Power to the People: Technology Leads to Freelance Consulting Boom – Forbes | Region & Cash

There are many factors driving the Great Retirement, but a shifting power dynamic in today’s job market trumps them all. With more bargaining chips at their disposal and much-improved technology helping them rethink their career paths, workers are reassessing the value of their skills. And that pays off in higher salaries.

To get a better idea of ​​where the new power dynamic is headed and how it will impact the future of work, I spoke to Pat Petitti, co-founder and CEO of Catalant, a platform that connects highly skilled workers with strategic advisory opportunities. Petitti’s company has seen the change firsthand. Many of the highly qualified independent consultants in their market have left the corporate world for opportunities that offer more freedom.

Gary Drenik: Do you think the pandemic alone has changed the traditional power dynamic between employers and workers? In other words, would we have seen such a huge shift in the job market if it weren’t for the pandemic?

Pat Petitti: Yes, but not that fast. Even before the pandemic, technology created a level playing field for many employees. With the proliferation of sites like Glassdoor, employees realized their skills were more valuable than they were being paid for them, and they grew tired of “fluffy” perks designed to keep them happy. The postponement would have happened anyway, but it wouldn’t have been productive enough to have a name like “The Great Resignation.”

But where are we now? Companies no longer have as much clout in determining an employee’s lifestyle. Another big shift—the move to remote and hybrid work—is credit for that. Employers have less control over where new employees report, where they live, or how they commute. And employees who decide to leave today without another opportunity waiting for them have more options than ever. The bottom line is that employees – especially highly qualified specialists whose knowledge is in demand in the market – can create any work-life balance they want.

The Great Reckoning is a more appropriate term for this conversation—employees have always wanted more flexibility, and now they finally have the power and structural framework to build the balance they deserve.

drenik: How should companies adapt to this new labor market where they must meet workers’ expectations?

Small: Businesses need to invest in concrete, strategic ways to improve work-life balance and employee advancement. Right now they are losing the opportunities offered by the freelance economy, where in-demand skills can bring in customized flexible, well-paying work. Whether companies can afford to offer their employees the flexible hours and variety of work in the same way that freelance and consulting roles can offer remains to be seen.

However, rather than fight the rise of freelance work, companies should embrace it. According to a recent Prosper Insights & Analytics survey, about 14% of the workforce said they prefer to work from home because it gives them time to pursue other opportunities on the side. The hunger in the workforce to get involved beyond the “day job” should be seen as an opportunity and not a threat. More and more companies can rely on these savvy, skilled professionals to fill gaps in their workforce – especially when they may only need the help for 5 to 10 hours a week. A future-proof organization is able to engage independent consultants in the same way they approach hiring full-time positions and recruiting consultants.

drenik: What sparked the new trend of highly skilled workers becoming experienced freelancers? Why is this shift happening and what does it tell us about the broader shift in the consulting industry?

Small: Consulting has always lent itself to a hybrid approach, but the widespread acceptance of remote work has helped many highly skilled workers venture off the fence and into the freelance market. At the same time, technology makes it much easier for companies to work with freelancers. The digital infrastructure to offer benefits, board, provide technology access and perform other key processes remotely has been adapted to support freelancers.

For consulting in general there is a pivot to be much more agile. The month-long ramp-up of traditional consulting firms is slowly dying – independent consultants can typically start work in days or weeks, and projects can be completed at a lower cost and at a faster pace. This is good news for large or longstanding companies that want to operate with the speed and agility of a startup.

drenik: What skills are most in demand in the freelance consulting market?

Small: Currently, we are seeing high demand in the areas of market research, supply chain optimization (up 625% from January 2021 to April 2022), corporate strategy and digital transformation. But those are pretty big categories. One of the biggest benefits of hiring a freelance consultant is knowing the exact skills and experience you will gain. Do you need a consultant to help you conduct a market sizing analysis in a specific region so you can check whether a potential acquisition is viable or not? By the time a traditional consulting agency would likely sign a deal and step on board, your acquisition window could be closing.

In this way, advice becomes hyper-specialized. No matter how niche a skill might be, chances are there’s a company out there that needs that exact knowledge. It may only be a 10 hour per week commitment, but the specificity of the skills can result in an extremely lucrative livelihood for professionals, which nonetheless represents significant ROI and reduced investment for the company.

drenik: Do you see that the job market in the next ten years will be dominated by freelancers? Why?

Small: The pool of freelancers and highly qualified consultants will continue to grow over the next ten years. Technology has made it easier than ever to generate value in a distributed environment, and for those with niche skills and valued knowledge, the opportunities will continue to grow. Once companies realize how much value these short-term, highly focused engagements can add to their business and mitigate risk, we will quickly see this type of work style grow in popularity.

drenik: Thank you Pat for this conversation about the future of freelance consulting and the ever-changing power dynamics in the job market.

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