The Best Alternative Staffing Solutions for 2024

The Best Alternative Staffing Solutions for 2024

As the world of work rapidly evolves, organizations are rethinking traditional approaches to staffing in favor of more effective ways to engage qualified talent. Given an increase in remote work, distributed teams, and independent talent, more talent professionals recognize that traditional staffing solutions are no longer effective. Because of this, companies are increasingly embracing alternative solutions to build more flexible workforces.

While traditional staffing approaches have some drawbacks in today’s workforce, determining which alternative staffing solutions are the right fit for your organization requires careful thought and consideration. Recognizing key shortcomings of traditional staffing, as well as top perceived pros and cons of common alternative staffing solutions, can help you choose the most effective options for your specific staffing needs.

Table of contents:

Traditional staffing shortcomings

Traditional staffing typically refers to standard hiring practices, such as filling out lengthy paper or email applications, conducting in-office interviews, and relying primarily on full-time, in-house workers with set hours.

In recent years, widespread remote work adoption has contributed to swift changes in hiring practices across organizations. Given the benefits of remote and hybrid workforce models, organizations that have embraced alternative staffing solutions are recognizing the shortcomings of traditional staffing.

Some of these drawbacks of traditional staffing include:  

  • Significant time spent on manual, administrative tasks. Between hosting job fairs, manually reviewing applications, scheduling in-person interviews, and more, traditional hiring methods are time-consuming. Alternative staffing solutions can eliminate or automate many steps throughout the staffing process, helping HR leaders and teams save time.
  • Increased fixed costs. Traditional staffing can drive up fixed personnel-related costs, such as payroll, benefits, and office space required for full-time, in-house workers. Staffing alternatives can help reduce overall fixed costs.
  • Limited candidate pools. Traditional staffing tends to draw from a narrow talent pool, including existing team members and outside talent in close geographic proximity to the business. On the other hand, many alternatives to traditional staffing expand talent pools by enabling companies to access skilled remote talent from across the globe.

Related: What Is Staffing? Explanation and Further Definitions

Hiring a staffing agency

Leveraging a staffing agency has been a common hiring technique for decades. Staffing agencies serve as intermediaries between companies and job seekers, helping to fill a company’s open roles while matching qualified candidates with the right jobs. Unlike a recruiting firm, a staffing agency is involved throughout a worker’s time with the company and oversees the worker’s payroll, benefits, orientation, training, and more.  

Pros of using a staffing agency

  • Increased flexibility. Rather than only engaging full-time, permanent workers, staffing agencies can put you in contact with individuals who are available for a fixed length of time based on your specific needs. This can include a set number of hours per week, a set number of months, or a combination of the two.
  • Extensive network. Staffing agencies maintain strong networks of skilled professionals, helping your team avoid spending time sourcing candidates on your own. Agencies also typically have a roster of qualified candidates who are actively looking for jobs and ready to start working as soon as possible, which can reduce overall hiring time.  
  • Decreased overall costs. Any team member you acquire from a staffing agency will technically be employed by the agency and not your company, which can help decrease costs and administrative tasks related to hiring, training, salary, and benefits.

Cons of using a staffing agency

  • Depersonalized hiring. While the professionals at staffing agencies do their best to match talent with the skills and traits needed to succeed on your team, ensuring candidates sourced by staffing agencies are the exact right fit can be challenging. To overcome this challenge, consider interviewing the shortlisted candidates directly before making a decision.
  • Increased hiring costs. Staffing agencies aren’t always the most cost-effective option. Pricing models vary by agency, but often include a finder’s fee and a certain percentage of each worker’s pay rate. Beyond the costs of service, companies often invest in training workers they take on in the specific program and technology required to perform job duties.

Related: What Is a Staffing Agency?

Outsourcing initiatives

Outsourcing refers to engaging an outside expert, agency, or other third party to complete tasks or projects for your team. As an example, perhaps you’re considering refreshing your company branding and logo. From a talent perspective, the immediate thought might be to start searching for strong graphic design skills in current team members. An alternative option can be outsourcing this project to an experienced design firm.

Pros of outsourcing initiatives

  • Fresh insights and perspectives. Outside experts or agencies often share new ways of looking at old problems that existing team members may not have previously considered.
  • Expanded expertise. Every organization has skills gaps and for certain projects, it makes the most sense to outsource to a proven expert. In doing so, your team will benefit from the experience, skills, and best practices the outside expert has gained from working with other organizations and clients.
  • Reduced costs. Many outsourcing initiatives are short-term and project-based. This approach can help your organization access specific, niche skills as needed, while reducing costs that would otherwise be spent on salary and benefits for a permanent worker.

Cons of outsourcing initiatives

  • Steeper learning curve. Any staffing solution outside your internal team will require effective onboarding and ramp-up time. To avoid obstacles with an outsourcing partner, ensure your organization’s mission, vision, goals, and specific project objectives are clearly communicated from the start. In the absence of effective communication, outsourcing can slow down the overall project completion time.
  • Intellectual property or security concerns. If your company develops highly commodified or pre-trademark content or products, partnering with an outside agency or expert can present some security risks. Additionally, passwords and logins often have to be shared with outsourced help. Consider requiring outsourcing partners to sign a nondisclosure agreement or other security-related paperwork before starting any projects.

Related: Pros and Cons of Staff Augmentation

Offering internship opportunities

An internship is a short-term, professional learning experience that offers actionable, practical, and relevant work that aligns with an individual’s field of study or career focus. Interns are typically students or early career professionals and work for short periods of time—such as over the course of a semester or summer—in exchange for resume or course credit, professional connections, and real-world work experience. Depending on the company, some also offer interns a per diem or an agreed-upon fixed or hourly pay rate.

Pros of offering internship opportunities

  • Eagerness to learn. Young professionals are often excited and willing to learn new skills and take on additional responsibilities as they figure out which direction they’d like to take their careers. This can lead to discovering untapped skills and new, creative ideas that will have a positive impact on your team.
  • Options to extend internships and offer permanent positions. In many cases when an intern is brought on board, companies later decide to extend the internship for a longer duration or hire the individual into a permanent position. This can benefit the company from the standpoint of saving time in the hiring process down the road and decreasing the learning curve during onboarding, since the intern will already understand the company mission, vision, and goals.
  • Opportunities to strengthen your brand. Engaging interns reflects positively on an organization’s overall brand, as well as its employer brand. By highlighting your internship program on your website, social media, and worker review sites, you can share how the company is giving back to the community and helping young workers jump-start their careers. As a result, this can help your team attract more qualified candidates who are eager to learn from your business. Additionally, positioning your brand in a positive light can also drive new business.

Cons of offering internship opportunities

  • Limited experience. A primary goal of an internship is for young professionals to gain experience, so they likely won’t be ready to jump right into complex projects right away. Factor in time for initial onboarding and training before expecting interns to begin driving measurable outcomes for your team.
  • Support and mentorship take time. Successful internship programs typically assign each intern a direct manager or mentor to help guide the way throughout the program. Questions come up throughout an internship and some mistakes may be made along the way, so patience and availability from mentors is key. Managing or mentoring an intern can be an excellent opportunity for a junior team member to gain leadership experience before managing permanent workers.
  • Determining responsibilities can be complicated. Because interns have limited experience and positions are often temporary, certain high-priority or strategic projects may not be suitable for intern participation—either from a skills or timeline perspective. At the same time, solely assigning interns administrative tasks such as making copies or fetching coffee won’t help them gain the work experience they need. Before kicking off an internship program, consider whether your company has enough meaningful, relevant work to ensure internships are mutually beneficial.

Adding independent talent to your team

Remote and hybrid work have seen widespread adoption and acceptance in recent years as both organizations and professionals rethink how, when, and where work gets done. In fact, nearly half of businesses plan to maintain some form of remote work over the next five years.

While the old ways of doing business primarily relied on full-time, in-office workers, the future workforce is headed in a direction where remote independent professionals, full-time workers, and the people who hire them work and collaborate in harmony. According to Upwork’s 2022 Future Workforce Report, 56% of hiring managers that engage independent professionals say they have increased use of independent talent over the past 12 months, while 66% plan to do so over the next two years.

This shift is positive for both companies and independent professionals. Embracing independent talent helps organizations increase agility and access talent with in-demand skills, while offering the flexibility and autonomy that today’s workers desire.

Pros of adding independent talent to your team

  • Diverse and ever-evolving talent pool. Rather than limiting your talent pool to professionals in close geographic proximity, independent talent enables organizations to access talent with a wide range of skills from across the country or globe. Engaging talent from across time zones also helps organizations maintain round-the-clock coverage for customer care, technical support, and other critical functions.
  • Decrease fixed costs. Research from the Human Capital Management Institute found that the average total cost of workforce, meaning all compensation, benefits, and HR operations, is nearly 70% of an organization’s operating expenses. Access to independent talent helps organizations decrease fixed costs associated with office space, benefits, and related expenses. This approach also enables organizations to scale up and down as business needs change.
  • Faster time to start. While a traditional hiring process might take several weeks or months, independent professionals can often kick off projects within a matter of days, helping your company complete projects more efficiently.

Cons of adding independent talent to your team

  • Lack of trust. Building distributed teams that include independent talent may come with concerns related to productivity, accountability, and conflict management. However, experienced independent professionals run their own businesses and are motivated to successfully complete projects for their clients. Through a work marketplace like Upwork, talent profiles include identity verification badges, client feedback, and Job Success Scores (JSS) to help you engage proven, trusted independent professionals.
  • Communication challenges. Some might think remote communication and collaboration across time zones is challenging. However, asynchronous communication such as emails, comments in shared documents, and updates in project management tools can help streamline communication among distributed teams while reducing meeting time.

Tips to identify the best staffing options for your company

Selecting the right alternative staffing solution based on your organization’s specific needs can help your team engage qualified talent, optimize staffing costs, and save time and resources. As you determine which solution is best for your business, consider the following tips.

  • Identify skills gaps and roles that need to be filled. As you think about your company’s staffing needs, a first step is determining any skills gaps you have on your team, including both hard and soft skills. Hard skills are job-specific, technical, measurable competencies such as copywriting, analytics, or programming. Soft skills are traits that help individuals work well in a team, including collaboration, problem-solving, and communication. With in-demand skills in mind, determine which roles need to be filled—whether you’re adding new roles to an existing team, launching a new business unit or department, or backfilling roles in the event of team member transitions.
  • Distinguish between long-term and short-term staffing needs. As you plan your staffing strategy, think about which roles might require full-time, in-house workers, and which might be better matches for project-based work. Turning to independent talent for short-term projects and skills needs can help you fill skills gaps quickly and cost effectively and give your team more flexibility to scale up and down as needed.
  • Develop detailed job descriptions. An effective job description highlights a job’s general duties and responsibilities, which helps you evaluate a person for the role, and helps potential candidates better determine whether they’re a fit. No matter the role you’re looking to fill, include the job title, employment type, brief overview, and list of responsibilities and required skills in your job description. Also consider sharing an “About Us” section, featuring the company mission, values, benefits, perks, business growth milestones, and any relevant workplace awards, to excite top candidates about joining the team. Keep in mind, a formal job description is typically only required for employment and not necessary to initiate a project with independent talent.
  • Leverage top websites and agencies. No matter which alternative staffing solution you choose, complete extensive research to ensure you identify top staffing partners. This can include leading staffing agencies in your industry, creative agencies for outsourcing initiatives, or global work marketplaces to access independent talent.  

Related: How Global Enterprises Are Reducing Risk Through Innovative Talent Strategies

Transform your team with top professionals

Companies looking to engage top talent have access to a wide range of alternative staffing solutions; selecting the right option for your business can be daunting. The good news is that if you’re considering embracing independent talent, Upwork can help.

Top companies turn to Upwork to build flexible, scalable teams of trusted talent. Through Talent Marketplace™, access highly skilled professionals from around the globe. You’ll find qualified candidates with more than 10,000 skills across marketing, tech, design, finance, and many more specialties.


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Author Spotlight

The Best Alternative Staffing Solutions for 2024
Beth Kempton
Content Writer

Beth Kempton is a B2B writer with a passion for storytelling and more than a decade of content marketing experience. She specializes in writing engaging long-form content, including blog posts, thought leadership pieces, SEO articles, case studies, ebooks and guides, for HR technology and B2B SaaS companies. In her free time, you can find Beth reading or running.

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