Skill Hacking: The Workplace Innovation Pioneered by Big Companies, Not Start-Ups

It’s no secret that the world’s biggest companies have missed out on big opportunities. What if Blockbuster hadn’t passed up its chance to acquire Netflix? Why didn’t Kodak invent Instagram?

And yet, over the course of the past decade, these companies have also helped blaze a trail for real innovation in the workplace. Through the strategic use of freelance business talent, they’ve transformed the way they approach challenges that range from pricing to product launch. Along the way, they’ve also upended traditional consulting and increased the speed with which they can execute critical initiatives.

At Business Talent Group, we’ve long said that this is the future of work. But by focusing on the future, we risk losing sight of the change that’s already well underway — and the opportunities that executives can start to seize right now.

Beyond the Gig

If you’re an executive at a large company, you’ve probably outsourced small tasks like market research or graphic design for years. Meanwhile, your colleagues have been outsourcing help with some of the most sophisticated initiatives on their plates, like S&OP transformation and oncology market access. The more advanced among them have reshaped the way they tackle broad, schematic workflows like due diligence and business transformation.

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Call it skill hacking for big corporations. The challenges and opportunities that today’s businesses face aren’t just complex — they change quickly. So whether you’re expanding to a new geography or streamlining your supply chain, there’s a good chance that your team won’t have all the skills it needs to go from A to Z. Or it won’t have enough capacity to move as quickly as you need to move.

By strategically and selectively engaging with high-end, on-demand business talent, you can mitigate these issues. You can also start to think about work in more modular ways, assembling teams from inside and outside your company to tackle specific problems, then disbanding. You can apply the right skills to the right initiatives with a realistic budget.

The internal consulting group at a Fortune 100 Pharma company used on-demand talent to centralize global operational excellence initiatives, supplementing its expertise with project leaders, experts, and consultants on an as-needed basis. By the group’s own calculations, this helped them save $60 million in consulting spend and deliver more than $200 million in results. A Fortune 100 CPG company went further, creating a digital, on-demand talent “mall” to help executives understand how and when to engage independent gig economy workers.

It used to be taken for granted that the cost of hiring, training, and monitoring workers on separate projects was prohibitively expensive. But as executives have experimented with this model in larger and larger bites, an entire ecosystem of companies — Business Talent Group included — has been working to organize the space and make it easier for big corporations to engage with independent talent. That means making the right resources easier to find, less complicated to hire, more efficient to manage, and better positioned to deliver great results.

There are a couple of top-level benefits:

  1. Use the right resources on the right challenges, at the right time. It can be hard for big companies to identify and deploy internal talent on new priorities. Not so with on-demand resources, who are available in greater numbers and with more diverse areas of expertise than ever before.
  2. Cut your big-firm consulting habit. Not every problem requires a large team working in secrecy for six months before the revelation of a grand initiative. Independent business talent, on the other hand, can plug in easily to offer additional expertise or capacity, often at lower expense.

What’s Next?

Given the way the workforce is trending, there’s no question executives will need to learn how to manage modular, blended teams of internal and external resources. Given the overwhelming benefits of doing so, there’s no reason for them not to start now.

To learn more about the shift to on-demand talent, download Business Talent Group’s latest eBook, On-Demand I.Q.

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Sandra Pinnavaia

Sandra Pinnavaia
Sandra Pinnavaia is executive vice president, innovation officer of Business Talent Group.

Sandra Pinnavaia
Sandra Pinnavaia is executive vice president, innovation officer of Business Talent Group.

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