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!