Episode 1

Mickey Pelletier: The Future of Talent and Workforce Strategy

A majority of companies are planning to leverage the external workforce this year, as an answer to the skill shortage, the volatile economy and the continued growth of the contractor workforce, globally. Have you future-proofed your Contingent Workforce strategy? Are you building one now? Tune into our exclusive interview with Contingent Workforce expert Mickey Pelletier (former Meta, Zillow and Accenture). Find out more about how the workforce landscape is changing in 2023 - plus tips and advice for navigating, building and implementing a best-in-class External Workforce Strategy.

December 30, 2023

Podcast transcript

Casey [00:00:04:05 - 00:00:29:09]

Hello and welcome to Workforces 3.0, a mini series by Worksome, where we'll talk about the future of talent and workforce strategy. I'm super excited as today I get to chat with contingent workforce expert and all around great guy Mickey Pelletier. He has spent the last 15 years in the contingent workforce management space running and earning programs, most recently at Metta.

Mickey Pelletier [00:00:29:11 - 00:00:34:12]

Hey, how you doing? Nice to be here. Nice to be here. Thanks for having me.

Casey [00:00:34:14 - 00:00:51:22]

Yeah, I'm so excited. So let's dive in. Tell me about your experience in the contingent workspace building and managing programs, both at Metta and before that, Zillow or any of your other companies as well. Like, how are you working with talent strategy?

Mickey Pelletier [00:00:51:24 - 00:02:55:09]

Yeah, so I've met I was the Commissioner for Strategy and Portfolio Management, our management lead there. So helping to develop that strategy. What do we want to be when we grow up? Where are we taking the program? They are moving into a third generation of a program. So how do we improve on the legacy work that's already been done?

And then not only building that strategy pie in the sky of, Hey, here's what we want to do, but actually developing and executing on programs, working with a slew of portfolio managers and project managers to execute on those projects, to improve the lifecycle and the various things that they have there. Obviously, they have a very large program and while I was at Zillow was actually the program owner there, so inherited a program there building on what had been done and trying to take that to the next level, you know, developing solid governance, working on how do we improve our technology, how do we build on our MSP, what other solutions are there?

Is there some direct sourcing out there? Should we be looking at freelance management, software services? How do we get our statement of work workers integrated in there? So really from a talent strategy, trying to get that that total visibility, who, what, where, why, where and at what cost? To me, that's one of the most pivotal things organizations can be doing these days, is to arm themselves with that visibility of their workforce.

A lot of that is there on the FTE side, Right. But when it comes to employees, all our extended workforce, contingent workforce, whatever the terminology of the week is, that isn't always the day or some companies are better than others about that. But as the industry continues to grow, that that seems to be the big the big thing right now that a lot of companies are targeting.

Casey [00:02:55:11 - 00:03:07:05]

Yeah, that that makes sense. And what do you think are the biggest opportunities in the space to kind of get this right and innovate and start taking that workforce strategy to the next level?

Mickey Pelletier [00:03:07:08 - 00:06:19:21]

Yeah, I mean, I think organizations that are, you know, higher up the food chain leadership level need to have an appetite and a readiness for this to business now as they take their program seriously, but, you know, arm their progress there continue workforce programs with the the expertise, the bandwidth and the wherewithal to do the right things to give to allow them to get that total visibility and to make your key decisions.

Factoring in contingent workforce to the talent acquisition and headcount planning cycle. Every year we see so many layoffs, particularly in the tech space over the past several months. I personally feel that if if companies had been leveraging their contingent workforce more adequately, the layoffs would have been as robust. And if they would have scaled more effectively, I think things could be a little bit differently.

Maybe that's just the the optimist in me and my love for contingent workforce, but I honestly believe things could be could be different and less people could be out of jobs. So you you I to me I think getting that sort of visibility is is the big piece. But then we're seeing a lot of new up and coming systems, direct sourcing of freelance management are the big new kids on the block.

You know, direct sourcing to me isn't necessarily a new thing. It's it's really existed for a while. It's just a twist on things that have been done in the past and a new way of getting talent to, you know, the hiring managers of the world. But how do we get all that integrated, You know, the MSP, the VMs, that's legacy that's been around for a while, and then it's evolved even in in the 15 going on 16 years that I've been a part of that.

But now we're seeing this direct sourcing and curation of talent, and then you have freelance management services, the access side, the one thing that's really lacking is is how do we get that all in one space? How do we get that total visibility? I don't think the VMs to the MSRP is going away. I think it needs to make way though, for the freelance management systems and there needs to be a way to get all of that together because as of now, not all the SMBs play nice with the VMs in the MSP.

And so that I think, hinders buyers in getting that total visibility. I think the ability to quickly go get a freelancer and have them start tomorrow and have them start doing the work is so awesome. That's what we need because as an engagement hiring manager, at the end of the day, I don't care what your classification is, I don't care if you're a contractor or WIC.

All I care is that I have work that needs to be done. I need it done three weeks ago. So how do we get that going? How do I find the right talent? So to me, the visibility and the integration of the various buying channels, to me that's really, I think where we're going. And I I'm passionate about this, so I think I probably missed the question you originally intended.

I'm down, I'm down my own path right now, but I'm going to go with it. And that's those are my personal feelings.

Casey [00:06:19:24 - 00:07:01:21]

No, that was yeah, I think all that is like super interesting and fair and, you know, it's it's such a complex space for companies to navigate at the moment. And, you know, you spoke to the need to hire faster and be able to bring on these freelancers. You know, tomorrow. What do you see or have you seen or even worked on yourself in terms of innovative processes that actually allow that to be possible?

Because we know with, you know, the VMs or the MSP, like it often becomes a blocker. So yeah. Have you have you had any experience with that in terms of faster time to hire, better experience for the person coming in as well?

Mickey Pelletier [00:07:01:24 - 00:08:32:03]

Yeah, I mean I personally think that, I think it's it is the way of the future. My, my curiosity is really around compliance. And you know, we have you brought this freelancer on, okay, Are they going to have access to the organization's system? Are they going to be on site? Are they going to have access to any privacy data, that type of stuff?

You know, that compliance, I think, is the main piece that concerns me. How do we know that they have access to the right stuff? You know, perhaps they're just going and writing a blog article for you. That's fine. You know, that's their there's no a no concern there. And I think that is a channel right now or the the freelance management is the way to go.

But where they're actually touching your data or your systems or coming on site, I think that's where the compliance piece I don't I don't honestly know yet how well the freelance management firms manages that. We know how that's done. Onboarding through the MSPs and the VMs and perhaps it works just as well. I've yet to see that done it in a great way, but I know what's being done.

Just have not had a personal experience with that. I've had, you the opportunity to to see how it can be done but have not seen a fully integrated and working yet. But I think it is the way to go and it has a place, you know, hand in hand with the rest of the other channels that are currently in use.

Casey [00:08:32:06 - 00:08:51:15]

Yeah, you're right. Compliance and classification are such an important part of the the experience for a worker and also can often be a barrier. So getting that right, I think is so important for businesses both in the US, UK, but even globally. It's just getting.

Mickey Pelletier [00:08:51:17 - :09:57:20]

Yeah. One one of the piece I want to say sorry to interject, which is that, you know, all the compliance in the world can be there, but often you know, with that risk of co employment comes down to the treatment from the company themselves. How are they treating those workers, you know, if they're an independent contractor, well, hey, you should be pretty hands off with them.

You should say, hey, we need X, Y, or Z by such and such day. Maybe be able to give a little bit of feedback every once in a while. But if you start blurring the lines, interacting, working with them day in and day out, working hand in hand, are they really an independent contractor? I don't think a lot of buyers know that and enforce that and perhaps that's okay and nothing comes of it.

But one day, you know, it's not. And there's going to be tax implications and co employment implications and suddenly, you know, that's going to be, you know, cause a little bit more of an uproar. Hey, maybe it'll never be there. But you know that that's my concern as ABI and that would be my concern as a buyer. You leveraging all that is how are we actually treating these workers within the realms of their classification and then how we actually engage them?

Casey [00:09:57:22 - 00:10:50:17]

Yeah, I think that's such a valuable point. You know, I think something we were talking and seeing a lot is the importance of being able to retain these employees. So being able to hire them again, have a second, third, fourth engagement with a really strong freelancer or contractor and being able to build that network and that talent pool so that you do have better, quicker access to these people and bringing them on.

So just to to tap in a little bit to your experience in the media and tech side, when you were at metaphor example, one of the biggest, both media and tech companies out there, what role did you see the external workforce having and what role do you think it will play there in the future, just given the current market and the also growing freelancer and contractor workforce in both the US and globally?

Mickey Pelletier [00:10:50:19 - 00:12:39:08]

Yeah, I think that it's only going to continue to grow. It's a great way to access niche talent quickly, effectively and hopefully compliantly. I think that's going to continue to grow. But the new skill set I think is is, is the one that really helps continue to work for stand out. There are so many channels for engaging talent.

There are so many suppliers, vendors, talent, procurement, talent, curation places out there that, you know, they can find you that software developer and, you know, middle of nowhere Montana that you didn't know about. And with the you I think continued engagement of remote work, I think that opens things up. So in the tech and media space. Yeah it's I think going to continue to be a powerhouse of of access when it comes to that type of talent.

And it's only because I think you could access those diverse talent pools and remote location. But there's just there's so many channels. So your availability of talent, I think, is there to get those needs, skill sets and then as far as engagement and retain, I think that's a brilliant thing. Once you've worked with somebody and you know they're great, but they're a freelancer, hey, we could bring them back in, you know, and they know what they're doing.

You know, their work. You trust it. They're not your employee, but they're your partner and they can provide you awesome work and you know when to bring them back. And if you quickly do that, I think that's only going to get better as we figure out how to integrate this all together. And we understand, you know, these various buying channels for how they tie into one, you know, I would say a talent pool, but it's essentially just one massive talent pool with lots of avenues to get into it.

Casey [00:12:39:10 - 00:13:03:13]

Yeah, that's I think what know is on the mind of a lot of people at the moment, how to have that agile workforce layer. And you've been in the space for a really long time. I think it's safe to say. Is there anything innovative you've seen recently that you are super excited about, kind of excited to see where it goes and have been maybe waiting for?

Mickey Pelletier [00:13:03:15 - 00:15:03:10]

Yeah, I think the when I started out, you know, the MSP was was fairly new. The idea of MSP fairly new, you know mid 2000. That's right I mean staffing itself has been around for over, over 50 years here. You think back to the antiquated times of the Kelly girl, right? You know, probably certainly I shouldn't say out to the masses here, but it's what it was way back in the day and temp staffing and then the advent of the MSSP and the VMs, it's really come a long way.

Now the big focus is, you know, all all the digitized, you know, access to talent and then the statement of work, all those vendor workers and getting that spend under management and making sure we have that visibility. And then independent contractors have been around for a while. And this idea of freelancers now we have entire marketplaces where, you know, anybody I'll pick on Montana, a middle of Montana developer, you know, he can go work for, you know, a developer, a tech company out in Budapest and work wherever he wants.

He could fly down, work on the beach if he wants. And that's that remote work and that ability to work flexibly is huge. I think the biggest thing for me is just all the systems that are out there and these talent pools. That's really cool. You know, 15 years ago, 16 years ago, I didn't know that existed. How 16 years ago, I didn't know what contingent workforce was.

I was lucky to land a job and six months into it I like clicked on is like, oh, contingent workforce. Now this makes sense and here we are now. But yeah, to me I think the freelance management, the talent pools, all of those systems are really exciting. But then I'm repeating myself how that all integrates together. So buyers have multi channels, but then they really just have one front door to get everything they need.

To me, that's the future.

Casey [00:15:03:12 - 00:15:48:16]

Yeah, that integration piece and just making sure every process is, is checking the right box then for freelancers that we're not just throwing them in with vendors and treating them like resources instead of people. I think it's something we we need to focus on and companies really need to take stock of this year. They're going to grow their external workforces, or at least that's what all the data is saying.

But I just wanted to ask. So yeah, you mentioned at the beginning of your career, when you reflect back on that time, what have you learned and like what advice would you give someone today who's for the first time maybe building out one of these programs, you know, a contingent workforce program in in a company like Medha or, you know, another another tech company.

Mickey Pelletier [00:15:48:18 - 00:17:26:16]

Yeah. So to me, I mean, I think if you're building out a program from scratch, you know, a design thinking perspective, really having the end user experience in mind, you'll see SAT scores of the MSP VMs experience are typically notoriously not great. And I think part of the reason is users majority of users use the system one or two times a year and you tend to forget when you only do something one or two times a year.

So being able to make the process as simple and as pain free as possible, to me, the end user experiences is the most one of the most important. But then also change management, making sure that the training and the education is there. You know, most people in the world don't understand what contingent workforce is even in, you know, any type of professional service.

It's it's hard to understand what it is. People don't care. The difference between a vendor contractor, I see freelancer, all that. So being able to give them an explanation and understanding, I think is is one of the key thing as well. And on top of the end user experience. But really knowing like what's what is important to your end users, what do they really need and what are those pain points, not just throwing your system or process at the wall, seeing what sticks, but, you know, hearing from the people that are going to use this.

What is it they want and how do they want it to work and how are you going to get there? And being able to articulate that to them?

Casey [00:17:26:19 - 00:17:36:08]

Yeah, that's that's super that's super important. How how would you like go about doing that if you were doing that today or today.

Mickey Pelletier [00:17:36:10 - 00:19:34:10]

Right now I'm, I'm yeah. And now that I'm looking for my next big role and doing some freelancing myself, you know if I was pulled in right now they said Mikki build us a program. You know, a lot of it. There's no like one perfect program out there. You know, a lot of it is, okay, what are you doing right now?

What has worked? What have I seen work elsewhere, you know, in a comparable company or compare variable setup, you know, because you need to get your footing. You need to get stock of who are your contingent workers that you have right now? What are your classifications? What's your risk appetite? Maybe you don't even want to deal with I.

CS Because you're, you're concerned about the, the risk tolerance. You know, I think there's no perfect program out there and you have to start small with baby steps, getting stock of where you're at and then building, you know, you get your temp staff, understand you get your SSW, understand, you know, maybe along the way you're looking at direct sourcing.

Do you have an appetite for for freelance management services? Maybe in the beginning that's how you are getting. Maybe you need to start with that because that is where you are, that's what you're currently using and that's, that's your big thing, right now. I think it's all about baby steps. I've made the mistake in the past, so let's do it all.

Let's just get it all under there. And that's not too much. Companies aren't ready for that level of change. They have a tough time understanding what a temporary contractor even is. So trying to understand the nuance of that versus you are a freelancer and throw all of that into the mix is going to be a little bit scary.

So, I mean, I would I would I would take it slow, understand the appetite, and try to figure out what's best for that client and their situation, because there's is several different ways to go and a lot of great options. But what's best for you?

Casey [00:19:34:12 - 00:19:59:24]

Yeah, that's that's that's all really fair and and when people say they like maybe would prefer not to work with independent contract areas at all or independent workers at all, what do you think the risk is there? Is that there you know, a risk of maybe limiting your talent pool and your access to top talent and skill sets and, you know, just like the direct going.

Mickey Pelletier [00:20:00:01 - 00:22:25:12]

Yeah, I think there's still that antiquated fear of co employment and the risk there of is this person really an independent contractor. But I think, you know, there's ability for education there that hey, it's full employment isn't the scary thing. You know there there's there's there's growing employment that's okay that's natural that's part of the process. There's some boundaries that can be set to minimize that risk.

You know, And then with independent contractors, there's I see compliance partners out there that can support you and indemnify you and take on a lot of the risk and make sure and hold your hand along the way that everything's going to be okay. But your legal team has in your employment law team has to be okay with that.

And some companies are not they they're risk averse and they don't even want to do that. And that's okay. They have to know that about themselves and that appetite. And maybe down the road after case study after case that comes out that, hey, it's not this big scary thing, then it could come on. But I think at the same time, being able to educate them along the way is really that's the main thing.

I don't think anybody's scared of talent pools or anything. I think anybody should be open to the idea of talent pools. I think that companies in the past, they want to limit the talent pools they want to limit. So, hey, this position isn't going out to 50 suppliers, it's going out to the seven key suppliers or ten key suppliers in tried and tested partners that have worked.

There's all these things in play out there, so I think it's a matter of your education and understanding and giving people the warm and fuzzy that this is going to be okay. And this is a great way to get your talents. And we just have to have an open mind and perhaps the way we've been doing things in the past, it still works.

But hey, there may be other ways that may be faster, more cost effective and and get us what we need.

Casey [00:22:25:19 - 00:23:09:03]

Yeah, I love that point you made. It's it's it's really about Yeah. Finding the talent and having that, you know, smaller pool of talent that you know, you can rely on. And I think that again, just to tie this back to the retention point, it's so important for companies to figure out how they can retain their talent so that they can, you know, quickly hire someone that they know that maybe a colleague has worked with or they've even worked with themselves before.

And I think that's going to be a common trend this year. I don't know about you, but do you think that companies, you know, who aren't thinking this way have any, you know, risks they might face or challenges they might face?

Mickey Pelletier [00:23:09:05 - 00:24:27:16]

Yeah. I mean, everyone wants to to say everyone wants to be on the leading edge. They think they want to be on the leading edge. But are they willing to make that leap? I mean, I think there's you could miss out on talent. I mean, that that's the you know, I think the worry is is are we going to find the right people?

Are these positions going to going to sit open and is is the talent that we find are going to be the best for this role? Because if you're not finding it through your existing channels, well, then, you know, that's a different conversation. If you're meeting your needs and getting everything you need, perhaps you don't need another system involved and you're getting what you need.

But what are your end users think? What are your KPIs and sales? Are you hitting things in a timely fashion? Is there opportunity for cost savings? If all that's good and fine and dandy and you're not just being complacent because you want to avoid change that okay, great. You're in a good space, you're ahead of the game. But these new things are coming out for a reason because people aren't finding what they need in a timely compliance and cost savings cost effective way.

So I think there's possibly the fear of missing out, but then there's just a fear of change. I think is is is one of the big things for personally and professionally.

Casey [00:24:27:19 - 00:25:21:23]

Yeah, I think you've hit the nail on the head. It's it's really about, yeah, that complacency and maybe fear of change, but obviously it's needed if all of these new innovative solutions are popping up. And I think the the vast majority of people want to innovate, it's just helping them figure out how to do that. So I think you've you've provided a lot of amazing insight.

We have to wrap up here in a moment. But just one kind of final question on the industry is like just about predictions for the future. Like what do you think the newest innovation will be in the next few years in the space? Or what do you think it should be at least like, what should companies be doing to improve this process?

Like you say, for the end user, for the external workers themselves as well? And then, you know, to have big impact on companies from a change management perspective?

Mickey Pelletier [00:25:21:25 - 00:27:50:03]

Yeah, to me I think the two to me if I, if I can, if I had the coding and skills and all the money in the world, you know for the buyer just one front door solution I have a need I don't I don't care where that comes from. Maybe I need to talk about that need and how I'm going to use this worker.

And then that roots me to, Hey, you need an FTE. You need and I see you need a freelancer, but everything is on the back end. They don't really have to deal with multiple systems. They deal with one system. And so one one place that allows them to use source through the multi channels and then a concierge service on the back end that handles 90% of the process for them.

All the manager really has to decide is, hey, we'd like to speak with this person or we want to interview. You're very simplistic. So you click decisions. If they want to be more hands on, they can. A lot of the things that that's what the VMs, that's what the MSP is for. But with so many systems, so many channels of buying out there, it's becoming more complex.

And for the end user, they want it to be simple so that just that one one stop shop for all of your talent needs, regardless of classification or whatever. So to me that that's where it's at. The market is becoming saturated with a lot of systems right now. Which one is right for you? It's tough for the buyers to decide that when they go to implement.

So to get to that goal, it's a lot of decision making. The other piece, I think, is having the leadership representation from both procurement h.r. And legal and even i.t. to make effective decisions with their contingent workforce. We can't rely on estes anymore. The freelance contingent market is just so wide open right now and ready and people want to do work but on their terms key leadership decision.

Key decision makers from leadership within companies need to get on board with that and figure out a way to make that work for them so they can stay ahead of the curve and make sure they're getting the right talent, right time, Right, right. PRICE As everyone in the industry says, those are the two key things that I really will look for for the next couple of years.

But I mean, I think if it was that easy, everyone would be doing it. It takes a lot of time to get there.

Casey [00:27:50:06 - 00:28:08:18]

Yeah, well, hopefully we will see some of that happen, maybe this year, maybe next year. So I just I would love to just end by just changing the topic a little bit so we can all get to know you. Sure. So is when you're not talking about work, what do you like to talk about?

Mickey Pelletier [00:28:08:21 - 00:28:40:16]

Well, the wife and kids always, always come to mind. Those are big players in my life every day. You know, personally, if I'm not hanging out with them, I'm playing with them, maybe playing some music. I like writing, recording music. I see a guitar in the background, a whole other music studio around me. When I'm able to make time for that, that's another passion of mine.

I don't know how it ties into contingent workforce, but maybe I'll freelance record music one day. We'll see.

Casey [00:28:40:19 - 00:28:45:14]

Oh, that's amazing. So you play the guitar. Do you play any other instruments?

Mickey Pelletier [00:28:45:18 - 00:28:53:09]

Drums, piano, bass, dabble at all? It's not great, but. But I have fun doing it.

Casey [00:28:53:11 - 00:28:59:06]

I love that. Like a one man band. And what are your favorite owners or artists?

Mickey Pelletier [00:28:59:08 - 00:29:31:07]

I love Dave MATTHEWS Band. Tragically, half of all sorts of good music. I dating myself as a as a nineties and early 2000 scared half. But yeah, I love love music love going to live music. I really like it all and glad that the pandemic's in a spot now where we can go see some live music maybe we'll take the kids to Dave MATTHEWS Band concert one day when they're old enough and they're ready.

Casey [00:29:31:09 - 00:29:58:09]

Yeah, I remember. I remember Dave MATTHEWS Band as well. That's amazing. Yeah, well, I agree. I'm so glad the gigs and concerts are back and we can all enjoy that. But thank you so much for joining me today and just tell our listeners where they can get in touch with you if they have any other questions about either music or contingent workforce, where can they find you on LinkedIn or anywhere else?

Mickey Pelletier [00:29:58:11 - 00:30:26:06]

Yeah, I'm on I'm on LinkedIn. I'm looking for my next big opportunity. And in the meantime, doing you contingent workforce consulting and advisory work. So happy to help out. I'm listed as Michael Pelletier on LinkedIn. You can always email me directly at mic. Am I c k pellet pll 83 gmail dot com and would be happy to work with you and talk to you on all things contingent workforce.

Casey [00:30:26:08 - 00:30:30:23]

Amazing. Well, thank you, Miki. It's been a really a pleasure to speak with you today.

Mickey Pelletier [00:30:30:25 - 00:30:35:17]

Yeah. Thank you so much for having me. This is great and yeah thank you so much.

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