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Freelancers are filling the tech talent gap

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter, where we share the latest tips, tools and insights to help you stay informed about the modern tech office. Today: what skills are in demand among freelance tech workers, performance improvement plans, and shifting trends in tech recruiting.

—Amber Burton, reporter (email | twitter)

Freelancers are filling the talent gap

The past year brought forth a wave of people finally working on their own terms. And while for some tech workers that meant taking a flashy, flexible job at another company, for others it meant cutting ties with full-time work and embracing freelance life.

It’s appealing. Who wouldn’t want to pick and choose whatever jobs they want with the guarantee that they can work from wherever they want? And with the increasingly competitive job market for highly skilled tech workers, tech freelancers are in demand.

Freelance network Upwork has witnessed a rise in the number of employers seeking tech talent since the start of the pandemic. The reason? More companies are looking for more technical help as they increase their digital presence, said Margaret Lilani, the vice president of Talent Solutions at Upwork. On Tuesday, the company released its 10 most in-demand skills for technology freelancers this year. Here are the top skills for tech:

  1. Web design
  2. WordPress
  3. Web programming
  4. JavaScript
  5. CSS
  6. HTML
  7. PHP
  8. Shopify
  9. API
  10. Graphic design

A lot of these skills were once part of in-house positions at companies. Now, in the face of the Great Resignation and increasing competition for talent, companies have been forced to seek those skills elsewhere, said Lilani.

  • “In order to get things done, you need to access a bigger talent pool. Not only do you have to compete for talent in the same traditional [full-time employment] space that you've had to before, the full-time talent pool isn't enough to get work done … If you as a company are not looking at remote talent and freelance, and your competitors are, well, they've got a big edge on you,” she said. Lilani and her team have seen more companies that would not have used Upwork in the past flock to the platform in order to compete.
  • The influx in people seeking freelance talent is also related to rising comfort with hiring people remotely. Fears that company security would be compromised in remote settings has decreased as well, she said.

The makeup of who is freelancing is changing as well. Lilani has seen an increase in the amount of people with more traditional backgrounds.

  • “We have seen a massive, massive uptick in the number of highly skilled freelancers on our platform. We've always had a large population, but the folks who are joining our platform, many of them are people who would have only looked at full-time jobs in the past. And that's the key difference,” she said.

Lilani offered the following advice for recruiters and hiring managers seeking a highly skilled tech freelancer for the first time:

  • Know exactly what you want to achieve with the help of a freelancer. Upwork offers coding tests to help employers assess whether or not a freelancer is up for the challenge.
  • If you’ve never utilized an independent contractor before, figure out ahead of time how that person will fit into your world of work and your organization. She suggests evaluating: “Have I prepared my team to understand that this is not just a contractor, but this is an expert?”
  • Figure out how that work relates more broadly to the rest of your team’s goals, but don’t get caught up in making a freelancer do things the way they’ve always been done. Refer to their expertise.

The dreaded performance improvement plan

Performance improvement plans (PIPs) are ostensibly designed to help people get back on track and perform well in their roles. But for many employees, PIPs are often viewed as walking papers. They can leave little room for workers to improve their performance and come out alive, even if the employee makes a good-faith effort, reported my colleague Michelle Ma. She spoke with lawyers, HR experts and tech workers to find out why PIPs so frequently hurt the people they claim to help, and how to make them more effective for all involved. One HR expert suggested we shouldn’t refer to them as PIPs at all.

Read the full story here.


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Today's tips & tools

Delaying email delivery might be the single most-useful feature in the workplace. It can save you from sending an email with glaring mistakes or pent-up frustrations that belong in your diary instead. Here are some ways you can delay email delivery and quickly “unsend” any mistakes.

  • In Gmail, you can delay all messages for up to 30 seconds. Go to Settings, then General and hit "Undo Send." You can also schedule individual emails by clicking the dropdown next to the “Send” button.
  • In Outlook for Windows, you can delay all messages for up to two hours, or you can schedule one-off emails. In order to delay all messages create a rule within Outlook that keeps emails in the Outbox for a specified amount of time. This page gives step-by-step instructions.
  • In Outlook for Mac, you unfortunately cannot delay all messages. But you can schedule one-off emails. To do that, you click the dropdown under Send and hit “Send Later,” which prompts you to select a specific time.
  • Prefer to get your productivity tips via TikTok?[Editor's note: Me neither. I’m only there for the dogs.]This tip came from Mike Tholfsen, who gives viewers daily Microsoft tips.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email | twitter)

Changing trends in recruiting talent

More recruiters are eschewing the traditional pipeline for hiring in tech and casting a broader net. According to a new 2022 survey by CodinGame and CoderPad of almost 14,000 developers and recruiters, the number of companies hiring applicants with “non-academic” backgrounds has increased.

  • 39% of recruiters said they recruit developers with non-academic backgrounds, an increase from 23% in 2021.
  • 40% of developers who completed the survey said they did not learn to code at an engineering school or university. 32.2% responded that they were self-taught.
  • Not only are recruiters expanding the pool of who they recruit, but they’re also altering their views on what’s needed to apply for a role. 57% of recruiters who responded to the survey said they’re “ready to remove CVs from the recruitment process.”


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Making moves

Software company Autodesk appointed Rebecca Pearce as its chief people officer. Prior to the role, Pearce was vice president of People and Places at the company.

Space data and analytics company Spire Global appointed Tim Braswell as chief people officer. Braswell was formerly senior HR partner for C-suite leaders at MetLife.

WalkMe appointed Chelsea Pyrzenski as chief people officer. Prior to joining the SaaS company, Pyrzenski was chief human resources officer at HireRight.

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

For the first time since the start of the pandemic, women are beating out men in growth of workforce participation.

Online gaming platform Roblox has benefited from the work of children, with many claiming they’ve been financially exploited.

More companies are offering benefits to help workers build up their emergency savings.

The battle for talent has reached the metaverse … or at least the people trying to build it.

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com. Have a great day, see you Thursday.

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