Microsoft Case Study: Launching an Internal Freelancer Program

Authors: Chad Nesland, Director of Strategic Sourcing and Matthew Mattola, Lead Growth PM: Microsoft 365 Freelance Toolkit of Microsoft


Here at Microsoft, we’ve been both observers and participants in what we think is one of the world’s biggest megatrends: talent continuing to move to flexible, on-demand ways of working globally, and the platforms and technology designed to help companies connect and work with them. McKinsey’s 2016 research revealed 20-30% of the working-age population engaged in freelancing (162 million across US, EU) and forecasts continued growth.

At the same time, 90% of hiring managers are open to engaging freelancers rather than making temporary hiring through staffing firms. Digital platforms and technology are playing a transforming role, building on collaboration, mobility, large pools of talent and the promise to more efficiently match these individuals with growing enterprise demand.

90% of hiring managers are open to engaging freelancers rather than making temporary hiring through #StaffingFirms. @TalentTechLabs shows how @Microsoft is advancing the #FutureOfWork: Click To Tweet

Microsoft plays a pivotal role in advancing the Future of Work. Through our products and services including investments in Cloud, AI, collaboration, ambient computing, productivity, and skills development, we’re modernizing the workplace and enabling more effective, flexible, and fluid workforces. So, responding to these trends is core to our mission to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

We believe this trend will disrupt and transform the talent, skills, processes, and tools required by companies and workers to be successful. We recognized the need to better understand how to responsibly engage freelancers in a digital-first enterprise setting. In order to test this at the enterprise, we needed to design and implement our freelance program as a viable alternative to conventional methods and tools that our employees rely on to get work done, such as outsourcing service providers and contingent staffing programs. As we’ve built, tested and expanded our program internally, it led us to some fascinating discoveries and benefits that we’re excited to share with you today.


As mentioned above, Microsoft employees engage suppliers through conventional staffing models to source and engage external talent. Industry averages for time to engage range from 30-60+ days. We needed to demonstrate an increase in pace to access quality-vetted, specialized external talent in parallel with these programs. Traditional programs were not born in the cloud, as such, users weren’t empowered with digital access to search among curated pools of talent.

Much like the Industrial Revolution, technological innovations are now transforming traditional models of engaging outside experts at work. This transformation presented tremendous potential benefits: a modern, digital and mobile-enabled user interface offering unprecedented transparency and access to global talent markets. The notion of on-demand talent could enable great agility for Microsoft. We needed to learn how to effectively navigate digital platforms for external talent, measure the benefits, and also understand and mitigate risks as well.

Read the full version, along with other articles about the gig economy, by downloading your free copy of our newest report “Remote Work Platforms: Trends in Temp Labor Marketplaces.”