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Talent Supply Options to Enable Your Direct Sourcing Strategy


In business, and in life, it is a truism that everything which is old becomes new again. One such concept is direct sourcing of contract workers. It is an idea that has withstood the test of time, and continues to grow in popularity as more companies struggle with attracting and retaining the talent they need in today’s era of talent scarcity.

TalentWave has been helping clients execute this strategy for over 20 years with a comprehensive suite of solutions designed to safely and cost-effectively engage independent workers that our clients have found on their own, outside of any agency relationships. A vital component of developing a direct sourcing strategy is to consider the many different talent supply options.

Background on direct sourcing

Direct sourcing (sometimes also referred to as “self-sourcing”) is the process by which a company develops and leverages its own candidate pool to engage as contract workers instead of going to a staffing provider or third-party labor supplier. These flexible workers can be found in many places, including current and former contractors, former employees, retirees, silver medalists, freelancers, etc., and are often engaged via a third party solution provider, like TalentWave, who contracts with the company to appropriately classify and pay the direct sourced workers.

Direct sourcing happens in several ways:

  1. Hiring managers and project sponsors frequently use their own personal networks to identify contract talent or independent professionals to engage on projects. These are most often former colleagues or proven contractors whom the manager has worked with in the past.
  2. Companies use their internal recruiting resources to source contract workers. Many progressive organizations have gone so far as to build an “are you interested in contract work?” workflow into their normal recruiting activities to effectively capture workers who might otherwise choose not to consider a regular employee role.
  3. Organizations work with their internal procurement and HR business partners to identify existing consultants and other small service providers who can provide specialized talent on a contract, or project, basis.

As the world of work continues to evolve and talent scarcity becomes more acute, the effective deployment of a direct sourcing strategy will continue to grow in importance. As will the options for finding talent.

Talent supply options

Organizations that choose to direct source contingent labor have many choices. In fact, driven by technology and innovations from the staffing industry ecosystem, the options seem to increase with each passing day. Following are the ones we see the most often:

  • Known Contractors – Many clients utilize a direct-sourcing strategy to find at least some their contingent workers. When these independent workers successfully finish an assignment or project, a best practice is to invite them to company sponsored talent community so that they can easily be found again and matched to a future project. TalentWave’s fundamental thesis for building a talent community is that the best contractor is a known contractor. Therefore, currently engaged and former contractors (no matter if they were payrolled employees, qualified independent contractors, freelancers, consultants, small service providers, etc.) who have successfully performed in the past should be the first choice.
  • Retirees – It is estimated that each day nearly 5,000 members of the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) are reaching retirement age and exiting the workforce. By virtue of boredom, a desire to mentor, or perhaps the need for extra income, many of these knowledgeable and experienced workers are interested in project work. Many industries are suffering from an acute lack of supply due to significant demographic and educational gaps, especially those that rely on highly trained knowledge workers, like technology, life sciences, energy, and oil services. Companies in these industries are finding that one of the best source of supply for project workers is retirees. Re-joining the workforce as an independent worker gives retirees an opportunity to work and contribute on their own terms, and gives their former employer a chance for knowledge transfer and project delivery.
  • Alumni – Another great source of independent workers are your former employees. These are sometimes called “boomerangers” and are experienced alumni of your company who have intimate knowledge of your organization and how it works. Many former employees might be interested in re-joining the company as an independent worker. Provided they left on good terms you might want to leverage their skills and prior experience for future project work.
  • Interns – Another potential source of project workers are interns. These are most often college students who have selected your company as a potential future employer and want to gain further professional development and job experience. For the organization they represent another pool of workers who could be valuable future employees or contractors.
  • Silver Medalists – Another rich source of workers to consider are “silver medalists”. These are the runners-up in your FTE searches who passed every measure of fit, but lost out to another more qualified candidate. Some companies are including a step in their recruiting process where they ask these workers if they would be interested in contract work for the company.
  • Referrals – Referrals from your employees or contractors is often one of the strongest sources of independent workers. Most of your managers and executives know great contractors that they would likely recommend if asked. By extension, every good contractor knows another good contractor (or several). Smart organizations are beginning to ask their trusted employees and successful independent workers for referrals to others who might be interested in project work for the company.
  • Talent clouds – Talent clouds come in a variety of flavors. When clients build their own talent community (curating workers that have been sourced from all or some of the above categories) we call that a “private” talent cloud. Many companies elect to use a third-party solution, like TalentBridge, to provide the enabling technology and contractor engagement service layer for their talent community. In the rapidly evolving independent workforce ecosystem there are a growing number of “subscribed” and “public” cloud options for companies to consider. Subscribed clouds are most often industry, functional, or geographically focused communities that specialize in curating a specific segment of worker. Examples of subscribed clouds would include Catalant and Toptal. Public clouds are broad-based, national or international, talent marketplaces like Craigslist or Upwork.


When building out and launching a direct sourcing strategy for independent workers it is worth considering each of the categories of worker that were introduced in this article: known contractors, retires, alumni, interns, silver medalists, referrals, and talent clouds (private, subscribed, and public).

In the rapidly evolving world of work, where work has become more project oriented and talent scarcity is increasing, building a talent community can be a powerful strategy to engage the independent workforce and simultaneously create business flexibility. When coupled with a comprehensive engagement layer, such as the one TalentWave can provide, you gain a turn-key solution for engaging the independent workforce. Organizations that do it successfully can build a client-of-choice reputation that will enable them to attract and retain the skilled workforce they need to get vital work done today and in the future.

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