The War for Talent: Why HR professionals will focus on Freelancers


(image credit: Escape from Cubicle Nation)

The future workforce is made up of millennials.  Unlike their predecessors, they are much less likely to stay in work full time and more likely look for multiple sources of growth, stimulation and opportunity.  Trends assessed by the US Government Accountability Office suggest that in developed economies, freelance, temporary and contract employees make up about ⅓ of the workforce.  Mercer completed a study that showed Millennials prioritized having a flexible work schedule and having the opportunity to make a difference when it came to employment. Similarly in a recent survey by Ogilvy and Mather, 76% of respondents reported that they would rather spend more time with their families than make more money.  In the Middle East, Millennials employment aspirations are captured in the Asda’a Burson Marsteller Youth report, which shows that respondents prioritized a good work-life balance ahead of salary concerns.

Is a freelancer right for your business?

Traditionally, business success depended on a top down method of managing staff and work.  Some firms however have changed that and adopted a Results Oriented Work Environment, meaning the location and hours worked are less important than the final output. Work is done anytime and anywhere, based entirely on individual needs and preferences.  This method of working is a perfect fit for Millennials who do not necessarily associate success with longevity at one firm only. The career path for younger generations more closely resembles a patchwork quilt, as people attempt to stitch together multiple jobs into something that is flexible and works for them.


In her book “Escape from Cubicle Nation”  author Pamela Slim argues that the new norm is for people to maintain and develop skill sets in multiple simultaneous careers. In this environment, the ability to learn is something of a survival skill. Education never stops, and the line between working and learning becomes increasingly blurred.  Millennials are more aware than ever how the local, and indeed global economy affects their work options.  The Arab Youth Survey showed that people prioritized the UAE as an ideal place to work.  As potential supply increases, the Middle East employer is therefore faced with a unique advantage, the costs of human capital may decrease, but the ability to utilize dynamic resourcing by tapping into many people simultaneously can be done with only a slight increase in operational cost.


Many Middle East employers are still in a cautious hiring mode.  The highest growth shown on employment indices are in the Hospitality, Healthcare and Engineering industries, buoyed by the backing of the public sector and the stated aims of governments to reach 2020 goals including sporting events, expo’s, and increased tourism.  For the private sector, there has been a year on year drop however for full time jobs in the marketing and creative industries (-7%), the software and telecom sector (-17%), and IT field (-12%).  (Monster Employment Index).

This lack of demand for full time employment has surfaced in increased demand in the freelance field. Q1 data on what employers want shows the top 10 job posts as being in the software, marketing and design and creative sectors.  Creative skills are the most sought after, representing 59% of the total, Software taking up almost one third and Marketing being 10%.


Our recommendations are that HR professionals must consider using freelancers as a way to contribute to the sustained competitiveness of the firm.  For smaller firms that need to grow quickly and efficiently, the majority of  budget is spent on acquiring customers, leaving little for human capital.  Freelancers can solve this problem by offering the right skill to the business at the right time at the right price.


To access the largest pool of freelancers, visit today and browse over 15,000 people with over 20,000 registered skills.

Upskilling in Saudi


ALWANE’s study earlier this yearin conjunction with Harvey Nichols, KPMG and Glowork discovered what Saudi women want from work opportunities in the retail industry and what’s really holding them back.

Results demonstrated that 42% accept the idea of women working in the retail sector, while 58% dismissed the idea completely.

“31% of female respondents highlighted lack of awareness of what the retail sector actually is as a main concern in working in the retail sector. Respondents noted that there are not any success stories in the region, let alone the country, to understand the type of career path they would be undertaking. Respondents added that the perception of the retail industry must change”  says the report.

What would solve the problem?

The majority (35%) said an awareness campaign to portray success stories as well as benefits of working in the retail sector would help.

Global brands and their marketing departments are best placed to do this as their international offices are well used to career development programs, having trained people to go all over the world and sell their goods.  A few of them are already working on training Saudis and developing their skills.

Al Naghi has taken its 12 year old distribution agreement with L’Oreal a step further and signed a joint venture which should create jobs for Saudi women in the cosmetics industry.

More Saudis have just completed a fast track training with Nestle in Riyadh. After completion of the programme, the graduates will be prepared to enter the Saudi workforce equipped with the skills necessary to take up a commercial career.

But more still needs to be done.

What happens after people graduate?

A Booz study earlier in 2012highlighted that many women graduated in humanities and that  they should not be confined to the traditional route of teaching.

“Graduates of history, geography, and Arabic department can work in the media, tourism, the municipalities and other government sectors that have started opening departments for women.”

In the UK and US, several private institutions in various industries have such well developed graduate training programs, that geography graduates can work in banking.

During the ALWANE summit in Jordan this month, the KSA chapter stated that many Saudi women hold bachelor degrees in Information Technology and Saudi Arabia is one of the highest smart application buying markets among Arab countries. Therefore, Saudi women can participate in this market, and create a local hub for IT development.

A new way of thinking

The need for more brands to impart their skills to Saudis is evident.  From IT and tech companies to fashion and cosmetics.  But should it be just a top down knowledge sharing activity? The Startup America Partnership found that “What entrepreneurs want is the company and support of other entrepreneurs who can help and understand their struggles.

This is what Startup America is now trying to become—the catalyst for a movement for entrepreneurs, by entrepreneurs. This is the path SUAP sees to persuading more Americans to start their own companies”

New Hierarchy

Perhaps the same can be said of upskilling. Maybe peers who have skills in other parts of the region can share knowledge with each other as effectively as a brand’s training program.  At Nabbesh we provide an early version of a skill sharing platform.  Many people have connected rapidly, within hours of posting.  In the future and as we build the technology, we might need to find innovative ways to help connect and sharing happen at bigger scales and at a faster rate, if p2p upskilling is to happen. We’re closely watching the scene and we’re positive about the future.