Interim talent means more equitable environments for the future of work

As the chaos and uncertainty around the pandemic starts to settle and businesses dust off the debris of the last year, it’s becoming clear that a new world of work is upon us. What many were predicting would soon be the “new normal” is now the actual normal—especially when it comes to work. The transition back into physical office spaces does not mean the end of remote work. Instead, companies are embracing a hybrid workforce.

Hybrid work combines virtual and onsite employees, whether on alternating days or on a permanent basis, and is a trend that companies are embracing across the country. A recent report from Gartner revealed that 59 percent of companies intend employees to work remotely occasionally, while 32 percent are allowing remote work full-time. For many leaders, however, this now means transitioning again into a new working style: one that facilitates productivity and collaboration among in-office and virtual workers (think: all-hands meetings with half the team sitting together at a conference table and the other half calling in from Zoom).

This is why project-based work is on the rise. Instead of onboarding full-time employees remotely, which has been one of the biggest challenges for HR leaders during the pandemic, companies are calling on skilled experts to complete tasks on a contractual, as-needed basis. As we drive ahead in the new normal, project-based workers will be fueling the future of work.

Project-based work is an integral part of a successful remote workforce

Across the 1,000-plus private-equity-based projects BluWave supported in the last 12 months, one thing stood out: investments in people continue to be the number one focus area in 2021. While technology has helped companies to adapt to remote work, hiring employees who have the skills to work with the technology has been even more valuable.

Hiring workers for specific, often discrete, projects means you can vet candidates based on their ability to meet the demands of that project. Using an Intelligent Talent Network can help you match potential interim workers to those interim needs. This model works well for private equity firms, from senior partners to portfolio company executives, because it engenders trust and rewards results. If you hire people who are skilled, action-oriented, and self-motivated, you can set goals and give them “rope” to freely deliver the best result. Ultimately, project-based work ensures that rewards are aligned and incentives are rewarded in exchange for top performance, which is more difficult to achieve with a more amorphous scope.

Interim work means more equitable environments

Hiring based on a potential employee’s ability to perform against predetermined, outcomes-based objectives helps eliminate bias (unconscious or not) in the recruitment process. According to Harvard Business School, “In recruiting … unconscious bias and affinity bias often express themselves as a preference for one candidate or another because of ‘culture fit.’ Resumes may be selected because of a shared alma mater, or because of an unconscious bias to one name over another.”

When hiring for a long-term fit, companies may choose to give preference to candidates who meet unspoken criteria off-paper—because culture-fit and soft skills are generally more relevant for full-time employees. With project-based work, it’s the results that matter. If someone has a track record of success, they meet the criteria. It’s that simple. Plus, in this system, rewards are made equitable, too. If your project scope is clear, you can offer fair and just compensation for the work that is done—it provides equality of opportunity to perform.

Creating collaborative environments with distributed workers

The key to effectively utilizing project-based workers is putting the right systems in place to seamlessly integrate them into the existing processes and work efficiently across project stakeholders for the duration of their contract.

Clearly defining and communicating goals from the onset, delineating established deadlines, and integrating collaboration tools into operations will help leaders stay on top of a project. These are hallmarks of agile development, which involves short, project-to-project scrums with siloed teams that collaborate consistently through the scrum. Research has shown that agile teams are 25 percent more productive than their industry peers because team members focused on one task at a time.

You can also implement clear structures for assigning roles and accountabilities. A RACI chart is a tried-and-true matrix used to assign roles on a project. A properly used RACI outlines who is responsible for executing tasks, who is accountable for the work, who is consulted throughout the project, and who is informed on project progress. This helps eliminate confusion, reduce duplication or redundancy, and ensure those deadlines are met.

For a workforce still in flux, those equipped for project-based work act as connective tissue and can build the foundation for future stability. Companies that embrace this wave of “normal” will likely be the ones that ultimately find themselves in a winning position.

This article originally appeared in HRFuture Magazine.

Why Diversity is Key to Productivity and Innovation

BluWave has worked with hundreds of companies across a variety of industries ranging from manufacturing and consumer goods to information technology and healthcare. Despite the differences that exist between them, one thing remains constant: for today’s companies, innovation and diversity are inseparable. There is no bigger obstacle to the introduction and refinement of new ideas than groupthink, which is why the most creative companies are the ones that encourage robust discussion and debate from multiple perspectives. Diversity is not just a matter of recruiting employees with different backgrounds – it is an ethos that your company should seek to cultivate at every level.

How Diversity Can Be An Engine Of Productivity

Diversity is not just a goal companies should pursue for its own sake – it is a way to pressure test ideas and come up with novel and effective solutions to problems. This is why it should come as no surprise that diverse and inclusive work environments often lead to higher performance. For example, a 2018 Boston Consulting Group study found that “increasing the diversity of leadership teams leads to more and better innovation and improved financial performance.” Meanwhile, according to Deloitte, companies with inclusive cultures are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets.

Certain forms of diversity can lead to a reduction in negative outcomes for companies as well – a report from MSCI ESG Research found “fewer instances of governance-related controversies such as cases of bribery, corruption, fraud and shareholder battles” with boards that included women. However, while eliminating bias and increasing representation are essential to the health of a company, these are ways to address a more fundamental issue: diversity of thought.

When companies prioritize diversity of thought, they do not just become more innovative – they are also better able to identify and hedge against risk. Companies that value diversity of thought have access to a broader range of viewpoints and insights, and they make employees feel like stakeholders whose contributions are welcomed and appreciated. In turn, these employees are empowered to offer their perspectives without reservation and speak freely to managers about problems that need to be addressed.

Challenges To Diversity & Inclusion

A commitment to diversity and inclusion begins with equitable hiring practices, but this is an area that has always been rife with bias and discrimination. For example, studies in Sex Roles and the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences have found that female, black, and LatinX candidates were viewed as less competent and hirable than their peers. There is also evidence that women think they need to be more qualified than men do when applying for the same positions.

There are many ways to address these inequities in the hiring process. First, determine exactly what you are looking for in a candidate and consistently measure potential hires against a specific set of criteria. This can reduce the bias associated with subjective in-person interviews and identify a larger pool of qualified applicants. Second, develop lists of pre-vetted candidates (this is what BluWave provides to our clients) so you know everyone under consideration already meets your requirements, regardless of race, gender, etc. And third, consider hiring employees on a project-to-project basis (what I call the agile workforce). This will naturally bring a broader range of perspectives to the company because it means new employees are being hired on a regular basis.

Diversity in all its forms is becoming a top priority for companies in many different industries. To compete, the first step is building your hiring strategy around the discovery and recruitment of candidates who meet your needs and bring unique skills and experience to the table.

Promoting Diversity In All Its Forms

Companies are increasingly prioritizing diversity across a broad range of categories. As we discussed above, this does not just mean increasing demographic representation – it also means creating an inclusive culture that facilitates open dialogue and cooperation at every level of the company. Real diversity and inclusion require companies to listen to employees, take their contributions seriously, and amplify the widest range of voices possible. There are many forms of diversity – from racial to geographic to socioeconomic – and companies should celebrate and learn from all of them.

According to Gallup, one of the reasons one-third of employees feel disengaged at work is the perception that their viewpoints and concerns are not taken seriously. The survey found that just 30 percent of American employees strongly agree that their opinions seem to count at work. This should be a disconcerting fact to any company that values the diversity of thought – the majority of employees feel like their contributions are being dismissed, which will make them less inclined to offer suggestions and point out problems when they arise.

This is the opposite of inclusion, but companies can change course by actively seeking feedback via the voice of the employee platforms (which can highlight instances of bias or discrimination), encouraging managers to be receptive to all points of view, and breaking down silos that can separate departments and teams from one another.

Diversity is a word that pops up on corporate websites and in training handbooks often, but company leaders often have a superficial commitment to making their workplaces more diverse. But this status quo is rapidly changing as companies increasingly recognize that an emphasis on diversity does not just make the world a fairer place – it also leads to happier, more innovative, and more productive workforces that will have a greater economic impact.


The original version of this article appeared in People Talk.

In 2021 Focus on Healthy Communication, Collaboration, and Inclusivity

Despite all the uncertainty and disruption still lingering from last year, 2021 offers ample opportunities for companies to refocus on what matters most: healthy communication and collaboration, an inclusive workplace culture, and ultimately greater productivity. While companies need to understand what will be different in the post-COVID era, they should also remember what will stay the same: the need for real human connection, whether it is mediated by technology or not.


#1 – New Ways To Assess and Engage With Employees

Office politics has always been a fact of life – employees have often been rewarded by who knows how to best navigate office politics versus who does the best work. We are now seeing signs that remote work can help companies reward employees based on merit and by giving traditionally overlooked colleagues more of a voice and having more objective processes to measure them. In some cases, the remote work era is even prompting companies to consider new employee performance metrics altogether.

According to a recent PwC survey of U.S. executives in the process of shifting to remote work, most companies are focused on “greater flexibility in work hours” (57 percent) to drive productivity. In effect, outmoded measures of employee performance – such as the number of hours an employee works – are becoming less important. Companies are instead moving to a more merit-based model: efficiency in completing a task, quality of work, and the ability to collaborate productively with colleagues.

While the trend toward evidence-based employee assessment was already underway before COVID-19, the pandemic has privileged some forms of interaction and evaluation over others. For example, a recent Deloitte report explains that remote work is “usually assigned by the outcome, instead of by task, enabling productivity assessment.”

The influence of office politics on managers’ perceptions becomes more limited as they make assessments based on concrete outputs versus subjective impressions. Although after-work drinks or trips to the golf course help colleagues build closer connections, these activities can also be exclusionary and give managers a biased attitude toward employees’ performance.

We will never get to a point where in-person interactions are completely supplanted by technology (nor should we want this to be the case), but managers should take this opportunity to determine if their assessment methods are as rigorous and impartial as they can be.


#2 – Balancing Productivity With “Organized Serendipity”

Many employees have proven that they’re capable of being just as productive at home as they are in the office – in fact, 94 percent of employers say productivity has been just as high or higher during the pandemic as it was before. Other surveys (such as this one conducted by the Boston Consulting Group) have found that a significant proportion of employees have maintained their productivity while working remotely. Meanwhile, 72 percent of office workers say they would like to work from home at least two days per week.

Although productivity has remained steady, employees haven’t been able to interact with their colleagues or clients/customers as naturally as before. Without chance encounters in the break room, close colleagues poking their heads around corners to say “hi,” and the occasional coffee meetup with a client, employees may feel disconnected. As we all know by now, this can eventually take an emotional and psychological toll. What can companies do to address this?

As offices remain closed and people continue to work from home, companies may consider creating what I call organized serendipity – getting people together in a structured but organic way to facilitate relationship building and creative collaboration. For example, at BluWave, we’ve launched a virtual, topic-driven event series to share best practices among our roster of PE fund clients. After a brief panel discussion, clients break out into discussions on sub-topics and network with each other using an interactive technology platform. The organization comes from cutting the groups by functional expertise, but the agenda is loose enough to allow for actual networking that does not feel forced.

On the employee front, while some are still working from home and others are socially distancing at our physical office, we host “Friday lunch hours” that gather everyone together to share a meal and chat about the upcoming weekend.


#3 – Making the Era of Remote Work More Human

“Zoom fatigue” – a term used to describe the lack of motivation for hopping on yet another video work call, joining a digitally-driven event, or getting together with family and friends virtually – is becoming a real threat to remote workforces. No matter how well we integrate remote work into our lives, we will never be able to replace the value of in-person human connection or shared experiences.

According to a recent survey by Slack, 45 percent of newly remote workers report that their sense of belonging has suffered since they began working from home. This is a powerful reminder that companies should focus on building authentic and consistent human connection into their remote work platforms.

Once it’s safe to do so, companies should swiftly prioritize in-person interactions. Even now, many companies recognize that it’s impossible to shift to 100 percent digital communication – a reality I’ve seen personally with private equity fund managers who still need to shake the hands of the management team before purchasing a company or stepping into the company’s facility. Once the threat from COVID-19 subsides, remote-focused companies should still give employees opportunities to interact with meet-ups, site visits, and other events that satisfy our need for human connection.

The original version of this article was published on Toolbox HR.

How Pandemic-Era Managers Can Level Up By Using Collaboration Tools


Effective managers are capable of articulating their company’s values and a clear set of concrete goals, while also maintaining a commitment to diversity and open communication. These principles will help companies move from a rigidly hierarchical dynamic in which workers feel disconnected from their jobs to one in which they feel like stakeholders and partners whose opinions are valued.  

As someone working in the area of third-party resources, it’s evident that managers of today are connecting the dots between the agile workforce, remote workers, and full-time employees. This is no simple task, but with a few basic shifts in thinking it’s entirely possible and produces desirable results. 

As we enter a new era of remote work, managers will be under increasing pressure to improve communication and collaboration among diverse teams (no matter where they are in the world) and provide employees with a common goal to rally around. 

Here are my top four suggestions for building and maintaining high performing teams that will remain loyal long after the dust settles: 

#1 – Motivate Your Employees by Sharing Your Values and Goals 

#2 – Recognize That Diversity Is an Engine of Innovation 

#3 – Keep the Lines of Communication Open 

#4 – Build Greater Participation 


For more insights, and details on the “how”, please check out my full article, published in Toolbox HR. And as always, if you have questions or need anything from BluWave please reach out! 




BluWave Insights: How the Agile Workforce is Impacting the Economy

Many hiring managers report that they face a talent shortage, which is why the agile workforce – independent professionals hired on a project-by-project basis – is only going to become more critical in the coming years. In my first article for Toolbox HR, a new platform for executives to learn about everything from cybersecurity trends to the nuances of “people and talent,” I explore topics related to this workforce evolution. 

What is the agile workforce?
Simply put, it’s flexible, filled with experts, and moves quickly to help companies address a wide range of talent issues. Companies can access industry- and project-specific expertise with the flexibility to quickly and efficiently adapt to rapidly changing economic circumstances – crystalized in the massive economic fallout of COVID-19. Agile workers are becoming more important all the time.  

In the article, I address the following: 

  1. Finding Professionals With the Right Skills 
  2. Why Agile Workforce Isn’t the Gig Economy 
  3. Making the Most of the Agile Workforce 

Click here to read the full article, and please feel free to share/amplify to spread the word!