According to a research collaboration between MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, most managers and executives hold definitions of ‘workforce’ that extend beyond full-time or part-time employees: They include long-term contractors, app developers, temporary gig workers, and the like. But at the same time, less than a third of business leaders surveyed by that research group said that they were preparing to manage this more expansive workforce.

Business leaders don’t expect their reliance on external workers to go anywhere anytime soon. In a 2020 report by Harvard Business School and Boston Consulting Group, 30% of business leaders reported using digital talent platforms, such as Upwork and Toptal, extensively to tap into highly skilled freelancers. Nearly 50% said they expected their use of such platforms to increase significantly in the future.

For insights on how companies can develop a more holistic talent strategy that incorporates internal and external workers, I spoke to Jeff Schwartz, VP of insights and impact at Gloat, adjunct assistant professor at Columbia Business School, and coauthor of the first study mentioned; Colleen McDonald, a partner in BCG’s people & organization practice; and Tim Sanders, vice president of client strategy at Upwork. Here’s their advice:


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