More and more companies are discovering the benefits of assembling a team of talented experts rather than relying solely on FTEs to meet the challenges of today’s ever-shifting business needs — and it’s about time. According to Forbes, “the Bureau of Labor and Statistics estimates that by 2020 as many as 65 million Americans will be freelancers, temps, independent contractors and solopreneurs, making up 40 percent of the workforce.”
The business world is at the intersection of two important trends:
- An increasingly number of experienced, highly talented corporate professionals are choosing the consulting lifestyle, and
- Companies frequently have to do more with less.
In light of these trends, companies large and small are beginning to see the critical need for flexible teams.
In an interview by Harvard Business Review, Ed Gilligan, president of American Express, described how a small, cross-functional team helped launch the “Small Business Saturday” movement in a mere three weeks to great results. In that short time, the team made 42 percent of Americans aware of Small Business Saturday and motivated millions of American Express customers to “shop small.”
We’ve seen it ourselves. When Amazon launched Amazon Web Services, it needed experts to create case studies, manage events and help tell its story to new clients. We assembled a flexible team of experts who immediately sprung into action and helped catapult AWS to extraordinary success.
Building a flexible team of “strategic doers” to help drive your business gives you powerful advantages in terms of greater productivity, efficiency and cost savings. Here are just a few of the myriad of reasons why you should consider building and implementing a flexible team.
1. A Flexible Team Saves Time and Money
Leveraging real-world experts who are highly versed in their field of expertise is not only time-effective (they can get to the heart of the matter, and get to it fast), but cost-effective too. You pay for the work you need done, not all the overhead and on-going resource costs that go along with employees on payroll.
“The prevalence of lean management teams, the post-recession drive to cap costs, and the accelerating pace of change combine to make temporary solutions compelling,” say Jody Greenstone Miller and Matt Miller, who detailed the rise of the Supertemp in a popular article in Harvard Business Review, adding that these flexible workers are often “top managers and professionals — from lawyers to CFOs to consultants — who’ve been trained at top schools and companies and choose to pursue project-based careers independent of any major firm.”
A flexible team allows a company to allocate talent strategically. Not to knock full-time employees, but sometimes a project calls for specific skills, expertise or knowledge that a team of FTEs might not possess. A manager who embraces a consultant community taps into a wide field of content experts — strategic doers — with an arsenal of specialized skills. Also, you can keep the core business running and not distract FTE’s with projects that an expert can do.
In a post on LinkedIn, Contently CCO Shane Snow put it this way: “Would you rather work with someone awesome or someone mediocre? Companies used to not have a choice, if the awesome person lived 3,000 miles away. Now they do.”
Free Agent Nation Author Daniel Pink agrees, saying in an interview with Workforce.com, “You can now scour the world for the right talent and connect to independent contractors easily. There is a much wider pool of talent to choose from.”
2. A Flexible Team Offers Fresh Perspective
With long-time FTEs, there’s always a danger of burnout or career plateauing. People can get stuck in the mentality of doing the things “they way they’ve always been done,” and innovative or outside-the-box thinking isn’t always their forte. Experts bring a fresh perspective and enthusiastic, positive attitude to every project, which keeps energy high and creative thinking flowing.
Not only are these experts able to produce ideas and solutions — sometimes to questions you didn’t even know you should be asking — their presence also inspires current team members to reach higher and push themselves further, lifting all boats with the tide, as the saying goes.
3. A Flexible Team Is Nimble
In today’s ever-shifting and rapidly changing business landscape, you need talent that can pivot, adapt and rise to new challenges like never before. Work is increasingly project-based, and each project has its own unique set of needs, not to mention unforeseen obstacles.
With a flexible team, experts can be brought in as needed — and sometimes on short notice — to work on fast-tracked projects with short deadlines. If obstacles arise, they are poised to deal with them and keep moving. A flexible team excels at turning on a dime and producing great work because each member has been hand-selected for his or her area of specialized expertise. They are “plug and play” ready; they can hit the ground running and don’t require a timely (and costly) on-boarding process.
In the End
Deploying flexible teams is quickly becoming the go-to solution for companies to find creative ways to grow, leverage key talent and manage costs. The benefits are clear and the talent is available. How can your organization get ahead by tapping flexible teams?
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