What is a statement of work?


A statement of work is a contractual arrangement that allows employers to engage specialised workers for specific tasks or projects.

In the recruitment context, a statement of work (SOW) is a contract that provides employers with the flexibility to employ contingent workers with specialised expertise for specific tasks or projects. These workers are only employed for the duration of the project or task and are therefore released from employment upon its completion.  

There are two widely used statement of work models: outcome-led statements of work and time and materials statements of work. Outcome-led statements of work are typically used by businesses looking to minimise expenses, ensure timely project completion and eliminate cost overruns. Time and materials, on the other hand, are used by organisations when the scope of work and deliverables are not precisely defined, and the project may involve changing requirements or variable timelines. This model allows for payment based on the actual time spent by the contractor and the materials used, providing a level of flexibility and adaptability for both parties. 

History of statement of work 

Traditionally, when an organisation needed to fill a role, they would use their internal HR or acquisition teams, or an external staffing recruitment agency, to find and hire talent on a contract or permanent basis. Over the past few decades, however, outsourcing has gained significant appeal. This is particularly evident among growing businesses that require temporary or project-based increases in staffing levels, specialised skills, expertise and technology that may be challenging or costly to acquire. 

Recent trends in statement of work 

In recent years, the gig economy – a labour market that relies heavily on temporary and part-time positions – has changed the way that organisations approach recruitment. The rise of the gig economy has greatly influenced the adoption of statement of work contracts, as more and more companies are now recognising the value of leveraging independent contractors and freelancers to meet project-specific needs.  

As the gig economy has created a pool of diverse and specialised talent, statement of work contracts allow companies to tap into this talent pool and access individuals with niche expertise, industry-specific skills and specialised knowledge. This enables organisations to bring in highly skilled professionals on-demand, without the need for long-term employment commitments. The gig economy has also expanded the geographical boundaries of talent acquisition. Access to this global talent pool provides companies with the opportunity to leverage diverse skill sets, cultural perspectives, and market insights. 

Advantages of statement of work 

As statement of work contracts allow businesses to access contingent workers with specialised skills and expertise on a temporary basis, outsourcing develops talent pools aligned with the specific needs of the business. This provides the flexibility to scale up or down the workforce as needed, accommodating fluctuating demands and avoiding long-term commitments. It also enables organisations to tap into a wider talent pool by providing access to highly skilled professionals, industry experts and niche specialists who may not be available through traditional recruitment channels.  

Disadvantages of statement of work 

Engaging outsourced workers through a statement of work arrangement can come at a higher cost compared to traditional recruitment methods. The additional fees associated with outsourcing may strain the recruitment budget, especially if the cost of hiring temporary or contract workers is not effectively managed.