Independent professionals as talent: evidence from individual views of working as a contractor

Tui McKeown, Francois Pichault

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


In this article we challenge the assumption that independent professionals (IPros), that is professionals who work as contractors, freelancers, and self-employed individuals, are not within the remit of talent management (TM) theory and practice. The TM literature is almost exclusively focused on traditional employees and largely ignores the external workforce, even if like IPros, they epitomize high-value talent. Moreover, much of the TM literature takes an organizational perspective while the individual perspective remains marginal. Advancing the notion of institutional factors in the macro environment suggested by King and Vaiman, we draw on interviews with 52 IPros in two contrasted institutional contexts to provide an agentic view of TM from outside of the standard employment relationship. Our findings reveal the importance of volition, emotional stability, internal locus of control, and self-efficacy play in IPros effectively managing personal TM strategies. These strategies allow IPros to overcome the empowerment/powerlessness tensions Daubner-Siva et al. call the “talent paradox.” Importantly, the results do not vary between the two national contexts, suggesting that embracing a “total TM” strategy, attentive to the personal characteristics of talent, regardless of the regulatory issues linked to employment status, will produce superior outcomes for all.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)313-328
Number of pages16
JournalHuman Resource Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2021


  • contracting
  • independent professionals
  • nonstandard work
  • talent
  • total workforce

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