2017 Consulting Community Survey: Flexibility – making the Gig Economy work

With Uber and Deliveroo’s high profile and ongoing challenges, some might say that 2017 was not a good year for the so-called gig economy – the labour market characterised by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs.

Despite this, with the combined elements of millennial values, digital platforms and an ageing population working longer, the trend towards a gig economy appears to be an irrepressible force. According to McKinsey, 5m people are employed in the UK gig economy, 28% in professional roles.

Does the Gig Model work in Consultancy?

Despite the association of gig economy workers with low-paid rider/driver roles, independent consultants, often the alumni of established big 5 management consultancy firms, have long been freelancing, enjoying benefits such as greater flexibility and freedom from bureaucracy.

Yet given that large projects can only be delivered by a team, is it possible to put together a group of independent consultants on a project and expect them to function as a team and to get the job done for the client? When individual consultants are thrown together can they coherently form a team that puts the client needs first? To help to find answers to these questions we conducted a survey amongst our community of independent consultants.

Who was surveyed?

We surveyed our most actively engaged consultants in our community in November 2017 and received nearly 300 responses.

What were the key conclusions?

  1. Independent consultants are strongly focused on getting the job done rather than concerns about dealing with internal company issues. 93% of respondents strongly agreed or strongly agreed with the statement:  “I believe that successful delivery against my client’s objectives drives my career progression, rather than internal company politics”.
  2. Many are specialising to add value as Subject Matter Experts – 85% agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I have focused my career to become a subject matter expert in one or more areas, in order to add specific value to my clients”.
  3. There is a strong feeling that they are more able to focus on the company needs since they are independent. 88% disagreed or strongly disagreed with the statement “I feel I would be more effective achieving my client’s objectives if I were a permanent employee”.
  4. Clients are able to benefit from the independent’s desire to improve their knowledge. 90% agreed or agreed strongly that “I actively invest in self learning and ensuring my knowledge is up to date so as to remain relevant to my clients.”
  5. Many of those surveyed reported that they do not stay in a role once they feel it is no longer to the benefit of the client. 92% disagreed or disagreed strongly that “My primary concern is staying in my role, even if it’s to the detriment of my client’s objectives.”

What are the key benefits for clients?

As predicted by the Harvard Business Review in 2013,  this disruption in consulting where smaller firms ‘assemble leaner project teams of freelance consultants (mostly midlevel and senior alumni of top consultancies) for clients at a small fraction of the cost of traditional competitors’ undoubtedly has a very positive effect for our clients. And whilst even independent consultants are sometimes thought of as an expensive option, often the savings on benefits packages and other overheads prove otherwise.

However, there would be no gain in lowering costs if it also meant that standards and output were lowered. Our survey clearly indicates this not to be the case. Our respondents overwhelmingly feel that they are free to concentrate on achieving their client’s objectives more successfully from within the gig economy model than as permanent members of staff.

For consulting clients the flexibility of the gig economy is great news.  They can get the benefit of experienced consultants to support specific projects and lead knowledge transfer to internal teams. These expert consultants bring to bear recent learning from similar programmes, often from the same industry and are totally focused on achieving the company’s objectives.

What are the key benefits for consultants?

It’s that f- word again. Over 76% of our respondents cited greater flexibility as one of the three key drivers for becoming an independent consultant. This model also appears to be lucrative, as a potential increase in earnings was the next highest driver (56%).

We’d love to hear from you

To find out more about how B2E Consulting can benefit you or your business please visit www.b2econsulting.com or contact Richard Eteson on richard.eteson@b2econsulting.com for a chat. The full survey findings report may be downloaded below .

About B2E

With a community of over 20,000 high calibre independent consultants, B2E is a unique consultancy providing full service consulting, managed capability and individual interim consultants to our clients. We use digital platforms to capture skills and preferences, and communicate roles, enabling our in-house team to rapidly match up our consultants with our client’s specific needs.

B2E’s reputation is based on providing clients with quality project teams and top candidates quickly. Our screening processes are so important that only experienced ex big 5 consultants form the in-house team – they use their programme experience to search out, screen and support the shortlisted consultants.

By investing in events and fostering personal contact within our vibrant community, B2E seeks to counter any feelings of isolation which can be experienced by independent consultants.

Download the full survey findings report by clicking on the image. 

About the co-author Richard Eteson:

Richard is one of B2E’s Consulting Principals. He has held several senior marketing roles in FMCG organisations before moving into consultancy.
His particular emphasis was on relaunch strategies and bringing new products and services to market. He has also led many Leadership Development programmes for large organisations.

About the co-author Maninder Murfin:

Maninder joined B2E in 2015 and is responsible for our Business & Process Analysis Talent Pool and B2E’s Social Media activity. Her background is in Business & HR Transformation having worked as a consultant for Accenture for 9+ years prior to starting a family.