MBO Partners, sponsor of the 2019 CW Program Game Changers list, is a business platform that connects enterprise organizations and top independent professionals. Its ecosystem fuels both sides of the independent economy, providing back-office support for the independent professional and a network of verified professionals for enterprise clients. In an interview with Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0, Founder and Executive Chairman Gene Zaino discusses the importance and state of the agile workforce market and where it is headed. He believes the world of work needs game changers — pioneers or leaders — to show the way at a time when outsourcing has been taken to a whole new level with AI and other tools. As a result, independent workers will be able focus on their own core competencies. And end users of contingent labor will be buying results rather than paying for services hourly.


Gene Zaino, Founder & Executive Chairman, MBO Partners

When we think about the shift toward more people seeking non-employee opportunities, how do you see our industry overall acting as a game-changer?

It is our industry that should be bringing new innovations to the workforce.  It is clear that workforce behaviors and economics have changed, people want more control, enterprises need more agility, and traditional methods no longer support the modern workforce. The world has aggressively migrated to transact their lives over a platform.  The next big game changer is for enterprise work to be placed on a platform, where both workers and enterprises have direct access to a fluid ecosystem of supply and demand.

What about the opportunities of the future? Where are those opportunities presenting themselves for independents?

For independents, specifically, I would say opportunities present themselves as more and more technology and tools become available to empower individuals — whether it’s artificial intelligence or marketplaces, or whether it’s the ability to do more work over a digital platform. I think we’re going to see people being more productive as they leverage these technologies and tools as well.

Many years ago, when we saw companies start to outsource non-core functions of their business to make themselves more productive, they would focus on what they do best by outsourcing what is not as critical to their business. I think you’re going to see that now on a micro level; individuals are going to outsource things that are not core to what it is that they are expert at, so they could be more expert at what it is that their real passion is and what they really do well.

Giving them these tools is akin to giving them an Iron Man suit. I really think that’s a good visual because I think these tools and AI and marketplaces and other things are going to empower people to be more successful as individuals both in their careers and even in their personal lives.

How does this play out for the individual?

It’s happening today. I mean, MBO provides an entire set of infrastructure for that independent contractor, so they don’t have to worry about all the things that a business needs to do. We handle all their business back-office and billing, collections and benefits so they can spend most of their time doing what they want to do. Even on a personal level, on a social level, when you’re a non-business, people are using tools to make their lives easier — like ordering groceries online, or booking travel online or via Airbnb.

There are more and more ways for people to outsource things that they would otherwise have to spend more time and resources on, and it’s enabling them to focus more on the things that they feel are more productive for themselves. And certainly, that’s important in the workplace and for their careers, but I think it extends across many different avenues. So, if you look into the future for independents, I think having more and more access to outsourcing things that make their lives easier is what’s important.

And then what are those opportunities of the future that are presenting themselves for independent workers?

I think you’re going to see that work is going to become more productized. Traditionally in the contingent workforce, people work by the hour. I think you’re going to see more and more people productizing their work and doing work by a result. It’s almost like a service catalog. Buyers of their work will not be buying a person by the hour, they’ll be buying a result. And I think that will enable independents and contingent workers to replicate things that they want to do really well.

Any other opportunities that you see out there for the independent workers?

I think there’s opportunities to have work-lifestyle differences where people can work in other parts of the world. You know, a lot of work is mostly digital. Geography doesn’t mean much in that type of environment. So, people could go somewhere in the world to explore, work during the day and then in the evenings or on the weekends, explore a new city — enriching their lives, their experiences and learnings.

I think you’re going to see more and more people take advantage of the fact that they could work wherever they want and take advantage of the ability to do that and integrate that with their personal life.

We call it a workcation, or, on a permanent level, digital nomadism.

And what do you feel are the unexplored opportunities in the contingent workforce space overall — not necessarily just the independents?

One is getting the message out to business leaders and our governments. I think it’s starting, but I don’t think the C-level executives of major organizations really understand yet the dynamics and value of a contingent workforce program, much less try to embrace it. There’s a lot of education to be done there; I think that executives will embrace this once they understand the value. I also don’t think that our regulatory agencies and government legislators are able to understand it and see that and understand the impact and value of it. So, I think there needs to be a much more strategic education of those sectors of our institutions. I think it’s going to happen, but I think it’s missing now; it’s something MBO has actively been working to rectify in recent years. We meet frequently with Capitol Hill leaders and other industry groups to champion the needs of independent contractors and enterprises alike.

What would be a game-changer solution in the next year? And then looking a little further down the road, what about the next five years?

I think in the next year the game-changer is purely going to be direct sourcing — direct community. For the first time, enterprises will realize that direct sourcing requires a whole new interaction with technologies, processes and experience. It is not simply tacking it on in front of or behind the current monolithic contingent workforce program. Companies and individuals are looking to connect directly with each other. So, you’re going to see the traditional, monolithic pipeline-type of supply chains change to be much more of a networked direct platform-based way of engaging and buying talent. I think that’s happening now and it’s going to be accelerating in the next year.

In the next five years, you’re going to see more of what I referred to earlier: More people will be empowered by the tools that are coming to market and that are becoming more and more available, whether they are marketplaces, AI tools, or more automated ways of doing things that enable the individual to be very productive. I also think you’ll start to see that productization of service where people will be offering a result for a price as opposed to being hired on an hourly basis. And I think marketplaces will be driving things like that.

The 2019 CW program Game Changers list will be announced next week. And in next week’s issue of Contingent Workforce Strategies 3.0, MBO Partners’ Bryan Peña, chief of market strategy, talks about how tomorrow’s CW program game changers will create diverse engagement channels that companies can use to leverage people.