The implications of using freelancers for coordination, cooperation, and performance

Name of applicant

Jonathan Jensen




Institute for Strategy, Technology, and Organization - Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich


DKK 1,020,000



Type of grant

Internationalisation Fellowships


Freelancing is the fastest growing form of employment in the western world. Many high-skilled workers are choosing a freelance career to take more control of their time, projects, and pay. Organizations are increasingly using freelancers as well, not only because of the flexibility, expertise, and experience freelancers provide, but also because of an unmet need for high-skilled talent in nearly all industries. Online labour markets (platforms like Worksome or Upwork) are making it easier for both freelancers and employers to find and work with each other. While this paints a rosy picture of freelancing, the reality is more complex: how do freelancers adapt to new clients (organizations) and projects? And how do organizations that want to use freelancers ensure that they will work well together with permanent employees and contribute to organizational goals and performance? The aim of this project is to answer these questions by studying how firms integrate freelancers and permanent employees through online labour markets or inside the firm.


We know little about why some organizations are better at integrating freelancers than others, or whether organizations are integrating freelancers optimally. Over half of Google's workforce are contract workers, but how does Google get their freelancers to work well with the other half that are Googlers? In theory, firms use freelancers for different tasks than full-time employees - tasks that are not very depedendent on full-time employees. But this is changing, meaning freelancers and employees are becoming more dependent on each other. Understanding how firms successfully integrate freelancers and permanent employees is important to reduce coordination failures (mistakes, misunderstandings, delays, etc.) and cooperation failures (stonewalling, witholding information, early departures, etc.). It also has implications for how firms successfully integrate new employees, new partners, new suppliers, or new acquisitions into their organization.


To understand how firms integrate freelancers and employees successfully, we need to know how they do so, both inside the firm and by using online labour markets providing workforce management systems. To understand how integration takes place inside the firm, the project studies organizational practices that reduce coordination and cooperation failures and increase firm performance. To understand how online labor markets improve coordination, cooperation, and performance, the project studies tasks performed through online platforms and how platforms can help to reduce frictions when the work of freelancers and permanent employees is interdependent.

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