1. When you do not work as an IP, what do you do?

I’m a Serial Social Entrepreneur. In short, I look for sustainable business ideas and implement them together with my wife Marie. You might have read about my social coffee business in Parallel Lives of our IPs #4 in 2018.

Since then, we launched Solarbalkon with which we sell plug & play solar panels for the balcony.
We invented an oat milk concentrate. And last year we founded a social real estate business: We’re now also renovating buildings energetically and rent the apartments to single parents in need.

2. Why so many irons in the fire?  

Our first social business idea was born on our honeymoon trip though Ethiopia in 2016. Three years and two children later, we became increasingly aware of the urgency of the climate crisis.

That’s why we wanted to put our working time into fighting this crisis. The coffee startup was already running relatively independently at this point and we had capacity to embark on a new adventure.

I am a very curious person. Deep diving into completely new topics is one of the reasons I like working as an IP. Through the creation of different social startups, I can have that advantage also in my entrepreneurial life. So we choose our business ideas with a focus on whether they will be able to run with limited input from us after the startup phase.

3. How does being an IP influence your social impact start-up and how does your social start-up influence your IP-career?

Being an IP allows me to meet and work with new people and I enjoy this a lot. It gives me a good balance and is a great source of inspiration. Having the opportunity to work with a-connect also offers a sense of financial security that is helpful for taking risks as a social entrepreneur.

In the last few years, the focus in my entrepreneurial and personal life has been on sustainability. I was able to use these experiences in my IP career as well. A-connect gave me the opportunity to bring the topic to the forefront in my IP projects.

4. What are the biggest challenges in doing business with a positive impact?

There are big differences across our businesses. I’ll give you an example: Finding customers is a big challenge for our solar panels because most people don’t even know that the possibility of plug & play solar exists. But it is sadly very easy to find single parents in need of affordable housing with low energy costs.

Rather than seeing specific challenges that only social businesses face, I would say that doing business with an impact offers a very specific advantage: It gives you a tremendous motivation.

Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Director Emeritus of Potsdam Climate Institute and one of world’s most eminent scientists, said: “I’m telling you that we’re putting our kids onto a global school bus that will with 98% probability end in a deadly crash.”

Our work is fighting against this crash to happen. This is the biggest challenge facing any human being on the planet. And it motivates us a lot.

5. What was your best moment in your entrepreneurial life so far?

The moment when I realized that working for a good cause, having a fulfilling career, raising children and spending lots of time with my family – all this is possible if you create your own job.


  1. When you do not work as an IP, what do you do?

I write fiction. I have written a novel and a collection of short stories, plus a bunch of material that I thought would make up for new novels but has not fitted anywhere so far.

  1. When did you first realize you wanted to be a writer & where did you get inspiration from?

I became a reader first. I was not so precocious though: I remember getting hooked up on a book for the first time at the age of fifteen or so. My mother used to read a lot and continues to do so, and I suspect seeing her reading had a great influence in my picking up reading habits. Then, while at university, I started reading great novels and authors, and got very much into writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner. I wondered whether I could write like them, which of course I cannot but the idea started to develop there.

In terms of inspiration for themes, plots, and characters, “of course you bank on your experience, but only as a sounding board”, as the writer Philip Roth once said. And since I’ve spent a considerable amount of my adult life in offices, planes, and hotels, surrounded by colleagues and clients, as many of us consultants have, I have explored such exploits in my writing, and have tried to make dark comedy out of it in my first and, so far, only novel (“A Place Under the Sun”, by Luis Urtueta, which is my pen name).

  1. What are the biggest challenges in writing a book?

From my point of view, there are three challenges. The first one would be around the logistics of it. To write, in theory, you only need a piece of paper and a pen, or a computer for that matter, but to write more seriously you do need of course time. Large amounts of time. And this time is taken away from time you would spend with family, friends, or in having a job. So there are undeniable sacrifices, because it isn’t just a day here or there that you need to make yourself unavailable for. You need a systematic and somewhat enduring approach to being unavailable. More so when you are writing something long, say, a novel. Then of course you need an emotional involvement in your writing, which presents its own challenges. You need to take risks and drain yourself, or “bleed by the typewrite” (as Hemingway once said). The third challenge is a technical one – being able to write well – which is not easy and demands dedication, creativity, and discipline. And there is probably a motivational challenge too, in keeping yourself invested in something which will probably not bring much in the form of worldly returns.

  1. How does being an IP influence your career in writing?

It allows me to be able to have the right balance between writing and working, and I have come to realize that the two feed in each other. On my projects as an IP, I am able to apply some of the skills I’ve developed while writing, such as structuring, story-lining, proof-reading, being rigorous, and so on. And, overall, I suppose I am a happier, more at ease person, being able to dedicate my time to what I like doing. Being able to have time to write allows me to be more motivated and concentrated while on a project as an IP.

  1. Any plans for a next book?

I have two novels abandoned at different stages which I should pick up at some point. Lately though I have kept myself busy working and doing stuff outdoors. Since lockdown, I can’t quite stay at home and write. Also, now I have a daughter and another kid on the way and that is keeping me quite busy. I feel like an ex-writer, in a way. But hopefully, when the time is right, I can pick it up again.

Integration Project in the Middle-East

Tobias supported a Kuwait HQd logistics company on integrating two smaller companies and designing the strategy and business model for the new organization. He describes his experience from first time working with a-connect as well as key lessons learned from the project.

  1. How did you work with a-connect on this project, and what worked well?

After a brief call with a-connect and the joint understanding that both my expertise and skill set is of value to the client, my profile was shared with the client. After a call with the project owner, the client decided to work with me and a week later the project started. Prior to the project, a-connect shared with me additional information about the client and equipped me with various supportive tools such as PowerPoint templates, Statista access, etc. Throughout the entire project, a-connect was very supportive and dedicated to ensuring the best possible support.

  1. What would you do differently?

Obviously, every project has its own dynamics. Due to the current situation in the world and its implication on day-to-day logistic operations, the priority of the top management and the country CEOs deviated slightly. The country CEOs focus on their daily core business, while the group management aimed to prepare the company’s 5-year growth plan. In hindsight, I would have tried to find a common group between the different client stakeholders earlier to enable a joint understanding of the tasks and milestones to achieve it.

  1. What impact do you feel we had on the client?

The joint work helps the client to achieve three things:

  • Understanding there is a sizable market opportunity and the window of capturing this business is closing in the coming month / years
  • Formulating a joint understanding what the company aims to achieve in the next five years
  • Assessing key requirements to achieve the ambitious growth targets
  1. What have you learned as a result of this project?

The project resulted into various learnings. Firstly, as mentioned, try to align the objective among the stakeholders. Secondly, make sure that everybody is equally committed to achieve the common objective because they believe it’s worth the effort.

  1. What advice would you give to the other consultants embarking on a similar project?

Try to quickly understand the dynamics within the client and the unique challenges each stakeholder faces within their area of responsibility.

  1. Is there anything else that you would like to add?

Working with a-connect is excellent. The projects a-connect is working on are challenging, exciting and fun at the same time. In addition, a-connect is very dedicated and professional to support the expert / consultant and help to thrive and achieve the best possible project outcome.

Crisis in the Ukraine – our thoughts and approach

Dear IPs,

We have been touched by how many of our IPs from around the world, including from the Ukraine and Russia, have taken action regarding the crisis in the Ukraine and reached out offering further support. Having spoken to many of you over the past weeks, we wanted to take a moment to share our thoughts and approach with our employees and IP community.

Our hearts go out to the many people affected by this war and other conflicts across the globe. The impact on personal lives is devastating and we are motivated to do what we can to help.  Our purpose includes to “help the world advance”, and as such a-connect has made a sizable financial donation as well as donating supplies to the refugee relief effort.  In addition, many of our employees have made individual donations, whether it is financial, material or accommodation to those displaced in their flight to safety.  Several people have asked where they can donate, so we have compiled a starter list of organizations supported by some of our colleagues. The list is pasted below in case you are looking for a place to start.

We are currently not serving any clients in the Ukraine, Russia or Belarus. We have strict guidelines and policies regarding our client work to ensure it is consistent with our values and purpose. We will continue to apply them going forward, just like we have done during the last 20 years. As a firm, we continue to assess the situation and monitor the impact for IPs on our existing projects, and will work directly with you if there are potential areas of concern, such as project-related travel.

Please feel free to reach out if there is anything that you would like to discuss with us in our approach or relative to your own situation.

With best regards,

The a-connect team

Humanitarian aid (global reach, including targeted aid for the Ukraine)

  • The UN Refugee Agency, which supports and protects refugees and forcibly displaced communities across the globe and also has a dedicated site for the Ukraine
  • Doctors without Borders, providing life-saving medical humanitarian care
  • Save the Children, which has a Children’s Emergency Fund that supports children in the Ukraine

Humanitarian aid (specific to the Ukraine)

Accommodation for refugees

In case you have a room to spare, please consider hosting through:

The life of a Talent Service Partner at a-connect

a-connect will be celebrating our 20th birthday this year; many things have changed over the years particularly when it comes to talent and how we search and recruit Independent Professionals for our network. I have been at a-connect for 15 of those 20 years as a Talent Partner. Here are some of my thoughts on how the world of recruiting Independent Professionals has changed over the years and how we go about finding the right professionals for our projects around the world.

When I started at a-connect in 2007 we had 530 Independent Professionals (IPs) within the network largely based near where we had offices at the time – US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Switzerland, Germany. All of these IPs had gone through two rounds of intensive interviews including case studies. They had travelled to their closest office for a face to face interview, or we had travelled to meet them (some of you may remember these days which now feel very long ago!). Most of our IPs came to us through word of mouth referrals and through the alumni community of consulting firms. Recruiting was fairly reactive and we only worked with IPs from within our network that we had already pre-qualified. We were largely spending our time building awareness with our clients on a new way of thinking about consulting services – hiring IPs through a-connect to work on strategy and implementation projects.

There were no distinct role separation between TSP (Talent Service Partner) and CSP (Client Service Partner) we all did parts of both roles.

Fast forward to 2022 and our business has evolved. We now have 2,300 IPs in our network, most of whom we have not met in person, as all of our interviewing is now done over Microsoft Teams. Our clients know how to work with us, but the space we operate in is becoming increasingly crowded with new competitors popping up on a monthly basis.

In response to growing competition we have refined and strengthened our value proposition and invested in creating industry practices. Our industry practices are Life Sciences (LS), Agriculture/Food & Chemical (AFC) and Private Equity (PE) which contributes to a large ‘other’ sector as we work mainly on their portfolio companies (rather than direct for the PE fund).

We also now have very clear role definitions – CSPs who engage with clients to find out their critical project requirements and TSPs who focus on finding the best fit and available IPs for projects.

We are consistently hiring and growing our CSP, TSP and IP communities across the world. We are focusing on CSPs who bring specific industry experience in the sectors we specialise in to ensure that we remain at the forefront of our clients’ minds when they think about strategy projects.

Over the past few years our clients are frequently asking for more and more for niche skills which we need to go outside our carefully cultivated network to find.  LinkedIn searches are now an every-day part of our job, the pressure to find the ‘exact fit’ and available IP quicker than our competitors is constant. We are thinking differently about how we attract and retain our IPs (aside from simply providing you with interesting projects at a good rate). We have introduced IP loyalty schemes on top of regular social events and IP newsletters. We realise IPs are no longer IPs for life – the IPs of 2022 are a much more ‘fluid’ group of professionals who are focused on interesting work and more open to moving between independent consulting and permanent roles.

We face new challenges… Challenges such as how do we get to know you (our IPs) better so that we can bring you more relevant and interesting projects? How do we reach out to our IP network fast to find the best fit available IP, whilst still keeping our experience as human as possible? How do we manage a network that has grown so big? How do we respond to our clients shifting requirements whilst ensuring we aren’t driven by recruiting under pressure? It’s these challenges that keep our roles interesting and why we are still doing what we love after 20 years.

We couldn’t do any of this without you – our IPs and we want to learn from you on how we can improve, do things better and change so please keep us close and let us know. We always like to hear from you!



“Brexit means Brexit”—but what will it mean for pharmaceutical market access?

On 23 June 2016, the UK electorate stunned politicians, pundits and business communities right around the world by voting to leave the European Union (EU). While the impact will naturally be greatest for the UK, the repercussions of the vote will be felt across Europe and beyond. In the weeks since the referendum, there have been countless assessments of the potential consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This three-part analysis focuses specifically on what Brexit will mean for pharmaceutical market access. Part 1 considers the current uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU, the importance of the life sciences industry to the UK, and the importance of the UK to the international life sciences industry. Part 2 looks ahead to the potential consequences of Brexit both before and after the UK actually leaves the EU. Part 3 reflects on how the challenges associated with Brexit could be turned into opportunities.

The vote to leave the EU has created a business climate of unprecedented uncertainty

In the wake of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, Theresa May, the new British Prime Minister, has repeatedly declared that “Brexit means Brexit.” However, this supercially straightforward statement of intent belies an extraordinarily challenging series of decisions that must be made in the coming years. When will Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty—the trigger for exit negotiations—be invoked? How long will it take to settle the terms of the exit? What kind of relationship will the UK have with the EU after Brexit—an associated country status, membership of the European Economic Area, a customs union, bilateral agreements, trade under the terms of the World Trade Organization, or some completely novel arrangement? Above all, to what extent (if any) will the UK retain access to the Single Market, and what obligations will it have to meet in return?

Given that the manufacture of prescription drugs is arguably the most heavily regulated industry of all, life sciences companies are perhaps more uneasy than most about the possibility of exchanging the familiar EU system for a potentially very uncertain environment within the UK. The Leave campaign’s promise of a much lighter regulatory burden for businesses outside the EU would be challenging to deliver within the pharmaceutical sector. Indeed, drug manufacturers worry that they might have to satisfy onerous regulatory requirements from both the EU and the UK. However, the life sciences industry is already highly globalized—companies are very accustomed to the challenges of meeting the needs of different markets around the world. In addition, pharmaceutical companies that are doing business in the UK can take comfort from the knowledge that demand for their products is unlikely to be affected by consumer uncertainty about the economy, given that all prescriptions in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are free, and that 90% of prescriptions in England are dispensed free of charge.1

How important is the Life Sciences industry to the UK

In a speech delivered just hours before she was confirmed as the new Prime Minister, May spoke of the need to develop a strong industrial strategy to “defend a sector that is as important as pharmaceuticals is to Britain.”2 

These words went some way towards reassuring an industry that had been unsettled by the vote to leave the EU. Just a week later, however, May moved George Freeman, Minister for Life Sciences, to chair the Prime Minister’s Policy Board. The UK was unique in having a dedicated Minister for Life Sciences, an office that was considered to be a formal recognition of the crucial importance of the industry to the national economy. Many life sciences executives were concerned that Freeman would not be replaced, a decision that might weaken the industry’s position. On 4 August, the government announced a new division of ministerial responsibilities for the life sciences:

  • Within the Department of Health, two ministers will share responsibility for life sciences. Lord Prior of Brampton, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Health, will lead on the department’s life sciences industrial strategy, the Accelerated Access Review, “making a success of leaving the European Union,” and the biopharmaceutical and medical technology industries. Nicola Blackwood, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Public Health and Innovation, will lead on genomics, data and digital health, and emerging health technologies.
  •  Within the newly created Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, Jo Johnson, the Minister of State for Universities and Science, will have responsibility for the department’s life sciences industrial strategy. He will also work with Greg Clark, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy, to “oversee the UK’s drive to lead the world in the new age of global science.”3

These appointments reaffirm the government’s commitment to promoting the life sciences sector as a key element of the UK’s industrial strategy.

UK-EU Life Sciences Transition Steering Group

The government has also expressed continued support for the recently formed UK-EU Life Sciences Transition Steering Group. Freeman had launched this initiative on 6 July and was due to co-chair it with Sir Andrew Witty, CEO of GlaxoSmithKline, and Pascal Soriot, CEO of AstraZeneca. A statement issued by the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry commented:

“At a time of great uncertainty for the pharmaceutical industry we are eager to see who will take up the responsibility of progressing the good work that Freeman has started. This should include the continuation of the UK-EU Life Sciences Transition Steering Group to address regulatory and funding issues facing the pharmaceutical and biotech sectors following Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, as well as initiatives including the much- anticipated Accelerated Access Review, which was set up to make the UK the best place in the world to discover, develop and deliver innovative medicines to patients.”4 

The government has yet to clarify who will assume Freeman’s role as a co-chair of the steering group.

The timetable for the steering group’s work is ambitious: it is due to present its final recommendations to the Ministerial Industry Strategy Group by early September. Teams will cover six distinct workstreams:

Source: Adapted from the UK-EU Life Sciences Transition Program Briefing (July 2016).5

How important is the UK to the Life Sciences industry?

Punching above its weight

IMS Health reports that prescription drug sales in the UK totaled $27.7 billion in 2015, making the UK the third-largest pharmaceutical market in Europe and the sixth-largest in the world. The UK accounts for 0.2–4.5% of total global sales among the world’s top 20 life sciences companies. However, the UK is a significant market for the launch of new chemical entities (NCEs): from 2010 through 2014, only the US and Germany had more NCE launches.6 

The UK is also an important location for the global headquarters of the top 40 life sciences companies, tied with Germany in third place, behind the US and Japan. Furthermore, the UK ranks in the top five countries globally in terms of both pharmaceutical R&D investment and headcount. In addition, the UK is arguably the world leader in health technology assessment and real-world data collection.

For all of these reasons, the UK matters to the life sciences industry, and companies are anxious to minimize any adverse consequences that may result from Brexit.

In Part 2 of this article we will look ahead to the potential consequences of Brexit both before and after the UK actually leaves the EU.


1 Prescriptions Dispensed in the Community, Statistics for England (2005–2015) 

2 Theresa May—2016 speech to launch leadership campaign

3 New ministers for life sciences

4 George Freeman promoted, leaving life science minister role in doubt 

UK-EU Life Sciences Transition Program Briefing (July 2016) 6 Brexit—what now for pharma?

Brexit—what now for pharma?

“Brexit means Brexit”—but what will it mean for pharmaceutical market access?

On 23 June 2016, the UK electorate stunned politicians, pundits and business communities right around the world by voting to leave the European Union (EU). While the impact will naturally be greatest for the UK, the repercussions of the vote will be felt across Europe and beyond. In the weeks since the referendum, there have been countless assessments of the potential consequences of the UK’s decision to leave the EU. This three-part analysis focuses specifically on what Brexit will mean for pharmaceutical market access. Part 1 considers the current uncertainty surrounding the UK’s departure from the EU, the importance of the life sciences industry to the UK, and the importance of the UK to the international life sciences industry. Part 2 looks ahead to the potential consequences of Brexit both before and after the UK actually leaves the EU. Part 3 reflects on how the challenges associated with Brexit could be turned into opportunities.


Pricing repercussions

The most immediate effect of the referendum outcome on market access has been the sharp depreciation of the pound sterling against the euro and the US dollar, as well as other currencies. As a result, imported medicines have become more expensive in the UK, while exports have become cheaper. Exchange rate movements also have potentially significant implications for parallel trade across Europe. Historically, the UK was always a substantial net parallel importer, but relatively low prices for many drugs in the UK have complicated patterns of parallel trade in recent years. The UK remains a net parallel importer of certain drug classes, but is conversely a significant source of parallel exports for some other drug classes.1 The recent sharp decline in the value of sterling is likely to boost the overall volume of parallel exports from the UK and curb demand for parallel imports. An additional concern is the risk of supply shortages of drugs that are subject to substantial parallel exportation.

Lower prices in the UK, relative to other countries, could also have significant repercussions for external reference pricing in the EU and beyond. The UK is a comparator country for more than 20 countries around the world, including 17 EU member states,2 Australia, Canada, Japan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Taiwan. Countries might cut their prices for certain drugs in line with the relative decline in UK prices, potentially triggering a domino effect that will also have an impact on countries that indirectly reference UK prices.

Potential for increased  financial pressure on the National Health Service (NHS)

A further consequence of the referendum outcome in the short term is an increased risk of a significant economic slowdown. The Bank of England reports “no clear evidence” of a slump in the first month following the referendum3, but the International Monetary Fund recently downgraded its forecasts for gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the UK from 1.9% to 1.7% in 2016, and from 2.2% to 1.3% in 2017.4 A recent Reuters survey of economists found a median 60% likelihood of recession in the coming year.5 A recession would inevitably increase financial pressure on all government departments, including the NHS, which recorded a £2.45 billion budget deficit in the 2015–16 financial year.6

Prescription drug spending would likely be a prime target for any economies that the government considered necessary.

Relocation of the European Medicines Agency (EMA)

Once Article 50 is triggered and the countdown to Brexit begins, the EU will almost certainly have to take a fairly urgent decision regarding the relocation of the EMA from London, which has been the organization’s home since its creation in 1995. There appears to be a clear consensus that the EMA could not remain based in a country that is no longer a member state of the EU. The loss of the EMA would arguably contribute to a perception that the UK was becoming a less attractive market for the life sciences industry.



Forecasting the consequences of Brexit in the years after the UK leaves the EU is fraught with uncertainty at this very early stage in the process. However, it is possible to identify some appreciable risks.

Promise of increased funding for the NHS

The campaign to leave the EU argued that the UK’s contributions to the EU could be better used to fund essential services at home: most notably, the official campaign bus was emblazoned with the slogan, “We send the EU £350 million a week—let’s fund our NHS instead.”7 The Remain campaign robustly and repeatedly challenged this figure, and warned that a likely contraction of the economy might actually lead to an overall reduction in spending on the NHS. It remains unclear how much of the money saved from EU contributions will be allocated to healthcare, and whether spending on prescription drugs might grow as a result of increased investment in the NHS.

Future regulatory environment

The long-term shape of the UK market access environment will depend, to a significant degree, on whether, or to what extent, the country retains access to the Single Market. If the UK negotiates a deal similar to the Norwegian model, based on membership of the European Economic Area (EEA), the degree of change that will be required of the life sciences industry could be relatively modest. Although the EMA would have relocated to an EU member state, the regulatory status quo might otherwise remain largely unchallenged.

If, however, the UK ends up outside the EEA, the future shape of the country’s market access environment will be much more uncertain – a prospect that worries the life sciences industry. In the worst-case scenario, the UK would have to establish a completely independent regulatory system, a development that could substantially increase the workload and costs for drug manufacturers. The industry is also concerned that the UK might not be covered by the EU Clinical Trials Regulation, which is expected to streamline access to trials across the EU when it begins operation in 2018. Furthermore, London is currently due to become the home of the new European Unified Patent Court’s pharmaceutical unit in autumn 2016. If the UK were to be excluded from all of these arrangements, it would probably become a significantly less attractive market for the international life sciences industry. As a result, the country might no longer be a priority market for multinationals: manufacturers might delay the introduction of new medicines in the UK, or even decide to forgo a UK launch of certain drugs altogether. Companies have already shown their willingness to avoid marketing their products in major markets that they consider are offering them unfavorable terms: 25 medicines have been withdrawn in Germany in response to pricing reforms introduced in that country in 2011.

Diminished international influence in health technology assessment

As noted earlier, the UK is generally considered a world leader in the field of health technology assessment, largely on account of the international reputation and influence of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and the Scottish Medicines Consortium. It remains to be seen, however, whether the UK will be in a position in the long term to play an active role in the work of the European Network for Health Technology Assessment (EUnetHTA), and whatever body succeeds it after 2020. In the absence of a UK contribution to international HTA collaboration, agencies from other EU member states would need to fill the breach.

Implications for parallel trade and external reference pricing

In the event that the UK leaves the Single Market, the legal basis for parallel trade with EU member states would presumably cease to apply. It would be interesting to see if EU countries that take account of UK prices for external reference pricing would continue to include the UK in their baskets of comparator countries.

In Part 3 of this article we will reflect on how the challenges associated with Brexit could be turned into opportunities.


1 Parallel trade: Which factors determine the flow of goods in Europe?

2 Study on enhanced cross-country coordination in the area of pharmaceutical product pricing

3 Business as usual: Bank reports no slump

4 Uncertainty in the aftermath of the UK referendum

5 British slide into recession to force BoE’s hand next month – Reuters poll

6 Deficits in the NHS 2016

7 EU referendum: Statistics regulator loses patience with Leave campaign over ‘£350m a week’ EU cost figure


7 Trends Driving the Open Talent Economy

It’s no exaggeration to say that the current employment landscape is undergoing some of the most momentous changes since the Industrial Revolution. There has been an undeniable macro shift in today’s open talent economy around the world and in almost every sector.

This shift to the new future of work means that employers and employees must come to terms with a new environment in which flexibility and adaptability take priority over job security and long-term employment, structured environments, and standardised roles.

This emerging economy is principally driven by a few mega trends that are fundamentally changing the structure of talent and work. Here, we highlight the seven major trends that we’ve identified as fuelling the exciting future of work across the globe.

1. Technology – the foundation of the open-talent economy

When people can learn, share, and work anywhere in the world, the traditional talent assumptions are no longer ironclad. Advances in computing speed, storage, and power are making global, real-time collaboration possible in almost every discipline. Technology also allows for faster matching, onboarding, performance and knowledge transfer when engaging with independent workers, thus lowering overall transaction costs.

2. Modern forms of mobility

Greater technical and social mobility allows talent to be decoupled from physical geography and defined markets, making it possible to work anytime from virtually anywhere.

3. The speed of change

While the volatility of demand and ever-faster innovation cycles create a heightened demand for skills, it is almost impossible to predict the skills needed for the future of work and build up an internal talent pool. It is therefore necessary to develop an on-demand talent supply that transcends borders.


4. The social contract – a construct of the past

The social contract between large employers and their employees – where, in return for job security and a predictable future, employees gave a life-long commitment to their company – is far more rare today than it was only 10 to 15 years ago. The movement away from the social contract applies to employers and employees alike. Employers today rely on flexibility and adaptability in order to respond to volatilities in business volume and shortened innovation cycles, while employees no longer wish to work in traditional office environments or nine-to-five jobs.


5. From traditional structures to dynamic networks 

People now live public, fast-paced lives, expecting real-time feedback, collaboration and sharing. The open talent economy is a social environment where people can connect, share information, and build a sense of community. It is the greatest open-source app, shifting from traditional organisational structures to dynamic networks.

6. Educational enhancements 

Especially in emerging markets, the past 20 years have seen an explosion in the growth of the education sector—in terms of both traditional educations institutions and online educational programmes. The rapid expansion of pools of talented manufacturing, services and knowledge workers around the world continues to reshape global talent networks.

7. Talent marketplaces – the middle man

By giving access to the open talent market while keeping transaction costs low, new technology platforms decrease risk and enhance efficiency for companies as well as independent workers by facilitating better match-making and quality control.


Looking to the future of work

To meet the need for greater agility and flexibility, businesses will have to reconsider their approach to sourcing talent, and open up to this dynamic global talent market as they look to the future. This market will develop even further as people become more comfortable with working independently in order to enjoy better work/life balance, autonomy and career control.

Have an opinion on the post above? Join the conversation and share your views by following us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

​Windows on the Future of Work

Like many components of our office, we probably take the windows for granted, but the lineage of the word is interesting and worth exploring for a moment. It comes to us from the Old Norse for wind and eye and was the name given to an unglazed hole in a building through which you could see and feel which way the wind was blowing, and in a seafaring culture this was pretty important information.

Perhaps this is why business folk have appropriated the idea of strategic windows.

For every window opening that an entrepreneur spots, there is usually another that has begun to close. For Netflix, think Blockbuster. For Flickr, Kodak. For Spotify, Sony Music.

Change usually ferments a curious mixture of problems and opportunities and nowhere is this truer than in the changing world of work.

Windows: closing and closed

There is little disagreement that traditional work seems to be dying a slow, lingering death. It was of course the serried ranks of middle managers who were first to succumb in the Great De-layering, brought about by global competition, and facilitated by new technologies, especially the mobile Internet which permitted businesses to gather data more efficiently and to respond quicker.

Also exiting stage left is the once sacred idea of ‘a job for life’. Sir Cary Cooper estimates that 20 or 30 years ago, most workers had two or at most three employers. Today, it’s more likely to be a dozen. The impact on a person’s values and attitudes of moving from the career equivalent of the long-form novel to a collection of un-linked short stories is profound. While it is easy to generalise about demographic groups, today’s Milennials see the employer covenant as irrelevant and today’s young mobile professionals are happy just to live in the moment.

It was the manufacturing sector of course that took the brunt of economic restructuring. In the 1970’s, manufacturing in the UK accounted for 30% of all jobs, today it’s more like 10%, and its pre-eminence has been by supplanted by service industries and their unstoppable ability to soak up consumer disposable income.

Dobbs, Manyika and Woetzel in the their recent book [1] quote figures that show the big winners in job archetypes have been those involving ‘interactions’. These demand the critical thinking skills required to navigate the complex customer journeys found in service industries. The windows for other archetypes, transactional and routine production jobs, seem to be closing.

Meanwhile, massive skill gaps are beginning to open up, especially for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) qualified graduates and in the long term, the global war for talent is likely to become a little dirty.

Overall, we have a labor market double whammy: on the one hand, the world will have too few high skilled workers but not enough jobs for the low-skilled workers.

Windows: opening and open.

Just as the career ladders of the Fortune 500 and FTSE were being scrapped, a whole new approach to CV building has become the new normal. According to Edelman Beland, there are now 54m freelancers in the US who account for 34% of the total workforce. In the UK, the number of self-employed will soon be bigger than the number employed in the public sector.

This has been called The Entrepreneurial Economy [2] and it’s here we will meet its ambassador and icon, the Independent Professional.

The Independent Professional or iPro [3] is a new breed of worker who has chosen to live and work independently, and is thriving in a connected, disruptive world, happily undertaking mission critical projects for his clients. According to Eurostat there were already 8.5m iPros across the 27 Member states of the European Union in 2011 and they already represented more than 4% of the population; in the US, a recent forecast suggests there will be 24.5m iPros by 2019, and they will account for 15% of the total workforce.

As the number of iPros grows, so will all the functional and lifestyle support services that help them survive and prosper. Whether it’s trendy work hubs like We Work, outsourcing agencies for admin tasks or advanced mentoring and coaching consultants, there will be new many new opportunities flowing from the growth of the iPro population, especially in the megacities where iPros swarm.

Looking after this important but tiny strategic élite will become an increasingly important challenge and will provide the stimulus for a new range of ‘talent management’ offers.

Since its inception, a-connect has been helping companies to see and feel the winds of change in the world of work, and helping leading businesses to discover new ways of connecting with exceptional people, maintaining the core belief that access to talent is more important than its ownership.

As activists in the Open Talent Economy, we are proud to have partnered with the Wharton School to undertake a comprehensive, academic study on the changing face of work.

Please look out for other articles which deal with the themes that have emerged from this research, and a-connect hopes that wherever you call your office, you will be inspired by what you’ll see through these windows and what they reveal of the challenging future of work.


[1] No Ordinary Disruption, Public Affairs, New York, 2015

[2] Quoted by David Cameron

[3] Also referred to as “supertemp”