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Is the Landscape of I-O Consulting Changing?

Lynda Zugec
The Workforce Consultants

If you haven’t gone online as a consultant, you may just want to…

According to a Global Business Survey conducted by virtual marketplace Elance.com, the amount of consulting done online is steadily increasing. Although technology jobs continue to surge in the online world, the single-largest percent increase is expected to be in the service industries.

Elance.com, an online marketplace that links consultants to clients and their organizations, surveyed over 1,500 businesses that are currently hiring around the world through Elance. The survey suggests that the demand for online legal services was up 176% over the last year, with accounting experiencing an increase of 88%. Will that mean a corresponding change for how I-O consulting services are provided now and in the future?

Changes in Online Consulting

  • According to the survey, 1 in 4 university students will work online in 2013. Participation from this demographic experienced an increase in the past year from 26% to 47%
  • Given that healthcare is a concern for consultants, if the Affordable Health Care Act comes into effect, more U.S. workers may consider independent online consulting work
  • The number of full-time employees who will quit and turn to consulting is anticipated to triple in 2013
  • The business world is experiencing a growing trend to hire “on demand”
  • Companies of all sizes will hire twice as many online workers in 2013

Business Perspective

When businesses were asked what percentage of their workforce they think will consist of online workers in 5 years, 31% said they anticipate that more than 75% will be online consultants. A full 40% of these feel that the quality of talent online is of “better quality” than the talent they can find locally. Moreover, 85% believe that online hiring offers a competitive advantage with cost savings, faster time to hire, access to top talent, and better delivery. It is anticipated that companies of all sizes will increasingly realize such benefits and in turn hire more and more virtual teams as an extension of their onsite staff.

Consultant Perspective

When Elance consultants were asked to consider the most important aspects of online consulting, they included the ability to:

  • Be my own boss
  • Follow my passion
  • Work from anywhere
  • Control my schedule
  • Have more choice over the projects I am involved in
  • Work without an office dress code
  • Work without cubicles

In terms of uncertainty in the global economy, online consultants don’t seem to be overly concerned. When asked how the uncertainty in the global economy influenced the number of online projects they were hired for, 42% responded that they experienced an INCREASE in workload, with 18% indicating a “strong increase,” 24% a “slight increase,” and 41% indicating “no change.” Of all respondents, 11% reported a “slight decrease” and 6% a “strong decrease.”

Although such figures and self-report surveys may not have undergone the statistical rigor we have come to expect, they do pinpoint opportunities that may be fruitful to explore and suggest one way I-O consulting may be changing in the very near future.

Elance Global Business Survey