Is Flexible Talent the Next Wave of PE Operators?

How should we look at the hybrid-work culture shift for private equity operators?

Hybrid teams are the new normal. The previous two years accelerated the entire global workforce to adopt online functionality. Internal company policies were rewritten en masse to support the shift for safety and because the best talent was demanding it. Yet, anytime businesses and conglomerates are forced to pivot, struggles float to the surface, and holes are poked from what they were able to do on the fly, this time relating to how they keep these virtual and hybrid teams functioning cohesively at the same level pre-pandemic, while still helping workers adapt with the new skills required to be successful in these newly positioned roles.

What is the main solution to these problems, specifically for high-value / mission-critical work? Our friends at McKinsey wrote a beautiful thesis on flexible talent allocation that we’re starting to see across our own portfolio companies and is worth giving more eyeballs to the idea, but with an investor-backed touch-up. Fewer role functions are contained within one department and one value proposition and one focused on deploying a few key talent hires when and where they are needed most, enabling the team to stay nimble, not get overwhelmed, and still have the ability to redeploy each individual as functionally necessary (whether it is based on project / operational demand, consumer-driven, or putting out fires).

While adopting this practice to an acquired portfolio company may be an intense challenge (how many changes can the original workforce of the company handle during an acquisition?), it can reveal itself as a new model for operating executives that we hold so near and dear to our hearts at Flywheel since this change is best suited for specialists with rare skillsets driving a lot of value internally. Yet, teams within the company that is highly systemized and have a touch of repetition within the daily tasks would not benefit as much as this nimble, specialized approach. Many organizations will only shift to this methodology for project-based high-impact work, and less so around financial planning and analysis, compliance, and other essential back-office functionalities.

When you have these specialized roles, there will inevitably be competing projects vying for the same operator’s time, and the organization must make clear expectations and work together with the high-leverage talent to determine what moves the needle most, who will oversee what projects are prioritized, where does the leadership and outsourcing element come into play (i.e. will these flexible roles have a team underneath them? How will they be managed?).

Responsibilities of the management team used to sit in one hierarchical pyramid, with work getting divided up as it became a priority - now, these flexible and high-impact operator teams are forcing a change internally. The change is supported by the shift to remote work, as well as a stronger preference for work-life balance, but with this shift carves out new roles necessary to maintain effectiveness and keep all teams on track as operators require talent from each team to support them on bespoke projects. As you are aware, the past few years have required all teams globally to shift into a new era of employee and stakeholder prioritization and management. Although the work is the same and output requirements are the same or higher, companies must continue to adapt and walk the line between keeping their top talent happy, while growing to (ideally) record highs in IRR and CAGR. Drop us a message if you are looking to hire or be hired into a flexible, high-impact role similar to what we mentioned today.

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