AI & its role in narrowing opportunity gaps in a post-COVID-19 world

Together, we are all navigating an uncertain path toward economic recovery as governments around the world order lockdowns, re-openings, and sadly, rollbacks of re-openings. When the lockdown began in March here in Washington State, I was already contributing to a story on an AI skilling solution in my work with the business incubation team within the broader Microsoft AI Marketing team. The pandemic has accelerated the need for tech innovation, including AI solutions, to help reimagine the future of work and re-train and upskill workers for a post-COVID-19 world. I set out to learn and share how thought leaders are looking at these challenges.

The pandemic has heightened the urgency to reduce the global skills gap

The focus on AI as a powerful tool to address skills gaps predates the pandemic—in 2019 Bernard Marr, an author and AI tech influencer, wrote in Forbes, “from how we are recruited and on-boarded to how we go about on-the-job training, personal development, and eventually passing on our skills and experience to those who follow in our footsteps, AI technology will play an increasingly prominent role.”

Then—in just the first three months of the pandemic—US unemployment claims outpaced those filed during two years of the Great Recession, according to the Pew Research Center. The crisis has disproportionately affected women, Black men, Hispanics, immigrant workers, and those with lower levels of education. The report also found that those with college degrees were six times more likely to have the option to telecommute than workers without a high school diploma.

In other words, the pandemic widened existing opportunity gaps.

Microsoft President Brad Smith addressed these growing gaps in a June announcement of a global Microsoft worker skilling initiative that will include an AI-powered job interview preparation feature.

“The pandemic has shined a harsh light on what was already a widening skills gap around the world—a gap that will need to be closed with even greater urgency to accelerate economic recovery,” Smith wrote.

The first of the Microsoft partnerships, with the City of Atlanta, was also announced in July.

"Through Accelerate: Atlanta, Microsoft, and its partners will help close the digital divide and ensure there is a place for everyone in our shared future," said Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms. "The road to economic recovery must begin with pathways to opportunity that are inclusionary and accessible to all."

That same month, a consortium of tech companies led by Infosys announced an AI-based talent-matching platform “to meet the reskilling and employment needs raised by the COVID-19 crisis.”

To help local governments address gaps in opportunities, Smith also pledged that Microsoft would make data and analytics available to governments seeking to assess economic needs specific to their regions, as in the Atlanta partnership.

Tech—and governments—must put humans at the center of their solutions

A May 2020 Deloitte Insights piece on the future of work observed: “COVID-19 showed people that while technology can augment and supplement work, it does not replace what is needed from humans. The health crisis gave people a greater appreciation for the fact that humans and technology are more powerful together than either can be on their own. Consider how telemedicine, manufacturing, education, and even grocery delivery drew on the power of integrated human-machine teams during the crisis.”

Examples include an IBM Watson-powered chatbot that helps public health workers reduce call wait-times, and robot assistants that help health care providers to safely care for the sickest COVID patients, while reducing the need for scarce personal protective equipment.

And yet, fears that the robots are coming to take our jobs are increasingly real.

As Erika Hayasaki details in the MIT Technology Review, employers now “have a clear incentive to replace more workers permanently” due to safety and liability concerns surfaced by the pandemic.

In the absence of job protection or reskilling, says Hayasaki, many essential roles in health care and other fields risk elimination. And while some workers will be able to retrain as “robot wranglers” who can do things that robots can’t, says Hayasaki, there will be fewer of those jobs.

Ai-Jen Poo, the co-founder and executive director of the National Domestic Workers’ Alliance, struck a hopeful note for lower-wage workers in a recent interview: “Think of how much has changed in the last five months, and how much we have survived, thanks to our essential workers. Let’s make sure that five years from now, their jobs, health, and wellbeing are as secure as they kept us.”

Many thought leaders agree that the government will need to play a leading role.

“The government is the only actor that really has the capacity to act on the scale that’s needed,” David Autor, Ford Professor of Economics at MIT, has said. “Let’s create a Marshall Plan for the US: Rebuild American infrastructure, invest in schools, and remake ourselves.”

Tech leaders are also stressing the need for regulation

The need for new legislation and regulation in AI tech is a hot-button issue. However, there is growing consensus among some leading tech companies that there need to be agreed-upon standards, and that companies should not be left to evaluate and self-regulate their own compliance.

As protesters gathered around the world to support Black Lives Matter, top tech companies including IBM, Microsoft, and Amazon announced plans to permanently discontinue or suspend sales of facial recognition technology to police departments. Smith said Microsoft’s suspension of sales would continue in the US until “until we have a national law in place, grounded in human rights, that will govern this technology.” In a letter to members of Congress, IBM opposed use of any technology that violates basic human rights and freedoms.

To some degree, this thinking extends to their customers. According to a March 2020 O’Reilly enterprise AI adoption survey, 40% of companies in the evaluation phase ranked fairness, bias, and ethics as the second-highest risk factor. For businesses with more mature AI implementations, the same risk ranked third, with 48% reporting that they already check for fairness and bias during model building and deployment.

Facebook announced plans to set up its own “internal teams” to examine racial bias in its Facebook and Instagram algorithms. As many journalists—including Kara Swisher, in her New York Times columns and Pivot podcast—have documented, the company has served as a model for why regulation is needed.

In January, IBM had already announced IBM Policy Lab, which advocates for “precision regulation” of AI “based on accountability, transparency, fairness, and security,” along with the appointment of AI ethics officials to act as watchdogs.

Academia is providing thought leadership—and data

Academic researchers, including Joy Buolamwini, Timnit Gebru, and Inioluway Deborah (Deb) Raji, are receiving attention for their groundbreaking work to push tech companies to reduce racial and gender bias in AI. In their study, the AI tech of leading companies failed to accurately classify iconic Black women such as Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama, and Serena Williams.

“As more people question how seemingly neutral technology has gone astray," Buolamwini said, “it’s becoming clear just how important it is to have broader representation in the design, development, deployment, and governance of AI.”

AI has the power to narrow—or exacerbate—the skills and opportunity gap. Narrowing the gap requires responsible and effective use of AI … and our collective attention. I encourage you to do your part.

Take whatever action you can to help narrow opportunity gaps, such as the network gap. Join the conversations around closing the skills gap and creating more equity in AI innovation. Follow and engage with thought leaders in the space, including those mentioned in this post.

Cynthia Stamstad
Twitter | LinkedIn

[Virtual] remote work real-talk

I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all been struggling at some level to adjust to this new normal. For those of us fortunate enough to be able to work from home, it’s not just adjusting to working fully remotely—it’s also dealing with headline fatigue and the stress of looming economic uncertainty, trying to homeschool and/or keep your children alive and fed while also working, coping with a friend or loved one who’s sick, supporting someone who’s unemployed or at risk of losing their job, or feeling isolated and alone. It’s A LOT.

We wanted to hear from our community on how they’re staying connected … while staying apart.

Lisa Hufford, our CEO and founder, [virtually] sat down with a handful of our experts—a group with 60+ combined years of remote work experience (!!!)—to talk about remote work in this current environment, from leading remote teams and creating an at-home work environment to communicating with empathy. Here’s the full conversation.

Huge thanks to everyone who joined us and to our amazing presenters: Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, Hai Duong, and Monica McNeal.

The chat window was lively during the virtual conversation! Here are a few of my favorite comments and suggestions:

“Home schooling is not working!” Same, Daniel H., SAME.

“We've been doing virtual coffee chats on Wednesday morning and including families in the chats. And a women's virtual lunch on Mondays.” Love these ideas, Linda B.! We may need to replicate at Simplicity HQ!

“Is it ok to wear yoga pants EVERY DAY?!” Another hard same. Carrie M., you are all of us.

From Sydney T.: “A few fun digital games you can play with friends are Fibbage, Drawful, or Lie Swatter. Check out Jackbox games.”

And from Farida S.: “I started a notebook to take 5 minutes a day to write down my challenges and during the night I spend 15 minutes to think about those and see how I can work on those for the next day :)” Yes, Farida! We just instituted a daily morning Gratitude & Goals video meeting. It’s been wonderful to start the day with a grid of smiling faces and an outpouring of gratitude.

“I use TimeTrade to help with ensuring that I have a buffer between conversations by setting up ‘rules’ for when I forget to do it for myself on Outlook.” Hot tip, Erica L. I will definitely be giving this a whirl.

And lastly, a few remote work resources:

Stay connected while staying apart: Our team shares their tips for working remotely—ranging from tech hacks to self-care reminders.

5 tips for staying productive (and sane!) while adjusting to remote work: To everyone who's adapting to working from home for the first time, this one's for you.

5 tips for successfully managing remote employees: Remote work is still just work. If these sound like just being a good manager—they are! However, these best practices are even more important when dealing with remote workers.

Get more on world of work, fulfillment, & personal brand

Our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, shares in Forbes what skills are in demand, how to build confidence and credibility, and thinking outside the traditional employment model.

Staying connected while staying apart

One of my favorite coronavirus Tweets so far reminds us to be gentle with ourselves in these far-from-ordinary times:

It can be incredibly difficult to concentrate right now—I’m writing this while dismissing news alerts, with a kindergartener doing math worksheets to my left and a 2YO playing with imaginary suitcases at my feet—let alone stay connected.

Now that we’re fully remote, our team has a new ritual: Friday video all-hands to connect, share, and end the week on a positive note. In our first of these v-chats, we each shared our suggestions for staying connected … while staying apart.

We hope that these tips—ranging from tech hacks to self-care reminders—help you weather this storm with your spirit intact.

Tech hacks & tips

Video meeting hack: Blur your background

If your home office also doubles as a bedroom or you don’t want to share your messy workspace with clients and teammates, there’s hope! Blur your background (or upload to virtual background) in your video conferencing tool of choice.

We use Microsoft Teams for most internal and external video calls, so here’s a quick look at how to blur your background in Teams during a meeting: Select More options … / Blur my background.

Here’s more detail on how to blur your background in Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

from Sheryne Cadicamo, Client Success Manager

Use your company’s collaboration tools—for work and fun

Turn to technology to replicate in-office conversation, whether it’s collaborating on a project or comparing Netflix binge notes.

Here are some ways we think about using Teams:

  • Create channels for each business function (Marketing, Sales, Operations, Talent, etc) and discuss & share within the relevant channel. For example, notify the broader team in the Marketing channel when a new blog post is published, or hash out process details in the Operations channel. And don’t just keep it to work! We also have non-business channels for very important topics like Puppies & Kittens & Kids, Good Vibes (Only!), and Just for Fun, so we don’t miss out on socializing.
  • @ your audience. Tag the people who need to see and/or respond to your post. You can @ individuals or the entire channel based on your need and its priority.
  • Set shared expectations. We’ve all found that we feel the need to reply IMMEDIATELY when someone pings us. Don’t. Set a shared understanding of expectations, including things like how to flag time-sensitive/high-priority messages, if/when to update your status, desired turnaround time/SLAs for specific tasks, and when to @ the entire channel vs individuals.
  • Thread your replies. If you’re not getting notified when people reply to your messages, it could be because they’re not replying directly to it. Be sure to hit the Reply button to thread your response, rather than starting a new conversation.

  • Add a profile photo! It’s nice to see smiling faces, even if they’re only 2D. A picture is much friendlier than the tool’s default initials.

From Stephanie Chacharon, Content Marketing Director

Virtual show & tell

We’ve all enjoyed getting these virtual glimpses into our team’s lives—messy-faced toddlers and barking dogs included. Facilitate a virtual show & tell session—whether there’s a rotating host for your weekly team meeting or a dedicated channel for people to share pieces of their world, based on their personal comfort levels.

And just like we used to do in AIM (throwback!), set your status. (Teams and Slack both have this option.) Beyond the automatic calendar-sync status changes, you can let teammates know that you’re heads down on a project or taking Frankie the Pup out for a quick walk.

From Madeline Obernesser, Business Operations Manager

Embrace video & screensharing

As the newest member of Team Simplicity, Brianna’s onboarding was abruptly shifted online once the coronavirus hit the Seattle area. She’s appreciated the use of screensharing within Teams to continue training with her team.

And ditch your webcam fear! I used to cringe at the thought of turning on my camera during a meeting, but now I rely on it all day to long to connect with the team. It’s a great way to feel connected and read the room, plus it holds participants more accountable to stay focused.

From Brianna Mueller, Business Operations Coordinator

Work & team vibes

Create a positive, dedicated workspace

We can’t all have the home office of our dreams, but we do have control over how our workspace makes us feel. It can be as practical as a comfortable chair or as simple as a jar of fresh flowers, but find ways to make your workspace feel positive and energizing. And please, don’t work from bed. Try to contain your work to a part of your living space where you can unplug from at the end of the work day.

From Joan Yamamoto, Financial Analyst

Stick to your work hours

Work creep is a thing, especially when you’re working from home. 22% of remote workers say it’s their top challenge! In the absence of the physical cues of entering and leaving the office, don’t fall into the trap of never turning work off. Set a start and end time to your workday—and stick to it.

If you struggle with focus, try breaking your day into 30-minute chunks.

From Erica Bueno, Digital Marketing Specialist

Finish today with tomorrow's start

End each day by closing your computer and making a list of all your outstanding to-dos and lingering thoughts. Getting them out of your head and onto paper will help you turn off your work brain, and it will give you a great start for tomorrow’s workday.

From Amanda Swahn, Talent Manager

Self-care reminders

Grab your walking shoes (and eat those veggies!)

Move! We underestimate how much walking we actually do on an average day—going up and down the stairs, across the street for coffee, around the corner for lunch, back and forth to the kitchen for water breaks, and so on … At home, it’s not unusual to look up from your screen and realize you’ve been chair-bound for the last few hours. So be intentional about moving.

Slot walk breaks into your daily schedule. Even five minutes of aerobic exercise can have anti-anxiety effects. Turn your 1:1s into walking meetings—and encourage your teammate(s) to walk on their end, too! Use the time you would have spent driving to lunch to fit in a quick jog, workout, or neighborhood walk.

And it’s SO easy to snack the day away at home, so try to stock up on fruits, veggies, and other healthy snacks, so you can easily reach for something other than Double Stuff Oreo's and chips.

From Carrie Morris, VP, Client Services

Share positive news

The current news cycle is incredibly overwhelming. Avoid spinning into negativity and anxiety by sharing positive news and keeping a positive outlook.

We’re using our new Teams channels—Good Vibes (Only!) and Puppies & Kittens & Kids & Stuff—to share lighthearted memes, cute cat videos and pet chicken (yes, chicken) pictures, heartwarming news stories, and assorted other things from the non-dark side of the internet.

From Cheryl Kolodzaike, Finance Director

Take breaks (no, seriously!)

Recharge between meetings by taking short breaks. Stand up, stretch, walk around, grab a drink of water. You’ll return to your work re-energized … and ready for yet another video call.

From Markelle Linstedt, Talent Manager

Stay firm on healthy boundaries

We’ll say it again: Maintaining healthy work boundaries while working remotely takes discipline! Just because you’re now technically always “at work” doesn’t mean you always need to be on. Take breaks and step away from your virtual office and into your home. That means shutting your computer and placing it out of eyesight at the end of the day and not replying to emails at all hours of the night just because you can or feel like you should.

Set boundaries and stick to them.

From Jennie Woolridge, HR & Finance Specialist

Choose opportunity, not fear

I loved this line from Lisa’s latest letter to the team:

"In a world where so much feels out of our control, I find comfort in reminding myself that it’s up to me to choose fear or opportunity. Fear is a downward spiral that leads to stress, anger, and resentment with no solution. Opportunity opens our minds to creativity, possibility, and innovation."

Let’s choose opportunity—and help others in our community find it, too.

From Lisa Hufford, Founder & CEO

Last, but not least, this is a difficult time, so reach out if you’re struggling. Ping a coworker, text a friend, talk to your boss, or whatever you need to find connection and support. You’re not alone. We’re all in this together.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

5 tips for staying productive (and sane!) while adjusting to remote work

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

A few months ago, I shared five tips for successfully managing remote employees. I also shared some stats on the rise of remote work:

It’s grown 91% in the last 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years. 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Today, remote work has become an overnight reality for businesses and teams of all sizes as we navigate this global pandemic. Many who have been weighing remote work programs are suddenly rolling them out by necessity, essentially building the plane while in-flight.

Managers, it’s worth revisiting my tips for the shift to managing your teams while working remotely. And for those who are adapting to working from home for the first time—managers and individual contributors alike—this post is for you.

Here are five tips for maintaining your productivity (and sanity!) while working remotely.

And above all else, please remember this: Remote work is still just work. It’s about business goals and people. And it’s grounded in setting clear expectations and using technology to facilitate collaboration, communication, and connection.

1. Get focused on your goals. What do you need to accomplish today? This week? Who do you need to engage with? Block your calendar to carve out uninterrupted time to focus. And then unleash yourself! I love this advice from Seth Godin:

“When you work from home, you can sit back and wait for assignments and hope you won’t get picked … Or can you decide to change your posture. With all the time you save by not going to meetings and not commuting, you can run with the opportunity. Turn the freedom into responsibility instead of fearing or hoping for authority.”

2. Create your to-do list for the day. Working remotely requires more self-discipline, and I’ve found that a prioritized to-do list helps me stay on track of deadlines and deliverables.

Our marketing team lead, Stephanie Chacharon, jots down all of her open tasks before shutting down her computer at the end of a work-from-home day. In the morning, she is able to approach her list with a fresh focus and prioritize her day’s action plan.

3. Focus on what you can control. Be aware of how regularly checking the news and social media may be contributing to your inability to focus. Recognize that there are things within our control—from the work we do to what we choose to read, say, or share. Be intentional.

4. Keep your meetings, and use video! As humans, we crave connection! And remote work doesn’t have to be isolating: Use technology, including your webcam, to create regular touchpoints for human connection. Turning on your camera for video calls and meetings is a great way to replicate in-person interactions and ensure that everyone is still engaged.

My team uses Microsoft Teams and Zoom, and we encourage everyone to turn on their cameras to facilitate connection and participation.

And it doesn’t have to be all business, either. Since we’ve all started working remotely due to the COVID-19 conditions, I’ve scheduled a 30-minute weekly virtual touchpoint for us to share inspiration and support, built on a weekly theme. (Stay tuned, team!) This week we’ve having a virtual sound bowl gathering (thanks for organizing, Carrie Morris!) where each of our teammates are bringing suggestions for how we can stay connected, integrated, and productive while distributed.

5. Practice regular self-care. It’s easy to get lost in your work and move far less than you would in a typical office environment. Remember to stand up at least once an hour, get some fresh air, stay hydrated, stretch, and take care of yourself. Mollie West Duffy, co-author of No Hard Feelings, uses the Time Out app to remind her to take periodic breaks. I like taking my dog, Winston, out for short walks around the block to recharge and reset.

Be kind to yourself and your team. Reach out if you’re feeling isolated, and take advantage of technology to stay connected and collaborate effectively. We’re all in this together.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

I'm a marketing leader & a millennial mom. Want me to work for you? Give me flexibility.

This post was originally published by Stephanie Chacharon on LinkedIn.

Two things are true: I love my work. And I’m an amazing mom.

Those truths don’t have to be at odds with each other. But for me, something’s got to give with the traditional 9 to 5 employment model. If you want to keep me—and the countless others like me—employed, flexibility is a non-negotiable.

Millennial mindset

Ok, so at thirty-something I’m an elder stateswoman of the millennial generation—I grew up playing Oregon Trail in keyboarding class; reached for our household set of encyclopedias when researching school projects; and didn’t get a cell phone until the geriatric age of 19. And while I roll my eyes and take another bite of avocado toast at the endless parade of hot takes on millennials in the workplace, I do identify with the stereotypically millennial desire for purpose, creativity, diversity, and meaning in my work and life.

Talent is in charge

At Simplicity, we talk a lot about the current market (unemployment is down! retention is the challenge du jour! talent is in control!) and the realities of the new world of work: the speed of business is faster than ever before; leaders must leverage remote & on-demand experts to reach the full talent pool; and not everyone wants to be your full-time employee. In fact, half of freelancers say that no amount of money would get them to take a traditional job. And with more than 1 in 3 Americans freelancing in 2018, that’s nothing to laugh at. In this landscape, talent is decidedly in charge.

As millennials and gen Z continue to rise through the professional ranks, we’re demanding a new way of working that doesn’t involve being chained to a desk from 9 to 5, working for a company until retirement, pushing papers at a soul-less corporation, or even traveling to an office at all.

Work-life integration

I love my work. I love writing and marketing and helping female leaders tell their stories and reach broader audiences. I’m motivated by working with great, talented humans and using my brain for something that’s adult and mine.

But I struggled to find my way back at work after having my kids. It felt truly revelatory when I realized that the rules of employment from my parents’ and grandparents’ generations were starting to erode and that I had the ability to create my own set of rules and requirements. The increasingly more visible examples of women who are dictating their own terms of employment gave me life. My own boss, Lisa Hufford, reminds me that life has seasons and that meaningful work and meaningful time with family can go hand-in-hand.

And at this season in my life, I’m both a marketing leader and a mom of two young boys.


My boys are 5 and pushing 2. The baby, bless his sassy little heart, goes to bed at 6:30pm. That means that if I leave the office at 4:30, sit in Seattle traffic for an hour (please don’t get me started on that!), pick him up at daycare and drive the remaining 20 minutes home, I have approximately 30 precious minutes with him before he goes to sleep. That’s hardly enough time for him to fling spaghetti on the walls and splash around in the tub before getting whisked into his footie pajamas. That doesn’t sit well with me.

Sleep schedules aside, there are doctor appointments and sick days and teacher conferences and school schedules that were not designed for working parents and the list could go on and on and on.

For me to work and mom, flexibility isn’t a nice-to-have, it’s a non-negotiable.

That means some days, I work from home. Usually, I have the house to myself on my WFH days, but sometimes my 5 year-old works next to me with his crayons and those adorably oversized pencils that they user in Kindergarten. Other days, I head into the office and leave by 4:30, but do some of my best, most focused work in the evening after the kids have gone to bed.


I’ve gotten incredibly efficient at working because my time is more precious than ever before. I’m fortunate to work for an employer who has allowed me to build a work schedule that includes days in and out of the office (shout out, Simplicity!) and a husband who's committed to being an equal partner. Working from home means that I get at least two back that I’d otherwise spend cursing in traffic. It means more time focused on work AND more time with my family. If I’m lucky, I might even sneak in a quick run with the dog or get to walk my kindergartener to school.

But it’s not just about being a parent. It’s also about how I work best.

I rely on my WFH days to focus and dig in. Without the distractions of an open office, I have uninterrupted space to make meaningful progress on the tasks at hand. While I enjoy my days in the office, I truly work better from my home office. And tools like Slack, Teams, and Zoom enable me to stay connected with my team while I’m working remotely.

A note to employers

Business leaders, take note. There are millions of people like me—more than 56 million, in fact.

We love our work, and what’s more, we’re good at it! But we also value intangibles like flexibility, remote work, and values-focused employers. If you want us to work for you, we’re going to need a little flexibility. And if you won’t give it to us, we’ll find it on our own.

Work + fulfillment

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

Last week I was privileged to travel to Palm Desert to attend the 2019 Global Annual Meeting of EY Entrepreneurial Winning Women—a program that now includes 500 women entrepreneurs from around the world. To say it was inspiring would be a serious understatement. Lisa Schiffman, pictured below, is our fearless leader and fairy godmother who we are grateful for leading this program since its inception.

I was selected to join the 2014 class of Winning Women and through the years of attending the annual conference, many of the women have become friends. There is nothing more empowering than being in a room of driven women, each making an impact in their own way. This year was no different.

Our first speaker, Jeff Stier, Executive Director of Purpose & Leadership at EY, talked about connecting vision and mission with fulfillment. It reminded me why I started Simplicity in 2006. I was on my journey to find my definition of fulfillment. At that time in my life, I had two small boys, and I wanted to do meaningful work in a flexible way … which made consulting an appealing alternative to the traditional employment model. Little did I know that creating my own path would unearth my passion for helping thousands of other professionals find that same work fulfillment and transition from their corporate jobs to consulting.

66% of employees are unfulfilled at work

Jeff shared that 66% of employees are unfulfilled at work (source: Imperative's 2015 Workforce Purpose Index). Despite all we hear about employee engagement these days, he believes that what people really want is fulfillment. That resonated with me.

I believe the definition of fulfillment is deeply personal, and different for each person and at different points in their life. As I was reflecting on what fulfillment means to me at this point in my career, I thought about the personal brand workshops I have led over the years. In them, I help people define their unique strengths and passions and articulate what they want in a confident and credible manner. This is the heart of fulfillment: authentically identifying and sharing the thing(s) that motivate you right now in your life. And this is work that each of us must do on our own to determine if our jobs are fulfilling. Sometimes it takes a perspective shift toward our current roles to see that we could be more fulfilled if we could do a little more of what we love every day.

Top job satisfaction driver: business practices in line with my values

For employers like myself, fulfillment is an especially important concern, because 75% of employees are Millennials and Gen Z, and they’re demanding alignment of their personal vision and purpose with that of their employer’s. Aerotek recently conducted a survey of more than 1,200 workers across industries and skill sets and found that the top satisfaction driver was business practices in line with my values. It’s clear that the companies who want to attract the best talent are those who are focused on helping employees achieve fulfillment at work above all else.

What are you doing to find fulfillment at work? And leaders, how are you actively fostering your people’s fulfillment?

5 Tips For Successfully Managing Remote Employees

This post was originally published by Lisa Hufford on LinkedIn.

It’s #WorkFromAnywhere Week (thanks for the head’s up, Career Contessa), which is as good a time as any to talk about remote work.

In this business, I spend a lot of time talking with leaders and hiring managers about the future of work. And for so many of them, enabling and managing a remote workforce is a big, scary unknown.

But here’s the thing: Remote work isn’t scary. And it isn’t any different than on-site work. The same management principles apply in the office and remotely—they're just heightened with a remote workforce. I’ll dig into why. But first, the data:

Remote work is on the rise. It’s grown 91% in the last 10 years, and 159% over the last 12 years. As of 2019, nearly 70% of companies allow remote work and 16% are fully remote. In fact, 75% of all highly-skilled freelancers already work remotely. (75%!) And 73% of all teams will have remote workers by 2028.

Gone are the days of the 9-5 sitting at your desk and having your manager hover over you. What has emerged is a fluid culture, one that embraces flexibility and favors the self disciplined, with perks for both employers and employees.

We all know why people want to work remotely. They’re tired of wasting time commuting, want to lower their carbon footprint, desire flexibility to fit it all in, all enabled by great technology tools to “feel” like you are in the office.

Every manager I talk to wants access to the best talent and increasingly the best talent demands flexible, high impact work. It’s a win-win!

I built my business because of my personal desire to work mostly remote in 2006. Since then, it’s proven to be more than a passing trend: Employers must embrace the remote workforce or be left in the dust.

My Remote Journey

13 years ago, I left my job at Microsoft after the birth of my second son. I still wanted to do impactful work, but I wanted the flexibility to spend meaningful time with my family. I was tired of traditional office hours and spending time in airports with my breast pump in tow.

I found that not only did I like working remotely, I loved it! I was more productive and focused. I didn’t have to waste time fighting traffic. And I was able to balance my time and priorities in a way that worked for me and my family. And my clients loved my work because my only focus was solving their big problem. I didn’t have the day to day distractions and meetings all day like they did. I loved being their secret weapon and providing plans and strategies to drive their business.

Over the years, I’ve talked to so many women who have the same story. And that’s what our business model is based on: enabling talented professionals to work (mostly) remotely while helping managers get business-critical work done. I love that we can help people work however they want without compromising on quality.

More The Same Than Different

At the Geekwire Summit this week, Auth0 CEO Eugenio Pace was asked about maintaining culture and managing his mostly remote workforce. He answered that it’s largely the same as a traditional office culture—remote work simply surfaces problems that can remain hidden in a typical face-to-face environment. What becomes of utmost importance in a remote environment is clear, deliberate communication of goals and tasks and a bias toward hiring people who don’t just diagnose problems, but present solutions, too.

I couldn’t agree more.

In my years of experience enabling marketing and sales leaders with remote employees, I’ve learned a lot about making remote work work. And the bottom line is this: It’s not scary or a completely new way of doing business.

Remote work is still just work. It’s about business goals and people. And it’s grounded in setting clear expectations and rules of engagement at the onset.

Best practices for managing a remote workforce

If these sound like just being a good manager—they are! However, these best practices are even more important when dealing with remote workers.

  1. Set clear, measurable deliverables & success metrics. Like any successful project or team, start by defining success. Ask yourself:
    • What does success look like?
    • Are there clearly defined metrics that we can be measuring against (quantitative or qualitative)?
    • How do these metrics align with client and/or team accountabilities?
    • What are some of the upcoming key deliverables and milestones that must be met?
  2. Set everyone up for success by establishing the ground rules.
    • Establish communication preferences. Identify and communicate your preferred communication style and method (e.g., direct/open, formal/informal, email, Slack, IM, text, etc.).
    • Set working hours. Or don’t. Get clear on what works for you and your team. Do you want to mirror in-office working hours or allow for more flexible schedules? What’s the expectation of when remote workers should be online and available? Whatever you decide, focus more on the results of the work than time on tasks.
  3. Schedule regular touchpoints. Set a weekly team sync, even if it’s just 15 minutes. If you want a recurring 1:1 with your reports, get it on the books and include a rough agenda to make the best use of the time. Have employees provide a weekly status report every Friday with updates on the goals you defined together. This makes performance management easy because you will know very quickly if the goals are being met.
  4. Enable anywhere collaboration & communication with cloud-based tools. We use Microosft O365 which is an amazing cloud-based tool for document sharing and collaboration, meetings, and chat. Ensure that remote employees are aware of and have access to all the same resources as their on-site counterparts. And I highly recommended using video calls whenever possible. It encourages team members to fully engage in the meeting and builds rapport.
  5. Face to face still matters. Technology is incredible, but nothing fully replaces in person interaction.
    • If possible, build in f2f time as part of the onboarding process. Arrange team building opportunities for new members to bond. It's much easier to work over Zoom or Teams when you’ve established a personal relationship.
    • Establish regular f2f events with the team. It doesn’t have to be every day, but try to get your people together semi-regularly. This could be a QBR where everyone is present with a rotating location or organizing regional meet-ups and activities for a dispersed workforce.

Check out our remote work real-talk

Want more support? Check out our on-demand remote work webinar with our founder and CEO, Lisa Hufford, and remote work experts Monica McNeil, Mary Cronkhite-Johns, Maura Donaghey, and Hai Duong, for a real talk on how to thrive in the new world of work.

Building your on-demand team: low-risk and flexible

“This new structure allows team members to focus on leveraging their unique set of expertise to deliver greater results…”

Michael, like many managers, is in meetings almost every day from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and triple-booked much of the time. Michael is a rising star in the company and is highly valued by executives who often ask him to work on important projects. As a result, everyone wants a piece of him. His team values him as their manager and trusts him to be a great advocate for them. Michael’s professional success has opened many doors and new relationships, but has come with a cost—huge burdens on his time and priorities. He runs an important but relatively small team that has many responsibilities.

He manages to hold it all together, but barely.

Recently, Michael’s budget was slashed by 20%, although he is expected to deliver on the same goals with even fewer resources. He if frustrated; if he is such a valuable employee, why is he still expected to deliver the same level and quality of work with fewer resources? Complaining is out of the question because nobody wants to hear problems, only solutions. Unfortunately, that mindset from management won’t spur success. Michael’s stress is mounting as he works to figure out how to get it all done because, after all, he is a star.

How will Michael handle this dilemma? How will he justify getting more headcount with a 20% cut in his budget? Meanwhile, his normal work still needs to get done, so he’s behind and even more panicked about his credibility, which rests on his ability to deliver on key goals. He needs creative solutions, and fast.

Like Michael, I’ve seen this scenario become common as organizations must deal with changes in their markets and internal resources. Managers try to do their best, but there are challenges, including:

Managers have to do more with less.

There’s no time to specify desired outcomes.

There are too many generalists and too few specialists.

Where does all of this leave you? “Finding talent is much more fluid, opportunistic and fast-paced,” a 2014 article in the Harvard Business Review said. “This new structure allows team members to focus on leveraging their unique set of expertise to deliver greater results…It also leaves the old ways of acquiring talent, measuring goals and relating to employees in the dust, because they were designed at a time when business was consistent and static.”

SPEED in action looks like this:

S: Success = Begin with your project goals If you don’t know where you need to go, it’s impossible to tell if you’re on track to get there. Then, determine the desired outcome for the project; that will help you set a path to achieve project success. Also consider how the project contributes to your company’s goals.

P: Plan = Once you are clear that your project’s success will mean bringing in a specialist, it’s time to form a plan designed to meet your goals and priorities in order to fill the talent gap you have. The planning process starts with the drafting of a comprehensive project description, then budget, rates for the expert, ways to access the expert talent, and the screening/interviewing guidelines.

E: Execute = The key to successful execution of the project is setting and then meeting expectations. Execution comprises documenting the project deliverables in a Statement of Work (SOW), onboarding, and then integrating the consultant into your team. This phase is about the nitty-gritty details for everything and everyone involved.

E: Evaluate = Metrics are vital to understanding if you investment is generating the intended ROI, and they are also an early warning system for you to get ahead of possible issues. Scorecards and dashboards are useful tools for evaluation.

D: Decide = When you have achieved your project goals, you will feel empowered to tackle the next project in a faster and more efficient way. But first it’s time to decide if the project remains a priority. If so, then keep going and perhaps expand it. If not, decide if it is time to shut it down.

The SPEED strategy helps you identify what your goals are, helps you find your on-demand experts, starts the project with clear expectations, measures the results, and takes action to keep going or to pivot in another direction. It works because it enables you to have a much broader viewpoint than simply placing names on an organization chart. It’s about asking what your business needs and goals are and what talent and skills you’ll need to achieve them.

In my next article in this series, I’ll sum up my perspective after spending more than a decade in this shifting talent landscape.

New year, new opportunity: embracing the talent shift, are you ready?

In 2018, we can expect even more change and acceleration of pace in workplaces everywhere.

In my first post in this series, I explored how companies everywhere are facing what leaders are calling the “Digital Imperative”—transform your business with digital speed, scale, and value, or else. Our rapidly-changing Digital Economy has created a sharp increase in need for a new kind of corporate agility: an On-Demand Workforce that is transforming the way the world does business.

The question I asked is how will you and your company successfully navigate this unprecedented Talent Shift? In 2018, we can expect even more change and acceleration of pace in workplaces everywhere.

Studies also confirm that the On-demand Workforce is here to stay—and growing. There are a lot of highly-talented, highly-experienced professionals out there ready to serve your company and teams. I know this firsthand because I was one! I spent 14 years in the tech sector and supply-chain management, and I’ve worked with some of the biggest brands in the world. I know what it’s like to be the client and I know what it’s like to be the consultant. I love helping people, connecting with business leaders, and solving big business challenges. Part-way through my career, my life changed. I had my second child and realized that I wanted to work more on my own terms, and this created my own “talent shift” in my life. I had to think of a new way to work.

I wanted to control my own schedule, spend more time with my family, and cut back on business travel. I also wanted to do more high-impact work. As a director at Microsoft, a lot of responsibilities came with that job. I wanted to do what I was best at—only. I didn’t have any role models and I made a lot of mistakes. But I just kept learning and growing. The evolution of Simplicity has been organic. As the tech industry has evolved, so have we.

Creating on-demand teams and adopting our SPEED strategy takes the ability to fail fast and win to a new level. If you want to explore this new way of thinking, think of yourself as the conductor of an orchestra. You get to choose the musicians and the music for each concert. Some of the players might come and go, but you are always efficiently conducting your orchestra (team) to build an impactful and successful business.

The trends are clear. An unprecedented workforce shift is underway, driven by a constantly changing global business environment, a highly competitive marketplace that features hyper-specialization, project-based work, and a talent pool that aspires to—indeed demands—flexibility. Business cycles have accelerated; there’s a frequent need for fresh talent, and continuous “recruiting” has become a big part of every manager’s job. Clients are focusing on their business through a project lens. They’re looking at their goals as projects. These could be long-term projects; they could be strategic projects; they could be tactical projects. It’s really about identifying the right talent resources for specific kinds of projects.

There are many ways to successfully manage the Talent Shift. It’s a challenge to consider for the New Year. You can start with small steps. Try a project. See how it goes. It’s an opportunity you can build upon. It will give you a low-risk opportunity to look at your teams and talent, inspired by a whole new energy and seeing possibilities for success in a whole new light. Are you ready?

Here to stay: the on-demand workforce and "The fourth industrial revolution"

With pressure on corporations to move fast, drive innovation, control costs, and get results, the On-demand Workforce is here to stay.

Increasingly, companies are rethinking how they get the job done—fast and right. The good news is America’s got talent, and if you’re experienced, ambitious, and agile, it’s good to be you. It’s a seller’s market in the Digital Transformation Era if you’re an expert who has what it takes to work hard, adapt, and deliver outstanding work on-demand.

If you’re looking for talent, it’s good to be you, too. Today, the right experts are out there and they’re people who have done the work and have mastery over the subject. They’ve been there, done that, and learned from experience. They can adapt to changes, overcome obstacles, and generate solutions on the spot because they’ve seen it all. I call them “real-world experts” because they have in-the-trenches experience needed to jump in and immediately make an impact. Companies often lack the time to train people and need them to hit the ground running. Experts are out there, looking for projects that match their expertise.

This new direction of work shows a marked increase in talent opting out of full-time positions. A recent study “Freelancing in America: 2017” recently released by Edelman Intelligence (and commissioned by Upwork and Freelancers Union), predicted a “Freelancer Majority” by 2027. Current numbers show:

The study also reported: “The world is changing…more than half of the U.S. workforce isn’t very confident their work will exist in 20 years. The World Economic Forum calls this ‘The Fourth Industrial Revolution’.”

How does this happen, and happen so fast? With so much work available, people have options. And according to the “Freelancing in America: 2017” report: “freelancing is more respected than ever.”

They call it “freelancing”—I call it On-demand Talent. One reason for this respect is that flexible, highly-specialized, talent is that they’re “plug and play” ready. They have the industry knowledge and know the vernacular. Whatever your project—whatever gap you need to bridge between the skills your current employees possess and the skills needed to address your latest challenge—this talent is poised and ready to get the job done, and done right. These people want to make an impact and do work they love for a company that values and appreciates their experience. They’re looking for the right opportunities, and today there are more of them than ever, ready to work for corporate teams.

In my next post, I’ll explore where this is all going, the talent pool, and who makes up this multi-million-dollar asset.

Jumping into the talent pool: every company wants the best

Companies must embrace the reality that the best and brightest most likely won’t want to be on your team unless you update your talent strategy.

If you brought together a group of CEOs, industry leaders, and visionaries to brainstorm about how to achieve success, it would be unanimous that without great talent there can be no success. All companies want teams made up of the best and brightest.

To achieve that, companies must embrace the reality that the best and brightest most likely won’t want to be on your team unless you update your talent strategy. Why? Because by 2020 there will be 65 million consultants and freelancers choosing how, when, and where they want to work. They’re talented, available, and ready to dive in.

So what do I mean when I say “Talent”? I mean consultants, freelancers, experts, and specialists who are all in non-FTE (full-time employee roles). These are the people who make up today’s Talent Pool. According to a 2015 “Freelancing in America” study commissioned by Freelancers Union and Upwork, this Talent Pool includes:

In some large companies a consultant is referred to as a vendor. This is often because they are employees of an approved supplier/provider a company uses. Large corporations typically have formal supplier programs that manage a list of approved suppliers and/or providers. As an Enterprise Marketing Solutions consultancy, this is how we work.

Today, an entire workforce exists that is focused on creating the biggest impact for you in the fastest timeframe possible because that’s all they’ll be doing. To hire fast and hire right, employers will need to embrace a broader definition of talent and create flexible, project-based teams. By widening their vision, they will tap into a much larger pool of available talent and find the smart, creative people they need for each project—regardless of whether these people are consultants, contractors, “supertemps,” freelancers, self-employed, retirees, full-time employees (FTEs), or whatever title they use.

In this new day in the workplace, the work is there and the talent is there. Now the challenge is making the right match. Companies seeking on-demand talent want three things: Agility. Adaptability. Accountability. But often, project roles and the talent aren’t finding each other quickly and efficiently, and that’s the subject of my next article: right people, right time, right results.

Navigating the talent shift in the digital transformation era

Today, companies everywhere are facing what leaders are calling the “Digital Imperative”—transform your business with digital speed, scale, and value, or else.

Our rapidly-changing Digital Economy has created a sharp increase in need for a new kind of corporate agility: an On-demand Workforce that is transforming the way the world does business. The question is, how will you and your company successfully navigate this unprecedented Talent Shift?

More than 10 years ago, I left my job as an executive at Microsoft and opted to become a consultant. I had a personal need for more flexibility and sensed a potential—now seismic—trend. I needed a new way to work and soon witnessed an emerging demand for what I experienced. I also began to sense an an emerging trend in the workforce: companies were looking to reduce cost and risk, often by slashing talent and resources vital to the business’s success, but they still needed experts to get the work done.

The result: I launched a consultancy which in just over a decade has evolved from a company of one to more than 7,000 consultants. Today, we work with technology companies to strategically deliver Enterprise Marketing Services. Every day we talk with leaders who share their greatest Digital Workplace challenges with us. Their sentiments are a sign of the times:

“The Digital Transformation Era is moving fast.”
“I have too much pressure, too many demands, and not enough people.”
“I don’t want to recruit—it takes too long—I need results now.”
“I don’t have headcount on my team, so I’m doing more than one job.”
“I don’t have the expertise to do my work.”
“I don’t have budget for an agency retainer.”
“I want to experiment with solutions.”

From the “Talent” perspective, I saw an opportunity to provide companies a cost-effective, low-risk way to tap exceptional talent. I also provided corporate professionals with the opportunity to do what I did—be in control and have a choice in their lives.

Now, looking back from where I sit at the end of 2017, the trend is clear. A great workforce shift is underway, driven by a constantly changing global business environment, a highly competitive marketplace that features hyper-specialization, project-based work, and a talent pool that aspires to—indeed demands—flexibility. Business cycles have accelerated; there’s a frequent need for fresh talent, and continuous “recruiting” has become a big part of every manager’s job. Clients are focusing on their business through a project lens. They’re looking at their goals as projects. These could be long-term projects; they could be strategic projects; they could be tactical projects. It’s really about identifying the right talent resources for specific kinds of projects.

A variety of economic, technological, and cultural factors drives this dynamic shift, but three major trends have converged to shape where we are: the coming of age of Millennials, the Baby Boomers’ impact on the workforce, and the trend that will impact about 48% of U.S. workers by 2020—the freelance “1099 economy.” These trends gained momentum during the Great Recession and its aftermath, emphasizing that the definition of talent strategies, and even the definition of talent, no longer work.

In my next article, I’ll explore the new work landscape and the drive to compete in the Digital Transformation Era.

Why SPEED© works: get ready for project-based, on-demand success

The on-demand workplace is here to stay, and it will continue to gain momentum.

Change is the only thing that is certain in work and life, and there’s no end to the changes occurring in the workplace and workforce. The on-demand workplace is here to stay, and it will continue to gain momentum. But, like during any time of great change, I sometimes encounter resistance. Common roadblocks include:

Consultants are too expensive.
I don’t have the budget.
I can’t get buy-in.
We’ve always hired employees.
Hiring a consultant seems too risky.
I worry about cultural fit.
I’m way too busy.
Can I trust an outsider to be loyal?

These are some of the reservations that I hear. I enjoy talking with people about their concerns and here are some of the things I share with them, regarding:

Costs: Ah yes, let’s address the elephant in the room. There is a pervasive perception that consultants are overpriced mercenaries who create pretty PowerPoints but don’t do much work. I’ve seen that perception many times. Does that mean there isn’t any truth to it? Unfortunately, as in any profession, there are some consultants who overpromise and under-deliver, leaving you with the sinking feeling that you’ve been taken advantage of. Consultants are not created equal, and this is why I developed SPEED©: to help you create the best team of on-demand consultants and get the most from them. Consultant rates vary widely depending on their expertise, discipline, industry, and/or capability, and supply/demand in any market. And knowledge transfer is a valuable asset to any team.

Budgets: You can always choose to reallocate funds to drive your most important business goals. Retainers and return on investment (ROI) should be reviewed on a continuing basis. Ask these questions: Are you really getting the most value? Is the organization you’ve budgeted for driving your business? How do you know you are maximizing your results?

Buy-in: Implementing a new approach isn’t always easy, especially in large, seemingly slow-to-move companies. You may need someone senior to you to convince company gatekeepers that hiring a consultant is the most effective route.

Outsourcing: The status quo is usually the path of least resistance and does not enable you to innovate and move forward. It’s easy to have the attitude that “I don’t want to bring in outsiders” or “I’ll just stick with what I have.” I challenge you to be a “change agent” and review your goals and ask yourself if you are doing everything you can to encourage agility and add value to your organization.

Risk: If a company has not previously brought in on-demand consultants for strategic projects, there likely will be resistance from an operational and cultural perspective. You will probably have to build a solid case for the consultant’s role. Connect a project’s goals to clear deliverables that only an expert can provide. And a short-term contract, say for three months, is a great way to test the consultant option with little risk. One of the great selling points of hiring an experienced consultant is that they are comfortable navigating in a cross-functional organization. They often are adept at extracting order out of chaotic situations and at winning people over. There is acceptance and trust once employees can see that their experts are there to help them shine. Company leaders often recognize the value of consultants because they see that the consultants can serve as the bridge that joins different teams, groups, and business lines or locations together.

Culture: Consultants can and do work well in different company cultures; it’s part of their skill set. Know your culture and see if your consultant has held previous, similar roles in other organizations.

Full-plate: I hear that people are “too busy” almost every day from managers and executives. It seems like everything is in crisis mode.

Trust: You may be asking: “How can I trust that consultants aren’t going to take our ideas to the competition?” This is a big issue in highly competitive industries where the same top consultants are constantly recruited. The best way to protect intellectual property is to perform a thorough due diligence review of the talent companies you choose to partner with and of your consultants. Make sure your legal team has solid non-disclosure agreements and/or confidentiality agreements. In order to know who you are working with, you may want to do a background check as well. Great consultants know they must uphold confidentiality to inspire trust. It’s the key to their professional longevity and success in the on-demand world. They know they need to deliver in every way—including, and most importantly, inspiring your trust.

We encourage clients to talk with us throughout their working relationship with our consultants. Each company, project, and contract is unique. Communication is the key throughout any working relationship. Whatever your needs, we’re open, we’re here, and we’re ready to serve your needs in the On-Demand Economy.

In my next article, look forward to opportunities for the new workplace in the new year.

Execute: Set & meet expectations

Setting and meeting expectations is key to successful project execution.

Now that you have selected your consultant, set the project up for successful execution by documenting the project deliverables in a Statement of Work (SOW), onboarding the consultant, and integrating them into your team.

Statement of work

The Statement of Work is a high level, living document of deliverables. It’s common for needs to shift so keep the SOW up to date along the way. This will minimize future misunderstandings on priorities and deliverables.


The project kickoff meeting is one of the most valuable steps in the SPEED process. The purpose of this meeting is to establish a shared and trusted working relationship between you and the consultant from day one. The meeting will also serve to identify metrics and communicate clear expectations to set both parties up for success.

Week 1 – Project Kickoff

Week 2 – Engagement and Access

Week 3 – Fine Tuning

Week 4 – Progress to Date

Reflection questions

Ask yourself:

Evaluate project metrics

The Evaluate phase is critical to ensuring that the work is getting done as agreed upon in the statement of work (SOW).

Creating metrics is key to understanding if your investment is generating the intended ROI. It is also an early warning system to get ahead of possible issues…

Once the consultant is on board, the evaluation process begins. It’s common to start off a project with clear metrics, but then things evolve over time. Constant evaluation of metrics ensures goals are being met and both parties have the same understanding.

Determine what data is critical to track and in what cadence. We have observed that fewer metrics are more impactful than many, but this depends on the project. Ask your consultant to provide and manage a scorecard, that highlights the metrics, to measure progress and spot trends in your business.

Remember, as business needs change so will the goals and metrics. Continuously evaluate the KPIs eliminate those that are no longer meaningful and add in the new ones that are relevant.

Reflection questions

The on-demand workforce: agile, adaptable, accountable

Because businesses increasingly are required to do more with less, companies large and small are beginning to see the critical need for project-based, on-demand teams to drive business outcomes.

One of my favorite business books is Jim Collins’ classic bestseller Good to Great. He gets right to the heart of what causes workplace transformation:

“The executives who ignited the transformations from good to great did not first figure out where to drive the bus and then get people to take it there. No, they first go the right people on the bus (and the wrong people off the bus) and then figured out where to drive it. They said, in essence, ‘Look, I don’t really know where we should take this bus. But I do know this much: If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.’” – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Because businesses frequently have to do more with less, companies large and small are beginning to see the critical need for project-based, on-demand teams to drive business outcomes. They want three things: Agility. Adaptability. Accountability. That means they want to hire fast and hire right, and they want workers with a solutions mindset plus the speed and expertise required to get the job done. They want flexible people, flexible solutions, lower risk, on-demand teams, project-based. And they want people and partners who deliver.

There are several forces of work out there. Baby Boomers, Millennials, and the freelance workforce have preferences: control and choice. People only stay in jobs approximately 2-3 years, and in tech, this now is often only approximately 18 months. Recruiting full-time employees also has become a big part of any manager’s job. But this can take months. And if you needed help yesterday, that’s an issue. Another challenge is retention. Also, from a retention standpoint, it’s not about recruiting, developing, and retaining people anymore. It’s about attracting, investing, and inspiring people. And, for the people who choose to work on-demand, they know they have to deliver to keep pace with their own competition.

The late technologist and United States Navy Rear Admiral Grace Hopper once said: “Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way.’ I try to fight that. That’s why I have a clock on my wall that runs counter-clockwise.” In my next article, I’ll explore a new way of thinking: The Talent Shift Mindset and how you can put it to work to drive business results through the project-based approach.