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. Last week, CWS 3.0 featured an interview with Founder and Executive Chairman Gene Zaino. In this issue, Bryan Peña, chief of market strategy, discusses the effects of technology and market forces on the ecosystem, and how the game changers of tomorrow fit in.


Bryan Peña, Chief of Market Strategy, MBO Partners

How do you see the ecosystem overall acting as a game-changer when it comes to the shift toward more people seeking nonemployee opportunities?

Market forces are the game-changers and technology is driving more of this as an external force that is creating new ways companies can leverage and use people. And staffing firms, in general, need to be able to evolve with the times and leverage as much technology as possible — as well as create new ways to fractualize work, to create jobs that don’t exist.

The industry overall is going to be heavily influenced by technology. We will see continued, more creative work streams being brought to bear as different technologies and the laws evolve to make nontraditional work formats more desirable as well as, certainly, leverage and make it more compliant for enterprises to engage them.

You have a couple of different forces at play. With increasing levels of technology, there is also an increase in sophistication of the buyers. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re super excited about sponsoring the CW Program Game Changers list, because as enterprises are driven to innovate, it’s the people on the Game Changers list who are redefining what it is to have a job in the 21st century. It’s these folks who are at the vanguard of the next way of working.

How is the industry itself changing as a result of these key players?

The industry is being forced to address some chronic inefficiencies. These folks are leveraging new layers of technology to increase transparency, speed and efficiency while at the same time ensuring that engagements are compliant and client-focused. And companies are becoming much more comfortable with alternative work arrangements that is driven by dozens and dozens of factors, not least of which is generational. As of next year, we’ll have five generations in the workforce, something that has never happened before. It’s the younger generations who are comfortable with technology and have redefined the view of how they relate and what it is to work, they’re going to be more comfortable leveraging and engaging, for example, individuals who they’ve never met before and may never meet in person.

As a result, the demographics of the marketplace are certainly going to be driving a significant amount of change. And we see that in a lot of our State of Independence research, where more and more people are being driven towards what we call digital nomadism. Companies need to be able to create new solutions that allow people to work the way that they want to work. And that’s something that is going to be more and more prevalent.

That’s going to drive a tremendous amount of change. People are going to have certain expectations on how they choose to work and how they want to work and they’re going to work with companies that allow them to work the way that they want to work. For example, that may be somebody who in Poland who wants to be a programmer for a company in Germany or in Chicago. The company is going to have to get to be comfortable with creating solutions as opposed to having solutions be binary.

And that’s something we are absolutely seeing happen in the marketplace as more forward-thinking companies are creating more channels to engage. And game-changers just have to be able to curate and create as many different avenues to engage for individuals as individuals would like if they want to remain competitive.

Then what does the CW program manager look like in 2020 or 2025? What skills do they need to succeed and really stand out and what can they do now to prepare?

We’ve seen a lot of what those skills would be with [SIA’s CCWP program], which essentially codified a minimum level of understanding of what a competent contingent workforce practitioner would be. But that is the minimum standard of today. The next sort of level of skills and education on how people need to be working in 2020 is they’re going to have to understand how the law works, how to engage people in a manner that is compliant.

They also need to be able to understand a little bit of procurement, how commercial terms work. What are the things that they can do to improve processes, minimize risk and address costs as well as quality? In addition, they need to be able to understand all the different types of technology and how they are brought to bear. When I deployed my first MSP program in the late ’90s, it was pretty straightforward. You would have an MSP and you would engage with a VMS and that would integrate with your back-office system. Now there are hundreds or maybe thousands of different mechanisms that companies can use to engage human capital — from FMS to remote work to online staffing, to crowdsourcing, to hybrid solutions that include artificial intelligence as well as human resources in the same solution.

The game changers of the future will have the ability to understand how each of those can be brought to bear and create something new. In many ways, workforce management professionals can be considered artists — those who create something using the tools at hand, like those who use paints to make a beautiful picture. In this case, they would be human capital engineers. It’s the same sort of thing. The same sort of innate creativity needs to be brought to bear, which I think is very exciting.

And then what are the most significant market forces that will affect CW programs now and then in years to come as well?

Overall technological progress — progress is deflationary, meaning that it makes things less expensive. If you look at the price of a nice flat-screen TV from a decade ago, it was $10,000, but now you can get one for $200 or even less. So, we’re certainly going to see the cost of people change as more and more companies leverage things like artificial intelligence; they have more options on how they choose to engage workers.

The legal landscape is  also rapidly changing as governments recognize not just the potential influence of artificial intelligence, but also as the social stigma around working in a nontraditional manner goes away. And in the event that we resolve and, as government resolves, social safety net requirements, we expect that the use of nontraditional work streams will explode as individuals are able to have portable benefits that go beyond employment.

And finally, you cannot deny the pace of technological change. Tools are going to be created that leverage increased computing power as well as cognitive computing and artificial intelligence that no one can dream about now. Those things are going to rapidly and significantly alter the way that companies leveraged people. And then another — which I can’t emphasize enough — is demographics.

And not just the way that people want to work, but as people who are more comfortable with technology and have altering world views assume leadership roles, they’re going to be driving a lot of change and expecting a lot of change and not be bound by the norms of the current management structure, which is a byproduct of the industrial age.

So, as organizations become flatter and more democratized and with increasing focus on speed and efficiency, and speed to market and time to react, etc., it’s going to be less dependent upon a command-and-control structure. Consequently, we’re going to see a much more fluid work model, and it’s folks like the Game Changers who will be tasked with creating solutions that keep companies in the black as opposed to being reactionary.