SMEs typically can’t afford nor attract top notch experts with crucial value creating skills to become employees. And no matter how talented your employees are, chances are that many of them are becoming noncompetitive or they lack the skills to take your company to the next level. The half-life of a learned skill used to be about thirty years. Today it is down to about five years.

However, thanks to the internet, the cost of finding and tracking outside staff has dropped to almost zero and at the same time, the volume and quality of freelancers have gone up dramatically.

Why SMEs demand skills and competences from outside their core organization

The increased prevalence of digital technology and artificial intelligence will lead to new job functions and categories—but also to shortages of people with the skills needed to fill those roles

Automation is replacing jobs; big data and advanced analytics are unlocking vast customer, operational, and employee insights; and increased access to information and ideas is blurring the boundaries of what used to be inside or outside the firm.

The digitalization of products and services is creating an enormous demand for skilled digital talent. Nearly half of US and German companies in a BCG survey cited the lack of qualified employees as the biggest constraint to a full digital transformation.

Companies will need to develop or gain access to talent in rapidly emerging areas such as data analytics, app development, and user experience design. In fact, nearly every organizational role will eventually require the use of sophisticated technology.

Knowledge-intensive companies are already contracting out more work to the market, partly to save costs and partly to free up their cleverest workers to focus on the things that add the most value. Thus, more and more of the routine parts of knowledge work can be parceled out to individuals, just as they were previously parceled out to companies.

Staff-On-Demand uses to the full most of the capabilities and advantages that make an attractive business model for SMEs: no need for offices; no full-time contract employees; the clever use of computers to repackage one set of people’s needs into another set of people’s tasks; and an ability to access spare time and spare cognitive capacity across the world.


  • Staff-On-Demand enables SMEs to access experts with up-to-date knowledge in many areas.
  • Staff-On-Demand resources are 100 % variable costs.


  • Knowledge-On-Demand: Staff-On-Demand knowledge may not be fully embedded in the core organization.
  • Team building and organization: Staff-On-Demand working physically separated and in different time zones from core organization.


  • Do SMEs and Staff-On-Demand understand each other – do they speak the same (business) language?
  • How will SME-managers be able to see the value created by Staff-On-Demand?
  • How will the changes initiated by working with Staff-On-Demand be sustained once their involvement is discontinued?

Why there is an increasing supply of skills and competencies available to SMEs

New attitudes among talented people are also changing the workplace—in particular, the growing preference for independent work instead of dedicated corporate careers.

Independence is becoming the dominant motivator for a large section of the population, particularly for millennials (born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s) and Gen-Zers (born in the mid- to late 1990s and after). These younger people tend to get bored doing the same kind of work for long stretches, and they are especially interested in independent careers. Empowered by digital platforms and ecosystems, many are choosing entrepreneurship and self-employment over traditional corporate employment.

Thus for talented workers, working on and getting paid for multiple projects may be particularly interesting.

How SMEs can get access to these skills and competences

The ability to tap information and ideas from anyone, anywhere, is multiplying exponentially.

People can be continuously connected, access data from any location, work remotely with ease, and collaborate with their global colleagues in real time. They need not even be employees: at several leading IT companies, outside contractors make up almost half of the full-time staff.

Rapidly expanding access is giving rise to crowdsourcing and the sharing economy. The most innovative solutions today are being developed by people around the world who come together in online communities, internet platforms, and digital ecosystems that disrupt the traditional models of venture funding, product development, and product life cycle management.

Crowdsourcing communities such as Kaggle and Innocentive allow companies to “rent” talent without much upfront investment. Instead of hiring full-time employees, companies can staff projects with the specific expertise needed. And freelancers come with the added benefit of being well-connected to developments in the wider industry, unlike employees, who tend to get caught up in internal dynamics.

Kaggle is a company which seeks to make data science an affordable fun sport. It offers crowdsourcing , social network, wiki, and job board opportuities on one portal, easy to be eased by SMEs lacking tech and data savvy talent.

Innocentive is a tool for producers to outsource research and development on an ‘as needed’ basis, which makes it perfect for SMEs, who’s R&D needs usually do not justify maintaining in-house staff.

Acxiom and DataLogix are data brokers which provide SMEs with highly valuable data at reasonable prices. For example these data brokers obtain names of expectant parents and families with newborns from Experian ( a marketing-services unit of credit reporting giant ) and sell it to relevant SMEs.

Support Legal is the Middle East and Africa’s first legal services platform for entrepreneurs and emerging companies and is leading the innovation of the legal sector in the Middle East & Africa region. Support Legal’s lawyers have at least 10,000 hours of relevant experience and are alumni of internationally renowned law firms and multi-national companies. Support Legal does not charge by the hour. Support Legal offers fixed fees for defined scopes of work.

Perhaps the most striking of all the on-demand services is Amazon’s Mechanical Turk which allows customers to post any “human intelligence task”, from flagging objectionable content on websites to composing text messages; workers on the site choose what to do according to task and price.

Some examples of other Staff-On-Demand platforms could be:

Coople, which focuses mainly on the following industries: hospitality, events & promotion, retail, logistics, healthcare, as well as business and administrative services (office jobs). The idea is simple. A staffing app which allows employers to advertise work at an hourly rate — whether that be for a few hours cleaning, for security stewarding work, or for a catering job. Workers sign up, complete the work, and get paid through the app. Once that part is complete, both the employer and the employee provide an Uber-style rating for each other.

Cand, a Danish platform maching students and SME-projects.

Remote, for software development, design, marketing, customer support and other non-tech jobs.

Peopleperhour: is as an online platform giving businesses access to thousands of skilled freelance experts in hundreds of different fields. Tasks and services include website development, SEO, web design and social media marketing to name a few.

Upwork: Programmers, designers, writers, customer support reps, and more. 

How SMEs may get organized

However, Staff-On-Demand will also revolutionize the way that work gets done in companies

It will result in new ways of organizing, performing, and leading, along with new approaches to recruiting, developing, and engaging employees.

As organizations begin to rent rather than hire talent, they will have to make do with a lower level of commitment. They will need to create career paths and roles to serve the entrepreneurial aspirations of the highly skilled talent they seek. And leaders will have to tailor their leadership style to the hyper individualized environment, finding new ways to empower and inspire individuals and teams in their dispersed organization.

Companies will develop a more fluid sense of what is inside and what is outside their boundaries. They will move beyond rigid distinctions between employees, outside suppliers, and customers, developing platforms to promote collaboration among all stakeholders. Eventually, as value chains break up into networks and platforms, the role of the organization will shift from that of a controller of resources to that of a facilitator of ecosystems and a conduit for realizing individual aspirations.

But in contrast to start-up companies that often use Staff-On-Demand as an integral part of their business-DNA and in contrast to large corporations that have an HR-staff who can examine and evaluate the many new Staff-On-Demand opportunities, SMEs often have limited resources to do these tasks. So how might SMEs get organized?

  •  Establish a professional Board that may help bridge the gap between the often very operational/hands-on business culture of SMEs and the more academic/technical backgrounds within Staff-On-Demand.
  • Put HR/Staff-On-Demand on the Board agenda as a strategic tool – discuss which crucial value creating skills are necessary to develop and grow the business.
  • Establish clear goals and well defined projects with close follow-up – to be able to package and contract out tasks requiring top notch experts.
  • Develop on-boarding routines that support the use of Staff-On-Demand
  • Be aware of your company’s HR-image – e.g.: track via “Glassdoor” (a “TripAdvisor”/”Trustpilot” on companies written by (previous) employees).

Read more: What digital skills and competencies do you need – and how to get it?

Thanks to:

The Economist: “The ‘On-Demand Economy’ Is Reshaping Companies And Careers”, 2015-01-04.

Boston Consulting Group: “Twelve Forces That Will Radically Change How Organizations Work”, 2017-03-27.

Bjarke Stengaard, Director, Curia Management, 2017-05-15.

Theresa Blegvad, CEO, Insights Nordic, 2017-05-15.