Life Goals webcast_Planning for Ind.2 (002)

Life Goals: Managing Employee Experience in the Future of Work

Thursday, February 23, 2023, at 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM EST


Featured Speakers


McLean Robbins, Vice President of Marketing at MBO Partners

Elaine Pofeldt, Author of “The Million-Dollar, One-Person Business” and “Tiny Business, Big Money”


Featured Speakers:

Melisa Liberman, Independent Consulting Business Coach and Executive Coach

Holly Kehrer, Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at MBO Partners

Connie Steele, Co-founder of Flywheel Associates and Future of Work and Life Expert

Sher Downing, CEO of Downing EdTech Consulting & EdTech Strategist

01:00  Introduction of the event, MBO Partners, and the speakers 

04:33  Employer strategies in working with independent workers

11:19  The pain points and tradeoffs associated with being an independent worker

20:17  Can freelancers partake the company’s compliance courses?

22:02  Redesigning workplaces to attract and retain top consultants and freelancers

24:56  Communication strategies

36:57  Q&A

57:40  Closing remarks

In this interactive event, strategic HR leaders are expanding their definition of Employee Experience (EX) to include their total workforce, including contingent and labor. The panel, moderated by journalist Elaine Pofeldt, covered key trends for workforce leaders in 2023, including the benefits of a total talent management approach. 

Structured as an interactive Q&A session, the speakers offered actionable insights into key areas, including:

  • Strategic viewpoints on why employee experience is more than just about catering to traditional FTEs.
  • Why anywhere work is changing the way we think about the way workforces today are structured.
  • Why a total talent approach that includes independent labor is critical for success in today’s workforce and economy.
  • Highlights from the latest in the MBO State of Independence series, Life Goals, a new look at how independents and workers alike are doing on achieving key life milestones.
  • Actionable insights on what top talent today are looking for in their next client project.

[00:00:05] McLean Robbins: Today's session, and then we'll go ahead and get started. So just let me give it about 30 more seconds. So feel free to grab your water and your notepads. We have a really great session for you today. All right. Wonderful. Give it about ten more seconds here. But the numbers check in just a little more. Okay, 10 seconds is up. Our numbers have leveled off, so we'll go ahead and get started. As I said, welcome to our session on Life Goals Managing Employee Experience in the Future of work. I will be very brief, but thank you so much for joining with the MBO Partners exclusive session today. We are very, very excited to have Elaine Pofeldt, esteemed journalist, entrepreneur and author joining us today. If you registered for the webinar, you had the opportunity to get a copy of Elaine's latest book, Tiny Business Big Money, which we will be sending out after the webinar. If you did not register for Elaine's book, but do want to receive a copy. By all means, shoot us a private chat and we'll make sure you get added to the list. As a quick housekeeping reminder, there are two buttons one for Q&A and one for chat today. If you have a question, please do put it in the Q&A. We'll get to all questions at the end of the session. And we are recording this webinar. So yes, you will receive a recording. Generally, we send it out early the following week. You're more than welcome to share that recording with your friends and colleagues as well. Without further ado, because we have a wonderful panel today, I'm going to hand it over to Elaine. Elaine, welcome and thanks so much for being here. 

[00:02:07] Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you so much, McLean and Emily, for hosting us for this important discussion about the future of work. This is one of my favorite topics, and I think many of us are obsessed with it because we're thinking about our own careers or we work in companies where we need to get things done, and we're trying to figure out how do we attract the great people that we want to work with every day. And we have an amazing panel. I'm going to ask each person to give us about a one sentence description of what they do. I know all of you in the audience have read the bios, but sometimes it's good to have a little refresher. So, Melisa, can you go first? 

[00:02:45] Melisa Liberman: Sure. Thanks to Elaine. I'm Melissa Liberman and I am a former corporate executive who has hired a lot of independents and consultants. But for the last 11 years, I've been an independent myself, and I'm a business coach who helps independent consultants succeed as both a business owner and a consultant delivering work. 

[00:03:06] Elaine Pofeldt: Wow, important work these days. And Holly. 

[00:03:09] Holly Kehrer: Yeah. Excellent. Thanks, Elaine. Hi, everyone. I'm Holly Kehrer, Vice President in the Enterprise Solutions Group here at MBO Partners. I work closely with our clients, helping them create strategy and solutions around workforce optimization. 

[00:03:23] Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you. And Connie. 

[00:03:25] Connie Steele: Thank you. I'm a future of work and life expert and executive consultant, author and researcher, and also a former corporate executive who moved in the independence and am passionate about helping leaders navigate the new world of work. 

[00:03:41] Elaine Pofeldt: And Connie, there's all kinds of really interesting research, by the way. I think you forgot to mention that. But we're going to get into I think, because she's on the cutting edge with her research and then Sher. Could you tell us a little bit about your work? 

[00:03:54] Sher Downing: Absolutely. So I'm Sher Downing *inaudible* plus 35 plus years in higher education and corporate training. I have now moved over into independents and startups. I'm an EdTech strategist and consultant, so I work with all levels of business in strategic planning and creative development and virtual learning for both their personnel, their programs and in their, you know, vendor and independent solution needs. 

[00:04:21] Elaine Pofeldt: So we have the full gamut of experience here to really look ahead to what's coming in the workplace. I'm going to call on Holly first, sorry to put you in the hot seat, but all right. What is changing right now in how employers of choice are working with independent workers and how are they creating workplaces where someone who's a great traditional employee will be just as happy as someone who's a great independent worker? 

[00:04:51] Holly Kehrer: Yeah. Yeah. There's a lot there Elaine. So so I think first, I think when we look at enterprise organizations that we kind of consider cutting edge or forward-thinking, they're really becoming more intentional and strategic in how they look at their total workforce instead of just how am I looking at my FTE's versus everyone else. Right? And they're recognizing that they can no longer overlook kind of this population of high impact talent. So they're starting to create workforce models where those independents are becoming a critical component and even looking to engage a dedicated percentage of their workforce in an independent fashion, in some cases as high as 30% we're seeing. I know that Connie alluded to some of the research, but I think an interesting research study around this is that McKinsey recently released a study where they went out and surveyed executives and found that 70% of corporate executives plan to actually increase their use of independent talent freelancers in the next two years, as compared with just 20% prior to the pandemic. So I think from a timing perspective, if if organizations have not begun to think about, you know, incorporating interdependence into their talent strategy, it's a perfect time in terms of kind of the, you know, creating that brand that can equally attract both FTE's and interdependence. I think first, we're starting to even see a shift in just the terminology that's being used, right? So from a shift to just hey, let's talk about the employee experience to considering the worker experience. And, you know, again, this is very much an intentional shift to say, hey, we're concerned about everyone. It's experience here, you know, regardless of their classification, their tax status in terms of how they're being engaged and paid and and just in general, they're becoming kind of more inclusive in considering the needs and wants of the total workforce. And I know that Melissa and Sher will definitely talk about, you know, what some of those needs and wants are. And then I think, you know, touching on the brand piece, they're embracing the power of social media, right? Creating targeted campaigns, highlighting company culture, mission and values. And Connie will talk about why some of those things are important, right, in a way that speaks to the person as an individual versus, hey, I'm speaking to an employee or potential employee or I'm speaking to a potential independent. And I think just approaching it from a holistic talent perspective is really, you know, it's helping move the needle. And then I think some small changes that we're seeing companies make little things right, like putting a link on your careers page or specific verbiage or content on your careers page design kind of more towards attracting independents versus those traditional full time employees. 

[00:07:30] Elaine Pofeldt: That's super interesting because having been a freelancer for about 15 or so years, one of the things we freelancers do all the time is share intel about how to break into different companies in the name of the content there. It's always very hidden. And the fact that they're coming out and saying, Hey, we want you were putting out the welcome mat, this is who to contact, this is what our process is, is really moving things forward. So most of the companies that are working with independent talent are bringing on people that have skills recounts that they don't have on staff, where they're adding to what they have. What do these high powered independents really want, and how is it different from the traditional worker? I know Connie you've done all kinds of digging into this with your two studies. I know the new one is about to come out. I don't know if you can. Give us some little hints as to what you're finding out. 

[00:08:25] Connie Steele: Well, I think let's get grounded first. On with independents, why they've chosen this path in the first place. It's because it allows them to find meaning in their work and life. And the reason why I did the research like this is because I saw this broader trend with workers looking for more. They were seeing what they wanted to do professionally, needing to connect to who they are personally. And you're also seeing in general the workforce wanting to align their values with an organization's values. So we kind of ground that as that. You know, independents have chosen this path to pursue a passion, do meaningful work, and doing work that they like wearing have flexibility and control. And interestingly, when you think of the worker experience, that's what you're hearing a lot about. A lot of the different reports are saying, you know, we want that, too. It's more than just money. It is that meaning, It's that fulfillment. They want to have happiness in their lives. So when that translates into, you know, the types of goals that they're pursuing, they're actually not that different. We looked at 8 particular life goals, and the top three were spending time with families, spending enough time with family, leading a fulfilling life and getting the most out of life. And not surprisingly, independence scored better, or they reported more success on all those dimensions. But when we get grounded on why they chose this path in the first place, they were looking to align their career aspirations with their life needs and goals. And we're also seeing that independence have scored higher on continued personal growth. So 64% have reported feeling successful, over 54% of traditional U.S. workers and but also helping others, that's higher and getting the most out of life. So, you know, when we say, well, what to independence, why it's actually what workers want, they're just actually more successful in achieving it because they've carved out that path to be able to do so. 

[00:10:33] Elaine Pofeldt: It's interesting that you say that, because lately what I've been thinking is maybe the issue is job discipline, because if we all want the same things and people are quitting jobs and going out and starting businesses in increasing numbers, maybe it's telling us something about the structures that we use to package work within organizations. And there are some people that have the risk tolerance to go out on their own and other people that will always be more comfortable being part of a large organization or mid-sized organization. But basically we all want things that are being blocked. By the way, traditional jobs are designed right now. It's very it it'll be really interesting to see your continued research, which brings me to with the pain points of independent workers. And I know Melissa is on the front lines of this with the people that she's coaching and advising, although a lot of people want those things that Connie just talked about. There are tradeoffs with this, too. And maybe you could tell us what some of the tradeoffs are and how in their search for solutions, it's taking them in new directions. 

[00:11:45] Melisa Liberman: Yeah, thanks Elaine. I think that what I see with independence right now, which is so different than even before the pandemic. Before the pandemic, the pain points were so much more tactical. How do I how do I get insurance, health insurance, and how do I how do I not be on the road all of the time? I want to consult, but I don't want to be traveling, you know, 100% of the time. And now after, you know, post-pandemic, those challenges are, you know, really minor, if at all. And now what we're seeing are challenges that independent consultants are facing of how do I create and run a business? How do I generate a pipeline for myself? How do I have the control over who I'm working with and the type of work that I'm doing? Like Connie was talking about, they want to be fulfilled. They want to be valued. They don't want to be treated like an employee, but they do want to feel valued and that they're making a contribution and that the type of work that they're doing is very meaningful. And so those are the when we talk about pain points, those are the pain points of really finding those gems, those those engagements that meet all of those criteria and not feeling like they have to just take the work that's coming to them because they don't want to leave money on the table. And so really getting themselves to the place where they're able to write their own ticket in terms of what types of clients of work that they're taking on. And so the types of solutions that they're finding in this space are the new ones popping up every day of course Marketplaces like MBO, where they can really look at what's out there and pick and choose and communities that are popping up, that are really that are, you know, very dedicated or independent consultants, sometimes very specific to the types of work that they do and allowing for that type of networking where independents are kind of sharing engagements and bringing other independents into engagements and, you know, really getting creative about knowing exactly what they want and going out and pursuing it in a way that's in different ways without having to follow those traditional channels. 

[00:14:01] Elaine Pofeldt: With the processes, you know, things like getting paid and onboarding and things like that. Are you seeing any pain points with that or is that getting better now than than it's been? 

[00:14:12] Melisa Liberman: You know, it's getting it's getting sometimes it's getting better. Certainly bringing consultants on sometimes can take months, which can tend to be very frustrating for the consultant who needs to keep their, you know, their book of business in a certain flow. So those processes certainly have a lot of room continued room for improvements. But I think also consultants are learning to be more creative about it, about the way that they're appraising their engagements. It's not engagements aren't all hourly based work anymore. They're very you know, consultants are out there creating proposals that have fixed fee type engagements or value based pricing and asking for payments upfront and handling their cash flow in a much more strategic business minded way versus kind of the traditional way that we might all be more familiar with doing on an hourly basis. 

[00:15:10] Elaine Pofeldt: That's very interesting, by the way, I see all the people in the participant pool. This is a dialog, so if you have questions for these panelists, this is a rare opportunity to really find out what's on their minds. If you have questions that are related to your own career or where you work, please submit them. And we will try to address them during this discussion or at least direct you to where to answer them at the end. And it's definitely an open dialog here. One of the things that I think is especially important and interesting in this world of independent work is education and keeping our skills sharp. Because so much is changing. It feels like every year, like last year, everybody was jumping on board with the metaverse. This year it's Chat GPT. We're all sort of wondering how do we keep our skills sharp so that we can go after those great independent projects? Or if if we're employers of independence, how do we give the independents opportunities to stay current, to keep our whole team ahead of the pack and be really competitive in terms of what we have to offer to our clients? And Sher could have talked to you for 2 hours yesterday. We were we did our prequel and she had so much interesting knowledge about what's going on in this space. Maybe you could share with us a little bit about how this is playing out in the independent friendly employer of choice. What are they doing to make sure people have a learning opportunity there? 

[00:16:44] Sher Downing: Absolutely. Well, first off, I think when people decide that they want to transition into a new role or into a new industry, they often have a fear that they're not going to fit in. And the reason why is they're trying to move their credentials directly across and say, hey, look at all I did over here. Now I'm available to be on this side. We really have to do is a self-assessment. And whether you do that alone or you work with a coach, we often will coach people within an organization who they're wanting to move up into to take on a new division. But we need to transition them over to be able to do that. I'm sure also that, you know, a lot of people will go to an independent coach and say, I need to be, you know, reworked, remodeled to go out into the new industry. You really don't. But it's all about the lingo. It's about the language. So how do you transition your expertise and your experience into a language that those new employers, those new contracts will find you a good trust? So that's the first step, is really self assessing where you're at. The second step is looking at job postings. What are the jobs you really want to go after and where are the gaps that you have in your resume? And once you figure that out, how are you going to fulfill those? There are lots of free courses right now, low cost courses. There are companies that will pay for you to take courses even through. We're seeing now a lot of companies that are pushing out their content in hopes that contractors will take it ahead of time and that will help them move up through the interviewing process. So, you know, if you've got your eye on a specific company, look to see what they're doing, How are they supporting internally and how are they supporting to bring more people in? There's a wealth of opportunities out there. You don't have to invest necessarily in another degree. You often hear times people say, Well, I have to go back to graduate school or I have to get another bachelor's degree. Not always. But contractors can be smart about it. They can look for education that they can stack with an institution that will allow them to eventually earn another major credential. So the ability to look across horizontally at where you've been and then start to build vertically and where you want to go is really, really open right now. And a lot of the universities and colleges who are progressive and innovative are figuring out ways to help you do that right now, because they also recognize students are stepping away from the college experience. Students are taking a gap year. Students are wanting to start their own business and they're picking up their credentials through digital badging, through taking their own coursework. They're really starting to build their own education and expertise in their own way. So colleges and universities are trying to step up and help them with incubators, with places where students can go and get access to direct innovation to global initiatives. All of these things are there and available for contractors at any level. And so the idea is look at where you're at and look at where you want to go. And then there's people like Holly and myself, others out there that can help you figure out what those next steps are. 

[00:19:54] Elaine Pofeldt: That's interesting. So I think a lot of times when people have gone independent, they feel like their careers will kind of be flat at that level now. And this seems like an area that's changing now where you've proven your credentials are coming in at a higher level through the stackable type of education that you're talking about. That's very interesting. One question about compliance on this for the employers in the audience, do I have to be an employee to take online courses? For instance, I am a contract editor with one company that has classified me as a temp worker. And so I think the compliance courses and things. But I wonder, would they be able to say, we want you to take these compliance courses if they had classified me as the freelancer? 

[00:20:45] Sher Downing: Absolutely. So there are ways to work around when you're offering e-learning to external clients. Think of it as if you were actually a third-party contract with us and we needed to bring you up to scope in terms of the project that you're going to work on. We're going to have you sign an NDA. We're going to have certain parameters in place and you're only going to see what we want you to see. So when you think about it, these are companies that are building things that want the general knowledge base to be even when you come in. If there's a specific skill set, they may wait to do that until you're actually hired in under the contract. But they do have ways of doing it. I talked to someone just yesterday after the call and they had an interview and now they're going to take a course specific to their company because that company wants to see how all the interviewees are going to do through that course. And when that, of course, is completed, that's part of their interview process. So obviously they haven't put any trade secrets into that course, but they've built it enough that it is, you know, pointed towards what it is that they talk about and what they're going to be doing in that role should they get hired. So they're going to run 50 people through it and narrow that group down to who will then move to the next level. 

[00:22:02] Elaine Pofeldt: Well, that's interesting. One big question that I have is how are workplaces being redesigned to become more independent, friendly? I remember one time early in my freelancing life, I was doing editing on a project and I met the client for lunch and he mentioned that they have a person that does the PowerPoints, and he said, Well, he kind of crawled out from under a rock, but you know, he's okay to work on the PowerPoint. I thought, wow, you know, looking at the freelancers and and I think that was, you know, 15 years ago where it was seen that freelancers were kind of weird and eccentric people and, you know, and like, you sort of tolerated their quirks because they knew a specific skill that you needed. And I think that's changed a great deal. It might still be true in some workplaces, but now a lot of times I know if I'm on a freelance keen and many you get invited to the parties that they have and they really do throw out the welcome mat. I'd be curious. I think maybe Holly and Melisa, you're probably on the front lines of this. How are the best workplaces redesigning themselves so that a really great consultant or freelancer will come in there and just want more of that work and more participation in the team? 

[00:23:27] Holly Kehrer: Yeah. And listen, from the lens we're looking at this through, Melisa and I are going to have different perspectives, right? So this should be fun. I think, you know, I'm being honest. I think most organizations have a way to go here, Right? If I even just think about what Melisa touched on earlier around the onboarding experience. Right. You know, regardless of the organization, hiring for a traditional full time role looks the same for the most part, right? You apply, you interview, you're made an offer, you accept the offer and you start and you get paid on a regular predictable basis. And that can happen, you know, one, two weeks, right? Versus the experience for onboarding independent talent can be painful, right? Melisa alluded to it can take weeks and months to get onboarded. And so I think there is an area of opportunity with enterprise organizations to make that onboarding experience more attractive, right? Make the the engagement and onboarding process easy, pleasant, compliant, have good payment terms. That's something we haven't talked about yet. Or people like Melisa are going to choose other options, right? Because I think that's the other thing we haven't touched on is that independent talent has more option to work independently now than than ever before. And if enterprise organizations can't get at least this onboarding piece. Right, right. Like make it easy to engage, retain paid people, then they're going to really miss out on this entire population of high impact talent. 

[00:24:56] Elaine Pofeldt: It's interesting. I think there are also communication strategies that I see them using. I know I'm on one team where I work maybe 2 to 10 hours a week on a project and a lot of the people are full timers and they just put things on my calendar and I finally have to say, I only work. I'm working currently 2 hours a week on this and I, I have to make a living. I have other clients. I can't just have things put on my calendar. So if you're making an appointment, please text me because I'm not even on that email all the time. And I think they were very good about it. Once they said that, they they were very observant of what they had asked. But it can create stress for freelancers if you're expected to be as available as someone who's being paid for full time work. But you're not being and you're doing full time work for a variety of other people. Are you seeing any ways that they're managing things like that, like requirements that everybody beyond Slack or other things like that? 

[00:25:58] Holly Kehrer: I have not seen that, Melisa. I don't know if you're experiencing that. 

[00:26:01] Melisa Liberman: Yeah, I think from an independence perspective, there is kind of a double edged sword in a way. In a way. You know, we want to be on Slack, we want to be in the loop from a communication perspective. Sometimes, you know, working on multiple clients, you've got multiple of these, right? You're trying to balance all of these different systems and calendars and that kind of thing. So it really requires some intentionality with that, with the person who, you know, the hiring will call them the hiring manager, where you are really figuring out and creating a communication plan with that independent. The Independent wants to, for the most part, wants to feel part of a team is kind of it's lonely out here as an independent. And so we want to feel part of the team and someone who is collaborating with the colleagues and but at the same time, we don't want to be treated like an employee. We don't want to be expected to reply back to text messages or slack as you're, you know, as you're describing, Elaine, in in the same way that a company might currently be expecting employees to do and know it's a completely different topic about what we're expecting employees to do. But from an independent's perspective, those engagements that go the most that are the most effective and impactful are the ones that start off with the hiring manager and the independent. Having a very intentional conversation about what engagement looks like, what the expectations are, how communication will happen, how collaboration will happen, how people are wanting to show up in the relationship and not treating that person just by default as you would, you know, naturally an employee. 

[00:27:46] Elaine Pofeldt: It's very interesting. So it's very intentional. It does seem like there are a lot of things that some of this came out of hybrid work. It's just requirements for communication that are very different than they used to be for all workers. Connie you look like your research is telling you something that you want to share with us. 

[00:28:02] Connie Steele: I think it's not just the research. I think it's just a trend that you're seeing overall is that there's a desire for a greater partnership between your workforce. So whether your talent is independent or they're full time or part time, that there's a desire to co-create the right experience together and that in light of the pandemic, so many things have shifted that nobody knows the exact right answer. But when you're able to leverage the talent of the people and in particular independents have been through various, you know, tricky, sticky experiences and in many cases they may be able to be that valuable guide to a manager to say, you know, this is the way that obviously you can onboard me. But because they're objective, in their view, they can actually help that manager better engage their own employee workforce and help co-create that experience to create honestly a better optimal working environment for everyone. At least that's the experience that I've personally had and have seen with those independent who are quite embedded in organization because they almost operate as to some degree like a chief of staff of the managers that they work with, because they can see almost a more holistic picture of what's happening and in turn can guide them in at supporting their broader workforce, give them tips and tricks, and almost to some a reason to be their coach. So I think you have to look at Independent as a great partner to you that can help facilitate the culture that you want to create. And this gets back to, I think, the broader trend that we're seeing in the research, I think at large is that how can you build that partnership and have a mutual value exchange at the end of day versus being sort of a top down sort of edict of what you have to do? 

[00:29:51] Elaine Pofeldt: That's an interesting phrase, co-creation, where the onus is on both parties to really talk and listen and work things out, because it sounds like some of these things really haven't been worked out or they're being worked out in real time. Sher I was wondering for the people on this call who are managers or people who are hiring freelancers and independents, is there anything going on in the education space to make them better hybrid managers, not just hybrid in terms of location, but hybrid in terms of all the different variations on their work is in this environment? 

[00:30:30] Sher Downing: Sure. I think the one thing we haven't talked about is also that as a freelancer now you can be anywhere. And so the difference is, even if you're just across the U.S. on this morning, I'm in MST zone and majority of you are on the East Coast. So it's right then and there. There's a time difference in joining something like this. When you work with overseas clients, oftentimes you're up at four or 5 a.m. to get on a normal hourly call with them for their team in their office. So freelancers can be all over the globe, which allows you to access talent from everywhere. But it is difficult then, because you've got to come to some culture and some communication in terms of how you're going to manage those expectations and how you're going to manage those timelines and where everybody is located. In terms of education, what we're seeing is a lot of programs that have been traditional management are starting to add stackable credentials specific to certain things, just like strategic operations that can encompass working with hybrid teams and moving them through. We're seeing a lot of graduate certificates come out of major universities both here and abroad, that are 4 to 6 courses, but are helping you understand how to navigate dealing with this new transition. Because remember, when you're dealing with the hybrid externally and you've got that whole team, you've got the whole internal team. So when you think about, you know, no longer can someone come down the hall and complain to you that someone's not doing their part. Now they're complaining about someone who's half a world away and there's a lot more variables as to why they're being perceived as not doing their part. So, you know, you've got a lot of additional benefits, surreal concepts that have to be in there and you have a lot more human resource areas that have to be at a higher level of function in terms of figuring these things out. So we're seeing education expand into that. We're also seeing a lot of training for companies start to be inclusive of that. We're starting to see where they're talking to their managers about. How to deal with contracted workers, how to make them part of your team. Also, how to track what they do and so that you have good data when talking with them about what you're doing. Because nothing is worse than saying to a contractor, We feel like you're not meeting expectations that the contractor says, okay, I'm out because I can go across the street and get another contract, don't worry about it, and you're left kind of holding the bag. You like that person? They work well. You want to keep them. You've already invested in them. So it's a retention issue, but you've got to figure out how to have the right data to say to them, Here's what we've got to do and here's how we're going to help meet you so we can create that value on both sides. So we're going to see more education turn that way. And even within institutions, we're seeing more hybrid jobs within the universities, we're seeing more hybrid divisions. We're seeing some divisions that aren't even meeting on campuses anymore, which is just unheard of after 100 plus years of being behind the Ivy Towers. So even they are recognizing that their workforce doesn't want to be there five days a week, 8 to 5. 

[00:33:57] Elaine Pofeldt: That's interesting, and the point that people are around the globe I think is significant. I have a client that I work with for probably 15 years in Denmark, and any time they ask me to do work on a weekend, which often happens because it's these reports that the team gets backed up and they'll send me a note about a month ahead of time asking if I don't mind doing some work on the weekend, on the weekend of April 25th or whatever. And then as it approaches, they send me calendar invites to remind me that that report is coming. And I thought, what a contrast to the clients in America. You know, where we are, we're so used to in America. And I think there are a lot of cultural patterns to how we do our work. And part of the education of the managers, when you have a multicultural team around the globe, is understanding, you know, if you do ask somebody to work on weekend and they say, yes, did they actually mean yes or did they feel coerced into saying yes? And I mean, there's a lot of nuances to this. And I think it's tricky for managers because ultimately they're responsible for getting the work product done, but they're also responsible for having the emotional intelligence to figure out what works for everybody on this team and what's considered a fair workplace practice, what's considered not just a fair workplace practice, but a fair practice for someone who's not on payroll, who's a freelancer. Are you seeing anything in terms of global communication for hybrid managers? It seems very niche, but I feel like almost everybody's now in this in this situation. 

[00:35:41] Sher Downing: I'm starting to see more global. Right now the niche is coming from really, you know, we're reactive. We're always reactive in this world. And so we're building for the short term what we need, where we're at. If it's a large Fortune 500 that has offices spanning the globe, that's a different situation because obviously they've always done training in the sense of we're going to distribute it outwards and we're going to adapt it based on the country that we're located in. So it's a little different in terms of where we're seeing it's not growing quite as rapidly, but it is growing and we are seeing the independent contractors also are taking an interest in having a cleaner layout of their expectations, what they bring to the table, what they want to have occur. And they're being much more forward about that. And in turn, that is causing some reflection in companies going, oh, well, if this person wants that, there are likely others that do too. We probably should look at this. So I think, you know, the marriage of it coming from the education side, the training side and from just within is coming closer. I think the next 2 to 3 years will be very interesting because we're going to see a deep shift in the culture of the education portion. 

[00:36:57] Elaine Pofeldt: So that's interesting. So we have a question from Mick. Thank you for submitting this, Mick. He said, Holly, early in the discussion you quoted, McKinsey plans to significantly increase their independent workforce. What are the key contributors you were finding for these significant increases from the perspective of companies, and how are they keeping independents engaged with a sense of belonging slash culture? 

[00:37:22] Holly Kehrer: Think I got that. I think first, I don't think it was necessarily McKinsey plans to increase the use of independents. It was McKinsey released a study that they went out and surveyed executives and found that 70% of those executives planned to increase their use of independents. What was the second part of the question? Sorry. 

[00:37:42] Elaine Pofeldt: It's basically what are the key contributors like why your company's doing to increase the number of independents and how are they keeping them engaged with the sense of belonging in the culture? And belonging is such a big thing right now for companies in terms of making everybody feel included. So I think it overlaps with other key concerns that people in the call may have. 

[00:38:07] Holly Kehrer: Yeah. Yeah. I think what's driving it right is organizations are starting to see a true bottom line impact in the benefits of creating an agile workforce. First is having all of my full time workers, perhaps not, you know, fully allocated from a resource management perspective. Building an independent agile workforce allows you to tap that kind of in-demand on demand subject matter expertise when you need it. And when you're done, they exit the business, right? And there's there's true kind of, you know, bottom line impact return on investment to the company, bottom line in that kind of workforce strategy. So I think that's what's driving it. I think the other piece that's driving it is workers have a say. I mean, Melisa and Connie are great examples. They left corporate America by choice. And we're seeing that more and more. It's it's no longer people are becoming independent because they got laid off or or something else happened. It's that they're choosing that for them, for themselves, for their family, for their lifestyle. Right. For all the reasons that Connie talked about that are highlighted in Life Goals report, it's a it's an intentional choice that is only accelerating. Right. And the pandemic certainly had a role in that acceleration in terms of, you know, helping to keep people you know, the independents feel engaged in company culture. Again, my lens is that from the enterprise clients, I think they've got some work to do. So it might be better hearing from you know, a Melisa like because your you are that independent. What do you think enterprise clients can do to make you feel more kind of included. 

[00:39:45] Melisa Liberman: We've touched on a lot of it today. But I think the first step is, you know, Holly, you mentioned this, making the onboarding process a lot more streamlined. You know, I'm an independent consultant for a large Fortune 100 or Fortune 50, and I've worked for that with them for three years. And it still takes me two months to get through a contracting phase, even though they vetted my, you know, all of my credentials and you know, that they know that I'm qualified independence. And so starting from that step of the process, really getting cleaner on engaging and becoming we've talked about this before, too, becoming that employer of choice as it relates to independent consultants, thinking about it from the perspective of those independents that you truly want to bring on board are not desperate. They're not looking to you to help them, you know, keep it, keep a steady income. They are really out there being able to pick and choose who they work with and what type of engagements they're working on and the type of impact they're able to make with an organization. And so thinking about it from that perspective that you are really wanting to attract them, just as you would want to be attracting a top, you know, a top talent from a full time employee perspective. And, you know, as I mentioned before, creating an intentional, intentional experience versus, you know, so. So after we think about it, independence, like you were just suggesting, Holly, that they are the ones who lost their job and are kind of doing this because they have nothing else. That's not that's not the type. That's not what's happening. And so creating those experiences in order to attract those in and retain those top independent consultants requires the same type of thought process that companies are going through from a full time employee perspective. 

[00:41:44] Elaine Pofeldt: And Holly, what you were just saying reminds me, I have a friend who a very capable entrepreneur. I remember it was like around the time that I started my business, he went to Princeton University, very brilliant person. And when he became a consultant, he said, You know, the one thing I don't like about being a consultant is my father in law keeps on saying Gary is unemployed. Employers still have that attitude. And I think to your point, the technology really matters these days because a lot of things had been shifted online where if you go to the doctor's office, you get a text message and it's like before you come in for your appointment, please fill out this form and 45 minutes later you're typing things into your phone. And then all these different freelance clients are doing the same thing. I have one client where I did an assignment in October and the process of invoicing is so convoluted I still haven't been able to submit the invoice because it's like logging into multiple systems. I have to be on day, I have to contact the IT department. At this point, it will cost me more to submit the invoice than I would make from the project. And that's the kind of thing where you say, You know what, I did the work for that project and I still haven't submitted the invoice six months later. I don't think I want to work for them again because they've got to get their technology straight. I just don't have the time. Yes, in a way, the administration is baked into the cost of the project, but it's still so frustrating. And I think this is one area where employers can really win if it's very seamless and you have the best technology for onboarding, for vetting people, for all that stuff. Some do have very good technology and some don't. And it can be very industry specific based on the ways that invoices are processed or what the standard payment processes are. That's a way to really win. Which brings us to another question that we had. Is part of all this vetting and all this stuff is risk aversion. And I wondered to what extent the panelists think that risk aversion is keeping employees from bringing on the best independent talent. 

[00:43:57] Connie Steele: I think that's a huge barrier, right, because it's an unknown for certain organizations in terms of the performance that an independent may deliver, which I think is counter because if you are attracting the best talent, these independents already have the breath and depth of experience and probably have the knowledge of the environment that you that the organization is in, where some of the again, challenging situations and dynamics that an independent knows how to deal with it already. So to me the benefit that you have is aligned to the point of having a more agile organization is that they have the familiarity with the challenges that exist. It can quickly get up to speed and outline that plan of attack. Probably understand the different books that you need to talk to them. The level of training and onboarding to actually start implementing the work is significantly less. So when it ties to this speed to market, which everyone is concerned about, speed to market, equal speed to business outcomes and hiring experience. Independence will enable you to address many of those challenges, not just from the initiative at play, but also could be a valuable partner to helping you on the team development side as well. So I think there's actually less of a risk because it's enabling you to scale up and down left and right in a way that helps you address your business needs faster. 

[00:45:36] Sher Downing: Well, I think, I was going to say I think that you can also lower the risk because we have a wealth of people who are taking early retirement. We have a wealth of people who have left the C-suite and are now doing independent consulting. They do have the option to retain someone when one of your C-suite is out for a medical emergency or out for a planned pregnancy. The difficulty is if you take two months to onboard them for a six month independent contract, you've lost two months and you've lost two months of value, not just two months of, you know, getting them in the office, but the risk aversion becomes much more minimal when you're bringing in this high level expert who has that direct knowledge, who has sat in that seat in a in a prior company or multiple companies. So, you know, you're really opening the doors to having the ability to have constant expertise in your C-suite and not have any disruption as your people are coming in and out, even if they themselves are leaving or transitioning to a new role. So, you know, one area that we're not looking at enough yet in independent contracting that I think we need to is those people who are between 57 and 77 who are taking their retirement and are now back available to be in the workforce and really being able to contribute heavily. 

[00:47:11] Holly Kehrer: I'm sorry Elaine. I was just going to say it's so interesting, right? I could talk to you women all day. I think that. But just the lens that we all look through, right? Because when you pose the question, really? My brain didn't go towards where Connie and Sher went in terms of the risk of not meeting business outcomes. My brain went towards risk that enterprise OGC and risk teams care about when engaging independent contractors. So it's just so interesting that just the lens through through which everyone looks and I think to your question is, is risk aversion, right. The risk that OGC and your risk team cares about in terms of employment and independent contractor misclassification is that preventing enterprise organizations from engaging independent contractors? And sadly, even as mature as we are in this space, I do think that's still preventing some organizations from really, you know, looking at this as a viable population of talent. 

[00:48:08] Elaine Pofeldt: Well, that's super interesting because it's almost like the things that they're doing to protect themselves are the things that are repelling the freelancers who have to fill out 50 forms and don't really understand why they even if they did understand, you're thinking, I eat what I kill, basically you're taking up half my day. This is unpaid work doing all this stuff. I mean, sometimes you'll even have to go in for, like, a physical interview. It's less so than since the pandemic. But I have had that happen. I remember one time someone had me come in and then the person didn't show up who was supposed to interview me. And they're like, Well, we decided to have you come in anyway just to meet you, and you can come back when he's in. And at the time I had a small baby and I was really pissed off. I said, I'll never come back, you know, so inconsiderate. This was their chance to meet me and I'm not coming back. And that's the kind of thing where I could have done a really good job for that guy. But because of how they treated me, that would be fine for an employee who's vying for a job, you know, to make them jump through hoops and see how much they want you. Maybe it isn't even fine. I don't know that maybe I would have tolerated it. But for a freelance project, there's so many people that would be much more considerate and could meet them on Zoom or make sure the person was really there. When I came into the city and had my child with a babysitter and all that stuff. It's interesting, but this definitely seems like an area for for growth really on both sides in terms of cooperating, you know, around like we know the company has to address certain things. They've got to check certain boxes or they can't bring me on board. But then how you know, how can the company make this a little more efficient? Maybe it's using outsourcing to providers. You've really nailed this down. I know sometimes they have these compliance firms, but it's definitely that I think is a real pain point. And that's probably one of the logjams right now in this whole space. So maybe this is related. What are the interesting and innovative ways that you're seeing independents building relationships? I know with people looking for permanent talent, I use the word permanent in quotes, but employers who are looking for traditional employees will often go to things like tech meet ups where there actually are entrepreneurs with the hope that they're going to find some people there that are petering out as entrepreneurs and will come on board as as innovative team members because it's hard to find talent these days. And there's some creative strategies. And I know Melisa was entertaining us with some of the interesting ways that freelancers are getting a foot in the door in these companies that are employers of choice. You want to share a little bit about what's going on there.

[00:51:00] Melisa Liberman: Yeah, it's we're constantly getting more and more creative. I think I look at it in a few ways how do we meet potential clients and then what are we offering to those potential clients? And so meeting potential clients has become so much easier in sort such a variety of different ways. There's, you know, very traditional networking. Old school networking is incredibly impactful. So we'll start there. There's matchmaking services out there where independents basically go into a room with potential clients and have the speed dating sort of situations happening. And there are communities out there where really slack communities where independent consultants are able to provide kind of bite size consulting to potential clients. It really it's it's the limit is the independent consultants imagination and creativity about how do I get in front of my client of choice, how do I develop a relationship and and really let them see what I'm able to provide to them. And so those really creative ways of meeting those clients. I think we talked to Elaine the other day. Another way is applying to job full time job opportunities and meeting that in that hiring manager and turning it into a conversation about what this might look like as a consulting engagements. The other way they're getting really creative is in the solutions that they're offering as independent consultants, offering assessments, offering health checks, offering, you know, really creative solutions that they can come in, start the dialog and provide immediate impact to those clients to help them understand what the challenges are and how they experience in the real time, how they that independent consultant can help them address those challenges. A lot of times their blind spots that the hiring managers and companies aren't seeing because, you know to Connie's point, they they're in their own in their own world. And not seeing all of these other examples that are happening outside of their company. And so consultants are able to come in and give those kind of bite sized offerings, get a foot in the door, and then create follow on engagements or advisory services. And there's so much variety going on out there for those independents who are able to think about it as a you know, as a business owner who's providing consulting services versus as an employee who's wanting to do part time work. 

[00:53:42] Elaine Pofeldt: It's very interesting because there are different things you can do in that capacity because you're not necessarily treading on someone else's job. There's a lot of politics internally when people work side by side every day and the consultant is a little bit outside of that. And if you provide a package solution like that, it allows different things to get done. My final question, this is the one on everybody's mind, I think is Chat GPT and all these new technologies. I think everybody hears these things and they think robots are coming to take our jobs and yet you can turn that on its head and say it's also an opportunity, right, where we can offload menial things like a lot of us use those scheduling links. There used to be a person that would do our schedules and people who have very complex schedules still need that person. But for someone like me, I just send my schedule once a link or people have calendly link. And it saves us a lot of time. What is your take on how the independent workforce will be using these things to amplify what they can do and to be a better service to the clients of choice? And I know with technology there are compliance issues like my count, my schedule. Once I try to send it to certain clients and then allowed to click on it. So I'm foiled in using it, the ones that have really good cybersecurity. So I'd just be interested in your thoughts because I think the people here that are on the worker side on this call are always looking to do more in their business. 

[00:55:22] Melisa Liberman: Okay, I'll jump in. As an independent consultant, I think what we're seeing are tools like Chat GPT. And, you know, there's so many others. There are graphic design tools that are incredibly easy to use. There are video editing tools that are so easy to use. So you can basically create a tech stack for yourself as an independent with a couple of hundred dollars investment per month. Specifically about Chat GPT. What I've seen it being used for is really just creating a shortcut. So if you want to be creating content to market your business, it gives you a starting point. But as an independent consultant, we have so much expertise that then we're able to layer on to that and and use it as a starting point from an efficiency perspective. But, you know, I've used that myself personally. There's no at the moment, no offloading all of that work on to Chat GPT, but it still has a ways to go in terms of its ability to really replace that knowledge and expertise that an independent has. 

[00:56:28] Sher Downing: And I'll just add on to that. I think, you know, this goes back to what Melisa was talking about in knowing who you want to work for. What do they use all companies list on on their websites or in their job bullets? You know, what are the tools they would like you to use? Make sure that you're familiar with those. There are a ton of tools out there that you can choose from, and the difficulty is you can't be knowledgeable in all of them. So you need to use the ones that are industry standards that are really, you know, a focal point and then fine tune when there's a role that you really want to take, that something fits into that. They are there to help you be more productive, to help you communicate better, and to help you assimilate with the client, whoever the client maybe. But they're really not there to replace you. They're really not there to overtake anything. And what we're seeing is companies are now starting to loosen a little bit within the compliance umbrella and adding more tools in their own stacks because they're recognizing with a hybrid workforce, there's got to be some easier ways to communicate. 

[00:57:40] Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you all. I think it's time for me to turn the panel back over to McLean. I really appreciate everyone in the audience who participated, and these panelists have educated me so much on this call. I truly appreciate it. Thank you to MBO Partners for hosting. McLean, over to you. 

[00:57:58] McLean Robbins: Absolutely. Thank you, Elaine. And thank you, Connie, Holly, Melisa and Sher. We so appreciate you guys being on the panel today. Thanks for everybody from state on for the full hour. Always nice to see a good strong contingent. We did record it. We will send it out next week and we hope to have you guys back in a month or so for our next panel. So thanks, everybody. Have a wonderful afternoon. 

[00:58:20] Elaine Pofeldt: Thank you, bye.