Global Reservoir of Independent Talent Shatters Employment Paradigms

December 5, 2023
3 Minute Read

Organizations are creating intellectual arbitrage on a global scale by tapping into a highly skilled independent workforce from around the globe, around the clock, to innovate faster and more efficiently than has ever been possible. Based on RGP’s latest research, outside consultants will comprise 48% of the average project execution team by 2024.

An ever-deepening reservoir of independent workers is creating a vibrant global marketplace, and this trend has huge implications for employers and talent alike.

  • 36% of the U.S. workforce is composed of independent workers — including contract, freelance, temporary, or gig workers — up from 27% in 2016 (McKinsey).
  • Some 86.5 million people will be freelancing in the U.S. by 2027 — just over half of the entire workforce (Statista).
  • Globally, the total number of independent workers is estimated to be 1.57 billion people out of a total global workforce of 3.38 billion (World Bank).

Independent Talent Unlocks New Value and Competitive Advantages

According to the World Economic Forum 2023 Future of Jobs Report, analytical thinking is the most in-demand skill, followed by creative thinking. Not surprisingly, most of the fastest-growing roles are technology-related, including artificial intelligence and machine learning specialists, sustainability specialists, and business intelligence analysts.

This tracks with what RGP’s talent acquisition team is seeing. For example, companies that are migrating core business systems to the cloud need team members with highly specialized data and technology skills as well as functional expertise in financial reporting, tax and treasury, supply chain, and human resources. For professionals with specialized competencies who are eager for flexibility, this opens up vast opportunities. For companies, it can unlock far greater value by looking beyond traditional employment models.

By having access to independent workers who have skill sets that were not previously affordable or available, organizations can create greater innovation, new services and new capabilities.

CFO, Global Pharmaceutical Company

Our latest research revealed that an unprecedented reconceptualization of the global workforce is underway, where the most successful companies are creating a very intentional ecosystem that includes an almost 50-50 split between full-time employees and outside talent.

“Companies operating in numerous markets need to be able to source ‘like-for-like’ talent capabilities across locations and time zones, and they need to be able to acquire these capabilities at scale,” said a CFO at a global pharmaceutical company. “By having access to independent workers who have skill sets that were not previously affordable or available, organizations can create greater innovation, new services and new capabilities. These workers allow businesses to act and react faster.”

Surge in Transformation Drives Demand for Specialized Skills

As our report details, the need for skilled expertise comes at a critical time when companies with revenues over $1 billion have an average of 20 transformation efforts in play this year alone — defined as strategic initiatives costing at least $1 million. Most of these companies predict an even greater number of transformation efforts by 2026.

Over 85% of organizations surveyed in 2023 by the World Economic Forum identify increased adoption of new and frontier technologies and broadening digital access as the trends most likely to drive transformation in their organization.

Indeed, amid this whirlwind of transformation, about four in 10 companies indicated they lacked the internal skills needed to make big operational changes:

  • 42% said they did not have enough internal talent to staff their transformation initiatives in 2022
  • 60% said they suffered delays in the start of transformation initiatives
  • 53% said it pushed out the completion dates
  • 41% missed critical goals
  • 37% said it increased the difficulty of making important operational changes

“Many companies make underlying assumptions about the supply, demand and price for talent in the geography where a business is located. But the most successful companies have discovered that this underlying constraint no longer exists,” said a CFO of a global financial services company. “By using independent contractors to gain tremendous fluidity, successful companies are shattering previously held employment paradigms.”

Dynamic Workforce Model Builds Transformation into Core DNA

RGP CEO Kate Duchene says new employment models that incorporate both internal and external talent enable companies to build constant transformation into the core DNA of their businesses. “This concept is not very different from the way that Hollywood film productions use teams of independent contractors and employees from different companies to complete a short-term project,” Kate explains. “Organizations across other industries are starting to embrace this model for major transformation initiatives due to the competitive advantages it presents.”

As the CHRO of a global consulting company put it, “The smartest business executives are stepping back and asking, ‘Can I do things in new ways that achieve very different results by accessing independent workers with skills, expertise and talent which have not been possible previously?’”

Download our report to learn how a Dynamic Workforce model can help organizations achieve their transformation goals and achieve significant competitive advantage.

Cover of dynamic workforce research report
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