In the Workplace is a podcast where Wharton professor Peter Cappelli and attorney Dan O’Meara take a look at workforce trends and the challenges that today’s business owners and job seekers face.
The two sat down recently with Business Talent Group CEO Jody Greenstone Miller to talk about the gig economy—and why companies are hiring independent consultants, experts, and executives at the management level.
Here are our favorite moments:
Why do companies engage independents?
The independent marketplace is diverse, cutting across functions and industries and incorporating management consultants, project managers, subject-matter experts, and more. As Miller pointed out, companies turn to it for a lot of different reasons. “In some cases, there’s just not enough bandwidth,” she said. In other cases, companies need specific skills for discrete initiatives, like the launch of a new product. “You might need a high level of sophistication and knowledge to plan the launch and get it going, and then once you get it going, you don’t need it anymore.”
How do independents get things done without deep, longstanding ties to an organization?
Work is changing. Miller unpacked a world in which more and more companies are investing in building an agile workforce. “You have managers being moved around, different kinds of leaders. If someone comes in from outside to help mobilize them, it shouldn’t feel that different from someone coming in from another department.”
Of course, boosting organizational agility means matching the right person to the right role. “You have to have the right skills,” said Miller, “But also the right cultural fit.” Sometimes, companies need a fresh, confident perspective on a difficult project; other times, they need a diplomatic thinker who can help them build a consensus. “Each situation requires that you understand what the objectives are and build the right individual or team to do it.”
What prompts people to go independent?
People want to control what they work on and who they work with, Miller noted. What’s more, in every industry that’s moved to a free-agent model, the top talent do much better. According to a TD Ameritrade survey, she pointed out, the ability to be your own boss is the new American dream.
From a historical perspective, this is probably not surprising. “When people were artisans, they were all independents,” said Miller. “Our whole mission is to make it safe and efficient for companies to go into this market and have a great experience, and at the same time, to help independent professionals have steady work.”
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