Engaging Independent Consultants with Lucy Eckley and Phil Walsh

With higher than average employment levels in Oxfordshire, attracting specialist professional talent can prove challenging. At the same time there’s a growing trend towards freelance working and independent consulting. It makes sense for bigger businesses and independents to explore the potential to collaborate more closely.

According to IPSE’s* report ‘Exploring the UK Freelance Workforce in 2016’, there are two million freelancers/independent consultants in the UK – that’s self-employed workers without employees working in a range of managerial, professional and technical occupations.

These people are highly skilled, experienced professionals covering just about every specialism you could think of, including HR, finance, marketing and communications, sustainability, IT, learning and development, and executive coaching.

The independent trend is growing

The number of independent professionals is set to rise amid growing demand for a flexible approach to working – for individuals to fit their lifestyle and for businesses who are changing, growing or simply don’t have a fixed need for a particular specialism.
Work-life balance, flexibility and ownership of professional projects are among the top reasons people choose to work independently – closely followed by freedom and the need to keep work exciting and varied.

Meanwhile technology is opening up new opportunities for freelance work as more tasks can be carried out remotely.

Why work with consultants?

Research by professional networking and matching app Kalido revealed that 64% of UK-based businesses rely on freelance workers in some capacity. The study cited fresh ideas and expanded networks, managing periods of peak activity and deploying hard-to-find expertise amongst the reasons businesses hired freelancers or consultants.

Exploring the potential in Oxfordshire

At the end of October, B4 hosted a workshop to explore the potential for connecting independents with larger businesses across the county for mutual benefit. The event brought together consultants from the Oxford Independent Consultants community – an informal networking group – and representatives from Oxford Brookes University and Unipart Group.

The group spent a thought-provoking morning exploring how the county’s hidden pool of independent talent might help to solve challenges being faced by the bigger business, by building long-term collaborations that benefit all parties and the wider Oxfordshire economy.

What are the next steps?

The workshop defined three focus areas to explore further:

Clarity on the current challenges facing Oxfordshire businesses – what do organisations really need to help them thrive and grow?

The future company – What are the big unknown challenges coming down the track? What’s the next Y2K or GDPR where expert help will be invaluable?

Oxfordshire connections – How can we create and inspire greater connection throughout Oxfordshire with businesses, from independent professionals through to larger organisations?

The discussions will take shape in early 2020. It’s early days but the opportunities are exciting. Watch this space to see what comes next.

* IPSE: The Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed

Build Your Brand Story

Build Your Brand Story is a communications consultancy working with business leaders who want to develop authentic, personality-based communications that deliver results.

Lucy Eckley


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