Jody Greenstone Miller, co-founder and CEO of Business Talent Group, has teamed up with global search firm Heidrick & Struggles to bring indie talent to big companies.
One of the biggest challenges for freelancers is winning new business. Even the most experienced pros often dread pitching new clients to win projects—a job that was often done by the sales or business development team in previous corporate careers.
Some of the most sought-after free agents may not have to hustle up work in the same way in the future. More big companies are looking for high-level freelancers the same way they find other talent: through headhunters.
In a new partnership that reflects the trend, Heidrick & Struggles, a Nasdaq-traded, global executive search firm, announced it is collaborating on an exclusive basis with Business Talent Group (BTG), a high-end marketplace for on-demand independent talent. Heidrick & Struggles will give its clients access to professionals in BTG’s network for project-based assignments.
“With this collaboration, we are creating yet another way to help the companies we work with, as well as the permanent candidates we place, be more successful by providing high-end talent solutions that can help them fulfill their most pressing business needs,” said Krishnan Rajagopalan, president and CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, in a statement.
The Association of Talent Development, an association focused on workforce development, has found that 83% of organizations face skills gaps that threaten their ability to prepare for the future. The same survey found that fewer companies are investing in either internal or external training to close the chasm, in an environment where there’s a lot of debate about who bears the responsibility for doing so.
One way companies are navigating around the problem is by hiring independent consultants with the skills they lack on staff, driving an uptick in consultants who command six-figure pay, according to BTG Co-founder and CEO Jody Greenstone Miller.
BTG’s consultants, typically pros who have five or more years of experience, are concentrated in fields such as pharma, finance and consumer products. They typically work on site in engagements that last for several months.
“The fact that organizations are now interested and willing to think about this and how to bring this into their companies is a big new step forward and will really change and accelerate the ability for managers to do this,” says Miller.
BTG, founded in late 2007, has built its business model around providing high-level talent within 24 hours. Its dedicated, in-house client service team relies on proprietary technology and talent data, using the company’s private First Look project-bidding platform.
The firm has grown quickly amidst high demand and today has offices in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Austin, Chicago and Boston. Miller, formerly a venture partner at Maveron in Seattle, has been adept at securing funding.
BTG raised $8 million in a series B round to augment its technology in 2016. Kelly Services, the giant global workforce solutions firm, became a strategic investor as leader of a Series C round, in a deal announced in September 2018. Kelly, which invested an undisclosed amount, now holds a minority stake in the firm.
Miller co-authored a much-discussed article called “The Rise of the Super Temp” for Harvard Business Review in 2012. It offered a window on the careers of highly-compensated free agents who call the shots in their careers, parachuting in and out of corporate America to tackle challenging projects for which they are uniquely suited.
According to BTG’s 2019 High-End Talent Report, more Fortune 1000 companies are turning to independent professionals to close talent gaps. The biggest skills gaps are in biotech, IT and marketing, the research found.
The high-end consultants in the greatest demand are in project management (1), market analysis (2), growth strategy (3), strategic planning (4), and corporate and business unit strategy (5), program management office support (6), product development launches (7), supply chain (8), customer experience and insights (9) and innovation strategy (10), according to BTG’s data.
Despite the demand, it can be hard to bring this talent on board due to both challenges in how organizations operate and a managerial mindset more focused on working with traditional employees. For instance, many organizations rely on procurement and HR to onboard independent workers for freelance projects, notes Miller. That puts them behind the eight-ball in enlisting talent for projects that need to be completed ASAP. A big company can easily take two weeks to process a contract. “Good talent is not going to sit around for two weeks,” says Miller.
Miller says some companies are realizing they need to adopt new talent-acquisition and onboarding systems to make the most of the trend. That will bode well for highly-skilled free agents who want to build a six-figure career and like doing work that allows them to partake in the rhythms of corporate life, without having to commit to a full-time, “permanent” job.
“This market will only explode and be a reliable career path when the major corporate entities around the world are systematically using and relying on on-demand talent,” Miller says. “You’ll have a stable base of users that will truly change what’s possible.”