Rising economic pressures are fuelling demand from both private and public sector organisations for independent professionals, stoking already strong growth across the top end of the so-called professional gig economy.

External pressures feature prominently in organisations’ decisions to hire an independent consultant (88%), with the challenges posed by Brexit, economic slowdown, the need to find new markets and digital transformation cited by over 80% as important, increasingly or extremely important.

The findings come in a new analysis of demand from organisations from Odgers Connect, a division of global executive search firm Odgers Berndtson. Odgers Connect was formed to help organisations source independent consultants. The firm polled over 400 independent consultants, asking them to assess the importance of external factors in their work for clients, both overall and in relation to current economic pressures. To investigate demand further, Odgers Connect assessed new business enquiries over the preceding 18 months, and also looked at anecdotal input from clients across the wider firm.

“Economic challenges looming over both the private and public sector are boosting already rapid growth at the top of the professional gig economy, where independent consultants are in the front line of a quiet revolution in the workplace,” said Chris Preston, Managing Partner of Odgers Connect.

“We’re seeing rising demand for more flexible, cost-effective independent professional support from all organisations as they struggle to grow in the face of economic uncertainty and squeezed public spending,” he added. “Independent professionals provide vital support and we’re really concerned that so little attention has been paid to the changing needs of employers which is the real growth catalyst.”

Almost all consultants (96%) said they expect demand for their services to continue to grow. Around a third of enquiries to Odgers Connect over the past 18 months came from publicly-quoted companies, with other private companies and government, not-profit and the public sector (where consultants have been working with housing associations and NHS Trusts) each accounting for a further 30%.

Key findings:

  • Independent consultancy projects are typically driven from the top, either by the chief executive, or one of his or her direct reports (91%)
  • The vast majority of consultants have chosen to work independently, primarily to gain greater control of their professional lives
  • Organisations typically choose to work with an independent consultant because this provides an objective resource focused on a specific challenge

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