Independent Talent Trends for 2021, Revealed

Text that says Independent Talent Trends 2021 against a backdrop of multicolored circles overlaying speed motion lines

Emerging from the unprecedented conditions of 2020, companies are planning for a post-pandemic future, seeking to capture market share, and blazing paths to renewed growth. Agility is key in this ever-shifting business environment, so it’s no surprise that 77% of employers say their talent strategies are more focused on workforce agility than ever before.

High-end independent talent offer a flexible source of the expert strategic thinking, hands-on execution, interim leadership, and cutting-edge, in-demand skills companies need to succeed in the next new normal. In fact, nearly 90% of business leaders say that independent talent platforms, like Business Talent Group, will be important to their organization's future competitive advantage. And the most innovative companies are installing enterprise-wide programs to facilitate the use of on-demand freelance talent. 

Every year, Business Talent Group analyzes our proprietary data to reveal the most important independent talent trends that business leaders should know. What emerges from the data is a vivid picture of how Fortune 1000 companies rely on independent consultants, interim executives, subject matter experts, and project managers to fill critical skill, expertise, and leadership gaps.

This year’s results are summarized in our 2021 High-End Independent Talent Report.

2021 Independent Talent Trends

So how are F1000 companies leveraging independent consultants, experts, and executives to address their biggest opportunities and challenges this year? 

Read the full report for:

  • The most in-demand project types and skills across all industries and business functions
  • 24 industry- and function-specific spotlights with examples of real problems independents have helped solve in each area
  • Independent talent trends in interim leadership and project management
  • A look at how independent talent helped companies respond to changing needs throughout the turbulence of 2020
  • Ideas on how enterprise leaders can use on-demand talent to exceed 2021 goals

2020 Independent Talent Trends

In last year's report, marketing and sales projects topped the list of most in-demand projects—a trend that continued throughout the year with independent experts assisting on everything from highly specialized pharmaceutical product launches to initiatives aimed helping marketers understand rapidly changing customer preferences . Project management was the most-requested skill. We also saw:

  • Rising demand for process-related projects as companies transform their operations to grapple with radical shifts in the business landscape
  • Increased reliance on independent talent for advanced analytics and other digital skills difficult to source in the full-time market
  • More requests for talent skilled in digital transformations and tech and systems implementations as companies accelerated long-planned efforts amid increased remote working and changing customer behavior
  • An changing role for interim leaders—no longer confined to stopgap positions during executive searches—who now pilot initiatives, advise permanent execs, and address skills gaps in hard-to-hire areas from the C-suite to Director levels

In addition to the project and skill trends above, we also noted a more than 2x increase in usage of independent talent by HR leaders, CEOs, and business unit presidents year over year, a reflection of just how valuable embedded independent talent have become across the enterprise.

2019 Independent Talent Trends

In 2018, the greatest needs were for project leadership in highly specialized niches like supply chain, disruptive innovation, and market access. 2019 was no different, according to our analysis. Given the dismally low completion rate of most corporate projects, it suggests savvy companies have realized that freelance project management consultants can provide critical support in situations where resources are tight or teams are distracted by competing priorities.

BTG’s research is based on an analysis of 12 months of client needs, with the goal of understanding how these professionals are helping large companies get work done.

“In a tight labor market, companies turn to independent professionals for cutting-edge skills that often can’t be found anywhere else. We are thrilled to help executives understand the breadth of what these professionals can accomplish—and the many ways they can make a difference on mission-critical initiatives,” Jody Greenstone Miller, Business Talent Group’s CEO and co-founder, commented.

To view all of our annual reports on independent talent trends, visit our High-End Independent Talent Report content stream.

Talent Agility for the Next New Normal

See how leading companies are using high-end independent talent to build competitive advantage, capture market share, and blaze paths to renewed growth in 2021.



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