vulnerabilities.

Cybersecurity Icon

of CIOs expect to increase security spend

CIO's Image

How CIOs are pulling through staffing challenges

An increasing number of CIOs are seeing work differently, which opens the door to embracing cost-effective talent solutions. These solutions can be adopted by businesses of any size to remedy talent shortages and meet tight deadlines.

Dividing work into goal-based projects

Work is being prioritized by what’s most urgent, based on its impact on the company’s goals and objectives. For example, instead of carrying out a large-scale migration, a company may migrate core applications that improve customer support and maximize cost savings.

Teams are also using flexible talent to test new ideas and prioritize innovation projects with less risk, as CompuVision does:

“In the current world, we can reach into the talent cloud to contract specialists from around the globe to test several ideas at a time. When we find something worth building out, we may assemble a hybrid team of employees and talent to create the product. The flexibility to try things quickly before having to really go deep into it has been really valuable.”
Ryan Vestby
CEO, CompuVision

Focusing on skill sets, not job titles

CIOs are viewing their entire workforce, both internal and external, as a single, holistic resource of specialized skills— skills that are agile, adaptable units of knowledge that can be popped into a project when, and for as long as, particular expertise is required.

This flexibility enables leaders to assemble and disassemble hybrid teams of employees and independent talent on demand. Job titles become less relevant as workers move from project to project providing the right skills to the right project at the right time.

Skill Sets Image
Treating external talent as partners
External Talent Image
Extensions of a team

In order for hybrid teams to work effectively, businesses should avoid treating external professionals as second-class help who are brought in only to get transactional work done. Strategy-minded leaders view independent talent as highly skilled, on-demand extensions of a team who can also be called upon to perform large, complex, strategic projects.

Reliable talent bench

Teams that nurture long-term relationships with top independent professionals can expect to perform better. The relationships provide teams with not only a reliable talent bench but also one that knows the business so well, it can jump into projects and be productive from day one.

Aligning employees with core work

In the traditional model, the vast majority of work is delivered by core team members (employees) and a thin layer of work is performed by on-demand talent.

The agile model reverses this by having the majority of work done with on-demand talent. Every internal and external person optimizes their time and productivity by working on what they do best or only they can do. The model also enables teams to adapt quickly to change without having to constantly reskill employees.

“The business climate is more dynamic than it’s ever been. You really need on-demand talent to respond and keep up. Talent platforms like Upwork enable you to not only tap into experts from all over the world but also learn from them and kind of expand your core competencies.”
Mike Shwe
Technical Program Manager, Google
Core Talent
Peripheral Talent

“Independent talent changed how we handle development.”

George Whitaker

Director of Software Engineering, PGA of America

See how
PGA of America finds a rapid prototyping solution
Arrow Down

The engineering team at PGA of America was tired of being caught between risking their timelines to impress stakeholders and ignoring new ideas to maintain their strategic roadmap. Then they figured out a way to stop choosing timelines over testing.

When the team has a new idea, they contract talent to test proof of concept while team members remain focused on higher-value projects. This provides a quick and cost-effective way to prove an idea will extend capabilities before investing internal resources into it.

The solution not only extends capacity, but it also enables the team to provide better service to business partners because they can say yes to more projects—and deliver them faster.

Keep up with rapidly changing technology
Deliver projects 3x faster
Test ideas with less risk
Complete projects at 50% savings

3 ways to access tech talent

More than in times past, leaders and hiring managers must become adept at leveraging their entire workforce to increase responsiveness and productivity. This necessitates knowing when it makes the greatest business sense to hire, reskill, and contract talent, including independent professionals. Below are how the options compare.

Access Tech Icon
Should you hire, reskill, or contract?
Take the Quiz
Hire full-time employees
Checkmark Icon
Arrow Down
Increases competitive advantage
Expands promotion opportunities
Allows for training to company culture
Close Icon
Arrow Down
Expensive and time intensive
Needs may change in a few months
Reskill employees
Checkmark Icon
Arrow Down
Increases retention
Reduces turnover costs
Boosts morale
Future-proofs workforce
Eager talent pool
Can train to company needs
Close Icon
Arrow Down
Capital intensive
Skill half-life is 5 years
Employee must find time to train
Requires detailed future resource planning
Longer learning curve
Limited talent pool
Inexperienced team
Tech evolving too fast
Contract talent
Checkmark Icon
Arrow Down
Online talent platform
Increases agility and flexibility
Provides access to specialized skills
Reduces recruiting burden
Time to fill: 1 to 3 days
Large talent pool
Up to 50% savings
Higher-quality matches
Transparent hiring process
Talent works remotely
Staffing agency
Increases agility and flexibility
Provides access to specialized skills
Reduces recruiting burden
Future-proofs workforce
Eager talent pool
Can train to company needs
Close Icon
Arrow Down
Online talent platform
Limited control over work
Remote work security processes
Staffing agency
Time to fill: 20+ days
Up to 80% markup
Inconsistent talent match accuracy
Talent works onsite
Local talent pool
Limited control over work
Security processes

Find out if you should hire, reskill or contract talent

Take the Quiz

Does thechnology exist to complete the work?

Consider automating

Is this a long term need?

Consider contracting talent
Find Talent

Is the work core to the business or a specific role?

Is this an immediate need?

Consider contracting talent until you can hire or reskill
Find Talent

Do you need to control how, when, or where the work is done?

Do you have resources to add headcount?

Consider hiring
Consider contracting
Visit Talent Marketplace
Consider reskilling
CTA Image

Join the world’s work marketplace

Find great talent. Build your business. Take your career to the next level.

Find Talent

Online platforms vs. staffing agencies

Traditionally, when tech teams had talent gaps, they called their staffing agency. But that practice was more out of habit than effectiveness. Before the pandemic struck, most hiring managers (61%) were already disappointed with their staffing agency.

Hiring Managers loop Icon

of hiring managers would consider using an online talent solution to engage independent talent

Hiring Managers target Icon

of hiring managers are not fully satisfied with their staffing firms

Cost, quality, and time to fill were ranked as the biggest pain points of using staffing firms

More businesses are cutting out the staffing middleman by using talent platforms, such as Upwork, to find talent directly. According to an Oxford study, hiring managers say online talent platforms are so efficient that they require less administrative time.

Since hiring managers often understand a project’s requirements more intimately than an agency, the study found that self-sourcing also results in more accurate talent matches and higher-quality work.

Online talent platforms
average savings
3 to 5 days
average time to fill
Net promoter score
Traditional staffing firms
average markup
20+ days
average time to fill
Net promoter score
*2019 NPS score for Upwork
Full Version Image

Read the full version of the report

Download PDF