By Bruce Tulgan:
One of the first things I noticed when I started consulting to one of the leading professional services firms in the PR industry was that the number of employees technically working for the firm is quite deceptive. The firm seeks to employ just about every talented person in the PR industry. I mean everybody. But not as employees.
“The power of the firm is our broad talent network,” said the CEO confidently. “We no longer need to own talent to have control over the quality and consistency of the work. We just need to forge relationships, whether it’s through using freelancers or alliances and joint ventures with other firms.”
When a new piece of business comes into the firm, the first step is an assessment of the work to be done. It doesn’t matter where the client is, all the resources of the firm’s talent network throughout the world can be called upon to staff the project, from any of the firm’s different practice areas. Every element of the project is assigned to the very best person for that particular assignment – that is, the person with the most relevant skills and experience who happens to be available.
Let’s say a global company in the high-tech sector comes in with a need to communicate its new healthcare plan to all of its employees. The account executive might pull together a team from the high-tech practice in Silicon Valley and the healthcare practice in New York and the corporate communications practice in London. It all depends on the particulars of the project. Whatever roles need to be filled, they will be filled as necessary with the best person available from anywhere in the firm’s talent network, whether those people are traditional employees or not.
The firm calls this approach their “Best Teams” strategy. More and more other professional services firms are following suit. The local offices of the firm are still the gateways into the firm for clients, but every office is as great as all the resources in the firm’s talent network.
The initial success of the talent network without boundaries has now led the firm to start including non-employees, quasi-employees, and plenty of outside niche firms in its ‘best teams.’ And once they did that, the floodgates were open for new kinds of relationships with traditional employees too. Said the CEO, “This approach gives employees the opportunity to move in an out of the firm (and back in if they want) more freely. We’ve invested so much in them and they in us, it just makes sense to keep working together.”
The talent-network/best teams approach also facilitates the career customization needs of today’s ambitious free agents. Because of the talent network approach, it is pretty easy to move people from one role to another, from one geography to another, from one practice group to another.
As a result of the firm’s fluid structure, its turnover is consistently less than the industry average, but that figure is deceptive as well because the firm is redefining turnover. Even when people leave as full-time employees, they often return again, largely because even when they leave, through the talent network, they never stop working for the firm.
About the Author:
Bruce Tulgan is an adviser to business leaders all over the world and a sought-after keynote speaker and seminar leader. He is the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, Inc., a management research and training firm, as well as RainmakerThinking.Training, an on-line training company. Bruce is the best-selling author of numerous books including Bridging the Soft Skills Gap (2015), The 27 Challenges Managers Face (2014), Not Everyone Gets a Trophy (2009; revised and expanded edition 2016), It’s Okay to be the Boss (2007), Winning the Talent Wars (2001), FAST Feedback (1999), and the classic Managing Generation X(1995). His work has been the subject of thousands of news stories around the world. He has written pieces for numerous publications, including the New York Times, USA Today, the Harvard Business Review, Training Magazine, and Human Resources. Bruce also holds a sixth-degree black belt in classical Okinawan Uechi Ryu Karate Do. He lectures periodically at the Yale University School of Management in New Haven, Connecticut, where he lives with his wife Dr. Debby Applegate, author of the Pulitzer-Prize winning biography The Most Famous Man in America: The Biography of Henry Ward Beecher(2006) as well as Madam: The Notorious Life and Times of Polly Adler (forthcoming).
About RainmakerThinking, Inc.:
RainmakerThinking, Inc. is a management research, training and consulting firm and the leading authority on generational issues in the workplace, founded and run by best-selling author and internationally recognized management expert Bruce Tulgan.
Since 1993, their research has included hundreds of thousands of participants from hundreds of organizations in a wide range of industries. RainmakerThinking continues to pursue three ongoing longitudinal studies: The Generational Shift in the Workforce (since 1993), Leadership/Management/and Supervision (since 1995), and Human Capital Management (since 1997).
Based on this ongoing research, RainmakerThinking has provided assessment, training, and consulting services for more than 400 different organizations ranging from the United States Armed Forces to Wal-Mart.