While companies are aware of the importance of digital transformation, many are still having trouble making the shift. Beyond technical skills, it’s their ability to increase performance in daily tasks and processes that is still lacking. According to Freelancing in Europe 2021, a study conducted jointly by Malt and BCG, 62% of freelancers believe that companies they collaborate with need to improve in efficiency. 

The COVID-19 crisis created strategic issues that led businesses to reevaluate their digital transformation strategies.  

Digital transformation is well-recognized as a strategic priority, however it’s still largely associated with the deployment of innovation projects: for example, the launch of an e-commerce site or a mobile application. But, contrary to popular belief, digital transformation begins with the optimization of resources and structuring of the company’s operations. The freelancers who collaborate with these companies on a daily basis, interviewed in our Freelancing in Europe 2021 study, stated the following as the main obstacles to efficiency:

1/ Long and tedious recruitment processes that cause them to fall behind and do not always allow them to hire the profiles they are looking for. According to a study conducted by Michael Page: “43% of managers have already given up on hiring for a position because the recruitment process was too long”. This problem is becoming more significant with the shortage of digital experts that companies are facing. According to the Digital Expertise Barometer conducted by Inop’s Group: “66% of companies are victims of the digital talent shortage”.

2/ A siloed organization that slows down communication between teams: This is the main obstacle in digital transformation projects. According to a survey conducted by BPI among SMEs and medium-sized: “Being able to operate transversely across departments is an important marker of digital maturity and a lever for better performance in a digital context. Working in project mode is a way to promote this transverse mindset. However, only 39% of respondents strongly favor it.” 

3/ Obsolete methods that impede collective efforts: Too many meetings and not having the right knowledge sharing tools in place can  be detrimental to productivity and project momentum. “On average, white collar employees attend 10 meetings per week, each lasting on average 48 minutes.” Additionally, a report by Barca and Circle Research shows that “63% of surveyed white collar workers prefer using their own technologies and platforms rather than those offered by their company, as these are faster and more efficient.” 

How to lean towards efficiency? 

1/ Shorten the recruitment process

The recruitment process for a permanent or fixed-term contract is often long and tedious: It takes an average of nine months for internal mobility and six months to recruit someone from outside the company. On the other hand, hiring a freelancer is a much faster process: it takes an average of six days on Malt for a company and freelancer to start collaborating.

key figures about time to hire between regular recruitment and freelancing

This is both a human and financial advantage for HR teams. If at first glance the daily rate of a freelancer may seem higher than that of a full-time employee, companies will, in reality, pay more when they hire someone full-time (paid vacations, overhead, etc.). It’s also necessary to take into account the costs involved in recruiting: the expenses related to the search, the time spent by HR to find the right candidate or the cost of an external recruiting firm. “When a company uses a recruiting firm, the cost of recruitment is between 15% and 25% of the gross annual salary of the hired candidate” explains hr-voice, a media specialized in human resources. 

While it is possible to recruit an employee who has the same level of expertise as a freelancer, the latter has the advantage of being autonomous and can start working very quickly. For Richard Yarsley, Chief People Officer at Malt, these are the qualities he  looks for in a freelancer: “The freelancers I work with have experience, they are proactive and integrate very quickly into my teams.”

2/ Rethinking work methods 

On average, 50% of the freelancers surveyed have been working as independent consultants for at least five years in France, nine years in Germany and six years in Spain. This is a career that has allowed them to complete several projects, whether short or long-term, in various contexts and sectors. Their ability to adapt to change makes them particularly agile resources. They have acquired very diverse ways of working thanks to their experiences. Jean-David Chamboredon, CEO of ISAI and Founding Board Member of France Digitale, mentions this “pollination of innovation”. He explains that freelancers are like bees that spread innovation and digital culture within companies. 

In recent years, there has been a growing interest in France for “learning expeditions” or “immersion trips”, where companies look for inspiration from the best practices implemented in startups. This is exactly what the innovation studio Schoolab offers – meetings and workshops organized by inspiring entrepreneurs, startups and large companies. 

Using consultants is also a good way to rethink decisions and organizational habits. Since they are not subject to a hierarchical relationship with their clients, freelancers can have a much freer and more objective voice than an employee. Quentin Debavelaere, COO at Malt, observed that: “Freelancers will naturally give their opinions and assert their views because they are not constrained by the hierarchy. This often makes them more objective.”

3/ Choose tools that simplify external communication 

Integrating freelancers within a company allows greater flexibility and agility, however companies need to know how to integrate them efficiently. The administrative, financial and legal processes (payment of contracts, review of legal documents, etc.) can take a long time. 

To simplify this step, Malt created Malt Insight, a tool for managing your company’s freelancer activities.

  • UI_MaltInsights-Chart-2
  • UI_MaltInsights-Chart

Launched at end of 2018, Malt Insight is a tool for managing and centralizing data that allows companies to: 

1/ Centralize and secure freelance services: A single, secure place to access all data related to your freelance workforce, including all necessary legal documents.

2/ Simplify the management of freelancers’ activity: real-time reports on freelancer activities (quotes, current projects, expenses and invoices) on a team-by-team basis.

3/ Control and optimize expenses: thanks to an advanced company-level expense analytics dashboard, proactive budget realization alerts and default quote approval limits.

quote by guillaume duny

As you can see, digital transformation is not only about strategy but also operations. Communication, methodology and tools are the keys to the success of an innovation project, and this is all the more true in the era of widespread remote work.