Effective resource management is the key to reducing turnover brought on by feelings of overwork, frustration, and burnout among employees, partners, and freelancers. When you’re constantly putting out a new client fire, stress levels rise, and productivity falls.

When it comes to designing the future of work, one size fits none. Discovering success isn’t about a hybrid model or offering remote work options. Individuals and organizations are looking for more freedom. The freedom to choose the work model that makes the most sense. The freedom to choose their own values. And the freedom to pursue what matters most. We reached out to successful leaders and thought leaders across all industries to glean their insights and predictions about how to create a future that works.

As a part of our interview series called “How Employers and Employees are Reworking Work Together,” we had the pleasure to interview Ray Grainger.

Ray, founder of Mavenlink, is an explorer at heart who has dedicated his career to helping his clients succeed. He has over 25 years of experience in the high technology consulting and software industry. Ray is the embodiment of the Mavenlink Mission: to help companies of any size across the globe conduct business better by combining technology and industry best practices.

Thank you for making time to visit with us about the topic of our time. Our readers would like to get to know you a bit better. Can you please tell us about one or two life experiences that most shaped who you are today.

When I was in high school in Upland, Ca., I was always intrigued with the notion of adventure and exploration and I dreamed of going to the South Pole. That vision became an obsession that, in 1979, drove me to visit a region of the world that is equal parts beautiful and harsh. I was driven in my efforts to secure a position with an upcoming expedition to Antarctica with US National Science Foundation. I persuaded them that I was the perfect candidate; I was young, single, and willing to work in harsh conditions where the temperature drops to 100 degrees below zero. Two weeks after I turned 18, I was going to Antarctica as a General Field Assistant.

The work was hard, sometimes dangerous, and incredibly rewarding. I weighed seal pups, counted penguin chicks, built an emergency camp and solar lab, and spent a month digging a 50-foot-deep hole to extract some scientific equipment trapped deep in the ice.

We worked 10 hours a day, six days a week (and sometimes seven), and spent much of that time in close proximity to one another with little room for errors or missed deadlines. Mother Nature dictated a tight timeline for completing several projects and scientific experiments before the season ended and the dark winter set in. We had to continuously improvise and innovate as certain materials or tools weren’t readily available.

My time in the Antarctic ingrained in me two qualities that have served me well throughout my life and career: adaptability and resourcefulness. These lessons have (and continue to) set the foundation for my career as a consultant, entrepreneur, CEO, and industry thought leader.

What do you predict will be the same about work, the workforce, and the workplace 10–15 years from now? What do you predict will be different?

The most important foundational component for the future of work is understanding that the way we work will continue to change at an accelerating rate. The digital disruption that had been predicted for so long has been accelerated, putting pressure on Professional Services firms to adjust, adapt, rethink, and retool their business to take advantage of an environment where being bold offers the greatest opportunity for success. Today, Professional Services Organizations understand that the best path is sustaining a growth mindset. They can’t grow their businesses without signing new clients, but they can’t survive if they don’t meet their current clients’ demands. Striking the necessary balance between handling the current workload and business development requires these firms to be exceptional at resource management. At a time when more employees want to work from home full- or part-time or hang their own shingles, resource management has never been more important — or more challenging.

Companies have spent the last decade migrating their on-premises IT systems to the cloud and implementing horizontal SaaS solutions designed for general business uses for resource management. I expect Professional Services Organizations will spend the next decade migrating away from those horizontal SaaS solutions in favor of specialized Vertical SaaS solutions purpose-built for their specific workflows and interoperate seamlessly in an heterogenous cloud applications ecosystem. This shift is happening quickly, and we will see a pronounced spike in both the number and the adoption of specialized Vertical SaaS solutions among Professional Services firms in 2022/23. Specialized, Vertical SaaS will become the de facto cloud computing standard for all industries, not only professional services, as SaaS solution providers continue to focus on industry specific workflows while collectively establishing standards of interoperability, allowing for choice and flexibility within their application portfolio.

These predictions are grounded in both experience and observation in the past 35 years of computing platform changes. In the 80s and early 90s, business applications were purchased for very specific purposes, e.g., Accounts Payable, General Accounting, etc. In the mid 90s, “Business Process Reengineering” and Y2K, drove businesses to adopt ERP solutions, replacing the purpose-built applications they had used previously. Business traded off specialization for the interoperability with a single ERP business application to the largest extent possible, significantly lowering the high cost of systems integration and retaining specialized skills. With the advent of the cloud and SaaS solutions, business have the opportunity to consider optimizing for both objectives: specialization AND interoperability.

The other, and perhaps more profound change will be in the make up of the typical company’s workforce. Instead of scaling organically though hiring and acquiring, businesses can now consider operating in a “workforce ecosystem” and leverage the global availability of talent anywhere, anytime, and the right economics, while leveraging the pervasiveness of interoperable business applications globally.

Now, for example, the Professional Services Industry can, with the right technology, expertise and perspective, create a “bench” of contractors, freelancers, and solutions providers to ensure projects are completed on time and to clients’ expectations without overburdening their employees or putting business development on the back burner.

What advice would you offer to employers who want to future-proof their organizations?

The world of professional services has had to adjust and deal with a “Zoom” driven mentality as we’ve all been forced to improve our digital IQ. This condition, led by technology, has become the standard for conducting business. Technology today exists where we can put all of our people and our clients and our clients’ clients on the same page with technological parity. This is the future and it’s coming faster than we ever imagined.

The primary outputs of any professional services organization such as marketing agencies, graphic design firms, and law firms are their employees’ expertise and creativity. They’re people-powered businesses, and effectively managing and motivating individuals and teams have never been more challenging. The networked economy requires them to prioritize resource management to help drive operational effectiveness to succeed.

That’s why Forrester recommends that professional services firms make resource management their top technology investment priority, including replacing horizontal and homegrown platforms with a Vertical SaaS resource management solution custom-built for professional services firms’ unique workflows.

The biggest challenge business leaders face is more change management than technical: overcoming the inertia that keeps people toiling in spreadsheets and acquiring project talent on a one-off basis. There’s a comfort level in using the tools and processes they’re familiar with — platforms built from general purpose project management, ERM, and CRM solutions, email and spreadsheets — even when that negatively impacts project performance, lowers client satisfaction levels, and stunts growth.

Our collective mental health and wellbeing are now considered collateral as we consider the future of work. What innovative strategies do you see employers offering to help improve and optimize their employee’s mental health and wellbeing?

When you give employees new laptops or implement new software solutions, you don’t simply leave it up to them to figure out how to use these new tools. The IT team provides them with training and on-going support to ensure maximum productivity. The same rigorous approach should apply to helping employees maintain their physical health and mental well-being.

Regularly engaging in physical fitness activities, whether simply standing or walking during meetings or competing in the Ironman triathlon, improves a person’s physical health and mental well-being. But too often, employees neglect physical activities because they feel under pressure to sit at their desks and get more work done in less time. Instead of feeling more productive, they’re more prone to burnout — and that increases turnover.

Businesses must do more than provide lip service to encourage employees to prioritize their physical and mental health by making time for exercise and time off. Employees must also feel free to express concerns over their stress levels and workloads without fear of repercussion.

It seems like there’s a new headline every day. ‘The Great Resignation’. ‘The Great Reconfiguration’. And now the ‘Great Reevaluation’. What are the most important messages leaders need to hear from these headlines? How do company cultures need to evolve?

We have discovered recently that Professional Services firms can effectively work with anyone from anywhere. This has been empowering to teams of professionals who have learned to work and thrive independently outside of the confines of the traditional office. This trend is expanding. The “Great Resignation” among professional services professionals is more of the “Great Resignation from My Full-time Job to Become My Own Boss.” There are 57 million freelance workers in the U.S. now, and a recent survey by freelance platform Upwork found that 10 million people currently working full time are considering doing freelance work — a 17% increase.

Forrester warns that “for traditional tech execs, the talent shortage is real,” whether employees leave due to frustration over their companies’ remote work policies (or lack of them), to accept a position with another company, or to hang their shingles.

Effective resource management is the key to reducing turnover brought on by feelings of overwork, frustration, and burnout among employees, partners, and freelancers. When you’re constantly putting out a new client fire, stress levels rise, and productivity falls.

Replacing resource management systems built on generalized horizontal applications and “homegrown” workflows that include managing spreadsheets and email archives with purpose-built Vertical SaaS solutions enables a professional services firm to find, attract, and retain skilled resources that create competitive differentiation.

Our readers often like to continue the conversation with our featured interviewees. How can they best connect with you and stay current on what you’re discovering?

Ray’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/rgrainger/

Thank you for sharing your insights and predictions. We appreciate the gift of your time and wish you continued success and good health.