Advisor insights from the field

Talent by the Slice

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In our current business environment, businesses face mounting pressure to master a broad range of specialized knowledge in order to succeed.  Such knowledge is not limited to the specific technical areas in which they deliver their services; it also covers the administrative and management functions – financial, strategic, talent management, back office technology, legal, etc. 

Most small and midsize organizations cannot afford to master all of these areas of specialized knowledge with internal staff – at least not full-time.  Not only is the initial cost of training high, but the ongoing investment required to keep all those different resources up to speed in their particular area of specialized knowledge is cost-prohibitive for most organizations.  Therefore, it’s not surprising to see a proliferation in outsourced services, including payroll, benefits administration, staffing, IT, etc.  Many companies have grown quite large by providing these specialized services to other businesses. 

No less surprising is the increase in organizations buying talent by the slice – hiring consultants or advisors.  Some areas of specialized expertise do not require high volumes of repetitive activities or transactions (such as payroll or benefits processing).  Into these areas step veteran knowledge workers who prefer to work independently, spread their expertise over more than one organization, and networks with other individuals who possess similar or complementary expertise.  By hiring such an advisor on an as-needed basis, a small to midsize organization can afford a level of expertise that they could not afford full-time. 

This “talent by the slice” trend is likely to continue for three reasons:

  1. The competitive pressure on organizations continues to increase.
  2. The fragmentation and specialization of knowledge continues to increase, and the rapid advancement of this knowledge requires a great deal of continuous learning. 
  3. The number of qualified individuals who want to work independently is increasing.  This is largely fueled by the Baby Boomer demographic.  They want to remain engaged in business with greater time flexibility, they have years of expertise that can benefit others, and in many cases, their personal financial situations require them to continue generating income.  Serving clients as advisors is a way for them to fill each of these needs. 
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