Business & Tech

Hiring Contractors as a 2024 Business Strategy for US Companies

A significant trend emerging in the tech landscape is the increasing reliance on contractors to bolster tech departments. But why are companies like Google, Amazon, and even smaller tech startups turning to this model, and when does it make the most sense to bring these professionals into the fold? Let's break it down and keep it real.

Understanding the contractor boom

Here at Thaloz, we specialize in helping midsize to large companies scale their tech departments through the strategic use of contractors. A common model we've observed involves maintaining 70% of the core engineering team in-house while complementing them with 30% contractors. This blend not only expands capabilities but also smartly manages budget constraints.

Debunking the contractor taboo:

First off, let’s tackle the contractor stigma. There's a misconception that contractors juggle multiple gigs, diluting their attention to your projects. However, when properly vetted and managed, contractors can boost your project's efficiency without the loyalty conflicts of juggling multiple jobs.

Moreover, there's often a significant concern regarding employee benefits when transitioning to contractor status. Many fear losing essential benefits in this shift, but that's not always the case. At Thaloz, for example, we've addressed this issue head-on. We offer a contractor workforce with benefits such as paid time off, referral bonuses, and engaging people care activities, among other benefits, ensuring that our team enjoys the perks they deserve.

Another typical misconception is that professionals don't want to work as contractors because they prefer long-term relationships with one employer. However, a study by Upwork in 2023 showed that 64 million Americans did freelance work, making up 38% of the total U.S. workforce. This not only shows that more companies are hiring contractors but also that more professionals prefer this type of work.

Metrics of contractors in the US.

US companies shift to contractors: Why now?

It's no secret that the tech industry faces volatile times with economic uncertainties looming large. The U.S. has seen a distinct pivot towards hiring contractors as a strategic move to enhance flexibility and operational efficiency. This trend is partly driven by the need to adapt quickly to changing technology and market demands without the burden of permanent staffing commitments. Companies are not just cutting costs; they're striving to remain competitive in a fast-paced industry.

The "Year of Efficiency" saw major tech companies like Google and Amazon cutting jobs as part of restructuring efforts aimed at optimizing operations and investing heavily in emerging technologies such as generative AI. These layoffs, though smaller and more targeted compared to previous years, underscore a strategic realignment towards critical technological capabilities and operational agility​​.

Furthermore, according to Staffing Industry Analysts, staffing agencies hire almost 17 million temporary workers yearly in the U.S. This large number shows how employment practices are changing to meet market needs. It reflects a move towards flexible staffing solutions, helping businesses stay agile and efficient amidst industry changes.

The real deal on layoffs and contractors

U.S. tech companies are navigating a complex environment marked by economic uncertainties and a strategic shift towards more efficient operations, leading to both layoffs and an increase in hiring contractors. The key reasons include:

  1. Economic Uncertainties and Efficiency: Faced with economic slowdowns and reduced funding, tech companies are compelled to streamline budgets. A Reuters article from January 2024 highlights ongoing workforce reductions aimed at sustaining competitiveness and funding advancements in technologies like generative AI, within broader cost-cutting strategies to enhance efficiency and stability in tough times.
  2. Strategic Flexibility with Contractors: As layoffs persist, companies are increasingly turning to contractors to ensure workforce agility. This strategy allows them to adapt quickly to changing project demands and market conditions without the financial obligations tied to full-time staff, bringing in contractors for specific projects or peak times to provide specialized skills.
  3. Focus on Core Competencies: With a restructured workforce that leans more on contractors, firms are able to concentrate their full-time staff on essential competencies and strategic tasks, using contractors for specialized or peripheral duties. This approach helps manage costs effectively while keeping vital skills and tasks in focus to drive innovation and growth.
Statista graph of layoffs from 2020-2023
Source: Statista.

Why should US companies hire contractors for their tech departments?

Subcontracting offers multiple benefits such as handling larger projects efficiently, providing cost savings, accessing specialized expertise, boosting productivity, and offering flexibility with minimal long-term commitments. It also entails fewer legal obligations than hiring full-time employees, making it ideal for projects requiring temporary or specialized skills without the overhead of permanent staffing. Let's explore these advantages in detail:

  1. Financial Flexibility: Relying solely on in-house teams can be costly for large companies due to the high investment in full-time employee salaries and benefits. In contrast, contractors offer a more flexible and cost-effective solution for managing fluctuating business needs.
  2. Legal Simplicity: Hiring contractors through a staffing company simplifies compliance, as the contracting firm usually handles payroll, compliance, and benefits.
  3. Access to Specialized Skills: Contractors often bring specialized expertise that might be too niche or expensive to maintain in-house on a permanent basis.
  4. Recruitment Efficiency: Utilizing contractors reduces the need for a large internal recruitment team, cutting costs and allowing companies to scale operations up or down as needed.
  5. Productivity Gains: With contractors, companies can ramp up project teams quickly, without the usual lag time associated with training new full-time employees.
  6. Nearshore Advantages: these past perks apply globally, but there's a significant cost benefit to nearshoring. In the US, the high salaries can strain budgets, whereas when remotely hiring developers from Latin America, companies can hire senior engineers for less than half the cost—without compromising on timezone compatibility. This offers a competitive rate while maintaining efficiency.

When is a good time to expand your team with contractors?

Deciding whether to hire contractors involves not just understanding why but also determining the right timing. For medium to large companies, leveraging contractors can be particularly beneficial, as these businesses face unique scaling and operational demands.

Smaller companies, on the other hand, might need to keep teams compact or outsource initial development phases to software providers to sidestep recruitment challenges and ensure product quality.

Ideal times to hire contractors:

  • For quick scaling of operations or projects without long-term staffing commitments.
  • When temporary specialized skills are needed for project-specific tasks.
  • During economic uncertainty, to maintain financial flexibility.
  • To reduce costs and expand your team to meet key project deadlines.
  • During a new product launch requiring temporary specialized expertise.
  • When entering new markets with teams that can swiftly adapt.
Contact us today.

Silicon Valley sets the trend

In Silicon Valley, the hub of innovation, cost-efficiency isn’t just a necessity; it’s a strategy. As tech giants face pressures from investors and the market to optimize their operations, contracting has become a go-to strategy to manage resources more effectively. By engaging contractors, these companies can scale their operations up or down with ease, responding adeptly to project demands or technological shifts without the long-term financial commitments of full-time employees.

Looking ahead to 2024, hiring contractors is more than a necessity; it's a strategic move. This approach is increasingly popular among companies seeking to not only survive but thrive amidst technological and economic shifts. By leveraging contractors, businesses can maintain operational agility, manage costs effectively, and invest in growth areas like AI, all of which are essential for staying competitive in the upcoming years.

Wrapping up

The integration of contractors into tech departments represents more than a trend—it's a forward-thinking approach to workforce management. By understanding the strategic 'whys' and 'whens' of hiring contractors, companies can align their staffing strategies with long-term goals and immediate operational needs. In an era where agility and efficiency are paramount, embracing the contractor model could be the key to navigating a future where change is the only constant.

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