LXD Central

Did you know that according to Bloomberg, about 15% of the workforce consists of independent contractors or freelancers? Interestingly, in the field of Learning and Development (L&D), this percentage has always been higher than the average. Given recent corporate layoffs in the L&D sector and historical evidence showing that L&D spending remains stable or even increases during economic downturns, it’s safe to say that this number will likely continue to rise. In this guide, we will explore why L&D teams should consider hiring freelance talent, the challenges associated with it, and the keys to successful freelancing in this field.

Staffing a Learning and Development team can be a real challenge. Unlike roles like Computer Programmers and Information Security Analysts, the difficulties in L&D stem from unique factors like the nature of the work and how needs come about. Here are the three primary reasons. 

Reason 1: Demand for Your Team’s Services are Hard to Predict

Training and learning solutions are rarely isolated events. They are often part of broader initiatives or reactions to performance issues. In the first case, training needs and their specifics may not become apparent until other aspects of the initiative are in place. Take, for example, a major organizational change initiative, such as transitioning from a decentralized structure to a centralized one. As this initiative unfolds, new processes, systems, and shifts in job roles may emerge. However, predicting the exact training needs early in the process can be challenging.

In the second case, performance issues and the underlying causes that training should address are hard to predict months in advance. Instead, effective managers continuously assess performance, diagnose issues, and then identify the need for training or learning.

As Learning and Development leaders, we may fret about the lack of notice or sudden urgency of training needs. However, the reality is that it’s tough for leaders across an organization to foresee these needs in advance. Therefore, we must build agile teams that can rapidly respond to emerging needs, and freelance L&D talent plays a crucial role in achieving this flexibility.

Reason 2: A Variety of Skills Are Needed

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In Learning and Development, there’s no one-size-fits-all product. Each project is unique in terms of inputs, governance, and outputs. Whether it’s the starting point of content, stakeholder engagement, or delivery methods, every project has its distinct characteristics.

  • Inputs: The starting point of content, accessibility of Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), and problem clarity vary.
  • Governance: Stakeholder engagement, timelines, and budgets differ.
  • Outputs: Media usage, delivery methods, and duration vary widely.

Building a team that can manage and respond to the diverse requirements of these projects is challenging, if not impossible. While some leaders attempt to hire individuals with a wide range of skills, even these versatile experts often fall short. The best solution is to create an organization that can quickly bring in specialized skills as needed, for as long or as short a duration as necessary. Freelance talent is indispensable for achieving this level of agility.

Reason 3: The Need for Different Skills Ebbs and Flows

In any project, the utilization, mix, and dependencies of team members fluctuate. Some roles may be heavily utilized early in a project but transition to low-touch roles as the project progresses. Other roles may experience intense utilization just before deliverables are due, followed by extended downtime until the next phase begins. Some roles may be highly sought after for one project but not required at all for others.

While some Learning and Development leaders can afford to hire full-time resources and accept the downtime, most cannot. Freelance talent serves as a crucial tool for managing these unpredictable fluctuations.

Consclusion

As we’ve explored the challenges of staffing a Learning and Development team, it becomes abundantly clear that traditional, rigid staffing models are often ill-suited for the dynamic and unpredictable nature of the L&D field. We’ve examined three key reasons why a freelance workforce must be an integral part of your learning and development strategy.

Reason 1 emphasizes the unpredictable nature of training and learning needs. In a world where change is constant, and performance issues can arise unexpectedly, agile responses are critical. Freelance talent offers the flexibility and swiftness to address these emerging needs efficiently.

Reason 2 highlights the variety of skills required in the L&D domain. No two projects are identical, and a diverse set of skills is necessary to address the unique characteristics of each. Building an in-house team with all these skills is often impractical. Freelance experts, on the other hand, can be brought in when their specialized knowledge is needed, ensuring your team is always well-equipped for the task at hand.

Reason 3 underscores the ebbs and flows in the demand for specific skills. L&D projects are rarely a constant stream of work for every team member. Some phases may require intensive efforts, while others have lighter demands. Freelance talent allows you to optimize your resources according to project requirements, minimizing downtime and resource underutilization.

In a world where adaptability is the name of the game, leveraging freelance talent isn’t just a smart move; it’s a necessity. Embracing this flexible staffing model equips your Learning and Development team to thrive in the face of uncertainty, harness the right expertise, and balance resource allocation effectively.

So, as you refine your Learning and Development strategy, consider the vital role of freelancers in achieving your goals. By embracing this agile approach, you’ll ensure your team remains ready to tackle any challenge, adapt to evolving needs, and ultimately, drive success in your organization’s learning and development endeavors.

Ready to start using freelance L&D talent? It’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Read the second article in this series to learn about some of the challenges to hiring freelance L&D talent. 

Need a new tool to help you find the right freelance L&D talent for your organization? Post a job on LXD Central today. 

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