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You're Probably Ignoring This Growing Talent Pool

3 min read.


Lois Payne Lois Payne



Employer Branding

You may think your employer brand extends to everyone, but are you quietly missing out on a goldmine of talent?

Research shows that by 2027, as much as half of the U.S workforce will be comprised of alternative workers, and yet, they’re often missing from the employer brand and talent strategy conversation.

As the shortage of critical worker skills worsens, 90% of corporate leaders plan to increase their reliance on freelancers to fill those gaps, according to Forbes.

Which means if your organisation is neglecting, or worse, mistreating freelancers, you’re likely losing kudos from a major talent pool that is only expanding in size and importance over time. The alternative workforce is not so alternative anymore.

Founder of Employer Brand Africa and Employer Brand Strategy Sprint alumni, Celeste Sirin, thinks companies undervaluing this cohort are missing out on a huge opportunity for competitive edge.

“I’ve been a candidate, a freelancer, and a gig contract worker,” she notes. “It’s so important that there is no differentiator between how you treat full-time employees and alternative workers.”

Having worn many hats throughout her marketing and employer branding career, Celeste has been exposed to the full spectrum of treatment from organisations; the good, the bad and the ugly.

From a lack of engagement and zero management of expectations, to being “left on read” or straight up ghosted, she’s experienced it all. And it’s not something she takes lightly.

“All of that, whether an organisation meets with you or not, leaves a lasting impression in your mind. It’s those touchpoints that can make or break the talent brand. You find yourself thinking, “would I even like to work with this organisation if this is how they treat an outsider?

“When it comes to engagement, responsiveness and turnaround, you can be head and shoulders above the next organisation by the manner in which you engage. There should be a seamless approach to how these workers are cared for, respected and appreciated, and I think we often drop our guard when it comes to that.”

It makes sense, in theory. But do a few disgruntled freelancers left in bold in your inbox really have the power to dismantle your brand?

Well, we already know the payoff of refining the candidate experience for boosting your reputation, or the power of a satisfied employee’s referral for strengthening the pipeline.

Equally, we understand the damage a bit of well-placed vitriol can do in the form of the ever-unforgiving Glassdoor review. So, it stands to reason that yes, the experience of even a few non-permanent employees can still put major strain on your organisation’s credibility and attractiveness to prospective talent.

“Word of mouth is a powerful thing,” Celeste cautions. “As humans, we will always make comparisons and draw on our legacy experiences. And as a freelancer, it’s very difficult to divorce yourself of a past unpleasant experience when you move on to a new employer, without mentioning it.

“Now say you’re a bit high profile, or you’re networking, what's stopping you from saying, ‘I had a terrible experience working with this company,’? Or ‘Do you know how many times I've been ghosted?’”

All is not lost, though, because the problem, according to Celeste, stems from a simple lack of awareness among key stakeholders and can be remedied by underlining how positive (or detrimental) those stakeholders’ actions can be to the holistic brand.

“They might not realise that it’s all interrelated. That there’s a knock-on effect, whether you are engaging with a potential customer, candidate, or a third-party provider. So I think there's a level of ignorance there.

“But all stakeholders should be in touch with the effects of maintaining a good employer brand, with key performance indicators attached to how they uphold it, otherwise it just falls by the wayside. Their behaviour is so important because it cascades down and influences those reporting to them.

If your organisation doesn't already have guidelines in place to nurture alternative talent, Celeste recommends drilling down to specifics to ensure no one slips through the cracks.

“It's about processes, systems, attention to detail and having that service excellence mindset. It’s about wanting to create an unbelievable value chain, from start to finish with how you engage with any party.

“If stakeholders were given a toolkit to attend to the needs of freelancers and gig workers, these people would no longer dissolve in between employees, candidates and the known entities. We almost need to uplift them, to scratch the surface and say, “What about these people?”

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