5 Best Practices for Creating an Enterprise-Grade Direct Access Program for Independent Professionals

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As the demand for independent talent grows, many organizations are using their own resources to directly source top independent talent without engaging third-party staffing agencies or consulting firms to perform recruiting functions. Direct sourcing affords many economic benefits such as avoiding high-priced staffing markups, decreasing overhead costs by hiring fewer full-time employees and filling project-specific roles with the right-priced independent talent.  

But direct sourcing is only a small part of the picture. In order to compliantly utilize independent talent end-to-end, organizations must build a Direct Access program that encompasses finding, sourcing, engaging, paying and managing independent workers. Here are five best practices organizations should keep in mind when creating a Direct Access program to source and engage independent professional talent.

1. Drive Support from the Top Down

A lasting and successful Direct Access program begins with the right leadership support and sponsorship. This support must be driven from the top down by a senior business leader who has influence over the managers who will be sourcing and utilizing independent talent.

While a top-down approach is not the only method, attempting to build a Direct Access program from the bottom up is almost always a long and arduous path. Internal adoption is much slower and disjointed as the process relies on word of mouth and proof-of-concept in small groups.

In a top-down approach, program leaders should establish specific metrics that can be clearly tracked as the program rolls out. Set clear expectations from the beginning, and ensure all employees have visibility into the progress of goals. 

2. Attract Talent First

While it may seem counterintuitive, start your program by building a pool of top independent talent—specific projects and roles for the talent will follow. Independent contractors are used to the idea of having a presence on a variety of online marketplaces without applying to a position right away. On the other hand, when managers have an open need, they will require talent right away.

Proactively stock your marketplace by using recruiters who know where to find and how to interact with independent workers. Independent contractors typically have to go through a staffing company to land work with large enterprises—recruiters should sell the benefits of being able to directly interact with your organization by joining your marketplace. By taking a talent-first approach, you will be able to more easily garner internal support from managers who will be excited about a group of high-quality talent that they can easily access.

3. Make It Easy for Managers

When creating a Direct Access program, it is important to keep in mind that many managers will either be unfamiliar with utilizing independent talent or have existing relationships with staffing companies that need to be amended. It is therefore important to make the direct sourcing process as simple as possible. Avoid having managers navigate multiple systems, processes or groups to meet their talent needs. Instead, expect to do a bit of hand-holding at the beginning. Monitor the process, identify issues and remove any barriers inhibiting adoption. Implementing a new program is complex; guide managers toward success so they can see the benefits of the program and champion it.

4. Don’t Overlook the Human Element

While matching algorithms can help narrow a pool of a talent for a specific role, incorporating a human element—a person who specializes in connecting talent with opportunities—will take your program to the next level. Managers often have criteria in mind for a role that don’t make it into a job description or can’t easily be identified through a resume alone.

A hiring manager looking for a Project Manager can easily identify a number of potential matches by running a quick search. However, if that manager is looking for a Project Manager who will specifically be able to have an executive presence and take part in high-level meetings, they may be hard-pressed to identify those exact skills by only looking at an online profile. Incorporating a human resource who can ensure specific skills and experience are accurately matched to criteria will result in more precise talent matches. For example, MBO’s online consultant marketplace, MBO Connect®, utilizes a matching algorithm and is humanized by our talent advisors.

5. Start Small to Win Big

Creating a Direct Access program is a big undertaking. Start small by identifying a few departments or areas you believe can successfully drive adoption. Find managers who are interested in trying something new and make sure they have a positive first experience by having a clearly defined process to test and adjust strategies and processes. Look for departments that have a high demand for talent by analyzing last year’s data or surveying managers and pursue areas that need a relevant range of talent skillsets so you can fill your marketplace with a deep enough pool of talent that others can benefit from in the future.

As you move forward and gain more wins, celebrate and publicize your success internally and externally; nothing attracts internal manager adoption better than word of mouth or independent talent better than online success stories on an external landing page.

Remember, creating a Direct Access program isn’t a one-size-fits-all scenario. Each business has unique talent needs to meet and hurdles to overcome. For more information about creating a Direct Access program, as well as the regulatory pitfalls to avoid, watch MBO’s webinar presented by Linda Mann, SVP Direct and Connect Business Units at MBO Partners and Eric Rumbaugh, Partner at Michael Best & Friedrich LLP.  

To view the webinar, fill out the form below and you will be redirected to the recording. 
MBO Partners

MBO Partners has the industry’s only complete business operating system for independent workers, offering technology solutions that make it easy for self-employed professionals and their clients to do business. By re-envisioning and streamlining the entire contract talent acquisition and engagement lifecycle, MBO improves how independents operate and succeed while helping enterprises reduce risk and get the best return on their contractor investments. To learn more, visit https://www.mbopartners.com.