BTG Releases 2021 High-End Independent Talent Report

Business Talent Group Report Finds Executives Turn to High-End Independent Talent to Maximize Agility During Volatile Times

New data reveals trends in highly skilled freelance usage as business leaders push for renewed growth, competitive advantage, and market share in post-pandemic future

Los Angeles, California – Business Talent Group (BTG)—the leading marketplace for top independent consultants, interim executives, subject matter experts, and project managers—today released its fourth annual High-End Independent Talent Report, an analysis based on BTG’s proprietary data of how Fortune 1000 companies rely on independent workers to fill critical skill, expertise, and leadership gaps amid increasing economic optimism.

“Business leaders are battle-tested and more empowered than ever before to engage the flexible resourcing they need for their most important work,” said BTG Co-CEO and Co-Founder Jody Greenstone Miller. “All manner of companies now recognize the critical role that independent talent will play in the months and years to come. In this environment, platforms such as Business Talent Group will be a key piece of human capital infrastructure to help organizations instill much-needed workforce agility and rapidly respond to the business challenges and opportunities they face today.”

The COVID-19 pandemic ignited a paradigm shift in attitudes toward remote work, while simultaneously opening a world of possibilities for resourcing critical projects. No longer limited to talent in their immediate vicinity, or those willing to travel, business leaders can tap a richer, more diverse pool of independent, on-demand talent and find the absolute best person for the job, no matter where in the world they are located.

KEY FINDINGS OF THE REPORT INCLUDE:

  • C-suite takes note: The use of independent talent has increased at the more senior levels of an enterprise with nearly 69% of all requests from VPs and above, including 30% of independent talent needs from C-level executives—an increase of 67% YOY. Senior executives not only see the value of high-end on-demand talent for their organization's needs but also for their own key initiatives.
  • Interim leadership at all levels: Comprising 8% of all project requests, interim leadership enables companies to fill gaps while optimizing the skills, working style, and priorities for roles both in the near-term and for eventual permanent hires. The use of interim leaders has taken an increasingly prominent role up and down the org chart, as shown by a 70% increase YOY in interim engagements below the C-suite.
  • Re-focus on growth: With 57% of projects falling into the broad bucket of strategy, the BTG data shows that early optimism for 2021 actually began in July 2020 as leaders focused in particular on growth strategy, mergers and acquisitions, and corporate and business unit strategy.
  • Organizational optimization: Experts in workforce planning are helping to optimize organizations for the next new normal and enable the safe return to offices, while talent with technology and systems implementation skills are accelerating digital transformation efforts and supporting the widespread shift to remote work. Altogether, 35% of projects are focused on organization, operations, and transformation needs.
  • Remote Work Revolution: Before COVID-19, only 17% of executives were interested in remote-only work arrangements for independent talent. By May 2020, nearly all project requests had gone remote. As a cumulative effect of the Remote Work Revolution, remote-only project requests increased 335% YOY across all industries and business functions.
Most In-Demand Projects
  • Marketing and Sales
  • Opportunity Assessment
  • Interim Leadership
  • Business Processes
  • Planning
  • Product Strategy and Launch
  • Business Intelligence and Analytics
  • Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A)
Most In-Demand Skills
  • Project Management
  • Market Landscape and Research
  • Process Optimizations and Transformation
  • Corporate and Business Unit Strategy
  • Organizational Design and Workforce Planning
  • Market Access and Value
  • Growth Strategy
  • Advanced Analytics
  • Strategic Planning
  • Technology and Systems Implementation

INDEPENDENT TALENT TRENDS BY INDUSTRY—A DEEPER DIVE

In addition to the aggregated cross-industry insights, the BTG report reveals key differences in how companies within various industries prioritize the challenges and opportunities they face—and how they're using high-end independents to meet those needs.

Notable industry trends include:
  • Consumer Goods: Requests have shifted from process optimization to advanced analytics, planning, and interim leadership—illustrating the critical need for cutting-edge expertise and strategic leadership to navigate a new era of rapid change.
  • Financial Services: Companies are adopting fast, flexible talent models to power M&A, digitization, and organizational clarity initiatives.
  • Healthcare: Independent talent capabilities align perfectly with companies’ needs to execute and lead new partnerships, develop and implement new technologies, and build resilient workforces.
  • Industrial Goods and Services: Independents continue to be tapped for insightful opportunity assessments while also addressing new priorities such as manufacturing excellence, operational resilience, and workforce agility and safety.
  • Insurance: Project trends indicate a dual focus on accelerating recovery strategies through business processes, service operations, and transformations while simultaneously seeking growth opportunities via digitization, big data, and automation.
  • Life Science: Industry-wide usage of independent talent continues to grow as companies seek specialized skills and expertise for market access, clinical operations, commercial strategy, and digital health initiatives.
  • Media and Entertainment: Independent talent usage has increased as business leaders seek to understand consumer preferences, identify new products and services, and drive strategic planning across the organization.
  • Nonprofit and Government: Organizations are tapping interim leaders and experts in innovation, R&D, and strategic planning to rapidly adapt and make a greater impact in a changing world.
  • Private Equity: Firms find great value in the use of independent talent to evaluate acquisition targets, validate investment theses, and drive and sustain impact through interim leadership.
  • Retail: After pivoting virtually overnight in 2020, retailers will find interim leadership, as well as product strategy and innovation experts, critical as they continue digital, supply chain, and operational transformations this year.
  • Services (B2B and B2C): In a complicated and uncertain business environment, firms are seeking independent talent to help with everything from business process transformations to workforce planning and marketing strategy to business resilience.
  • Technology: Independent talent are proving invaluable to technology companies as they strive to serve their clients and push forward digital, process, and business model transformations.

To learn more about the top projects and skills requested by companies in each sector and business function, view the full report from BTG.

ABOUT BUSINESS TALENT GROUP

Business Talent Group (BTG) is the leading talent platform that connects top independent consultants, subject matter experts, project managers, and interim executives with the world’s best companies. BTG provides just the right on-demand talent needed: remote or on-site, part-time or full-time, individuals or teams, all around the world. More than 50% of the Fortune 100 trust BTG to curate, vet, and deliver legally compliant talent who fuel growth, innovation, and performance improvement.

For more information, visit businesstalentgroup.com and join the conversation on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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