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The Bold Faced Blog™

July 23, 2013

Workforce Planning in the Age of the Consultant

Posted 4 years 121 days ago by Sheila Ellian Lewis

The workforce is changing. Figures shared by the Freelancers Union  suggest that one-third of the workforce is self-employed or provides some form of contingent work. That number is increasing and more people are choosing to work this way. In fact, recent studies, including one from Intuit, suggest the proportion could hit 40 percent by the end of the decade.

For consultants seeking shorter term or project-based work, this is good news. Traditionally,“freelance” has been something of a dirty word implying less committed or less important than a full time employee. The use of independent talent has also been mostly seen as an economic play, a way to keep headcount and employee costs low. As the number of independentworkers rises, that perception is giving way to something else.

Business Benefits

In an article for the Harvard Business Review blog, Tammy Erikson writes about the upside for employers working with consultants or contractors from outside their own company. She highlights the work of her colleague, Dr. Margaret Schweer, whose research found companies benefiting from cost flexibility, speed and agility in accessing the right talent at the right time and a boost to innovation provided by consultants who move across companies and are exposed to different approaches to problem solving and best practices.

An increasing number of very talented people are choosing to specialize and share their expertise with several companies rather than just one or two as they may have done in decades past. While this does create the kind of creative energy and innovative practices that Dr. Schweer reported, it also presents challenges for employers.Business leaders will need to carefully rethink workforce strategies to take account of the growing trend and ensure that they access and use consultants and other contingent workers in the best long-term interests of the business. 

What implications for strategy?

We’d love to hear about how this changing workforce is affecting the way businesses plan and manage talent today and how you expect it to change. Share your perspectives in the comments.

Tags: consultant contingent freelancer

Categories: categoryEmployment Trends

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