Conventional wisdom used to make us feel secure that offshoring and outsourcing was limited to low value-add activity. That knowledge-based economies would be safe from competitive pressures coming from outside. That the sometimes frightening ramifications of the “flat world” detailed by Thomas Friedman more than a decade ago were able to be held at bay by offering free lattes and bring your dog to work days.
However, silently beneath the surface there is a seismic shift underfoot: in an increasingly connected world, talent is truly no longer to be retained and constrained by geography and outdated brick and mortar business models. By some estimations, by the year 2020, fully 48% of the workforce will be freelance. The implications for the very nature of business structures, organizing principles and talent acquisition are immense.
It is true, as many would posit, that there have always been cycles of consolidation and deconstruction in the agency world. They would argue that what we are witnessing is simply another cycle of talent offshoots which will eventually be consumed by the voracious appetite of the multi-national holding companies…and, thus, continue the cycle.
But these voices fail to recognize the true magnitude of the shift. Technology has made the need for physical presence virtually obsolete. In most domestic markets talent simply shuffles in a circle like a game of musical chairs from one agency to the next; the localized battle for talent the pool in any given geography is shallow and often stagnant. This is especially true in small to medium DMAs or markets that are not attractive for one reason or another.
Once this decentralization takes hold — and rest assured it already has — there is no going back. The shift to a truly decentralized knowledge-based economy will be the dominant model for the foreseeable future. Those who adjust their legacy thoughts and models and acknowledge this dynamic will be positioned to leapfrog firms that insist on the traditional proximity-based model of talent acquisition and retention.
You can choose to fight it. Or you can choose to embrace it. But you cannot choose to stop it.