The Virtual Bench

The term ‘bench’ is synonymous with consulting organisations and change programmes, striking fear into some and perhaps a sigh of relief for others.  During the pandemic many organisations made deep cuts to headcount in order to survive, all developed new ways of working.

As the UK begins to emerge out the other side of the Covid-19 pandemic,  the future of work looks different. Until recently words like ‘hybrid’, ‘virtual’, ‘flexible’ and ‘remote’, were not commonly bandied about in job descriptions and adverts. Yet a lot has changed in the last eighteen months. Clients and candidates alike are seeking a different approach to talent and work. If that weren’t enough, the growing shortage of top-talent – particularly in emerging fields – is reaching critical levels.  Against this backdrop, the concept of a flexible bench is one that seems likely to become a popular solution to the challenge of acquiring top talent. Utilising this approach could add massive value for organisations enacting change in the post pandemic world, enabling cost effective and efficient expertise on a flexible / virtual basis.

The concept of the flexible bench is one that Norman Broadbent is familiar with, having helped clients build and maintain flexible resource benches in the past. As suggested by the name, this can look a little different, depending on the clients’ specific needs for their bench – but they can include  interim change management professionals or pipelines of talent for future need.  A flexible (sometimes called a ‘virtual’) bench enables organisations to meet the peaks and troughs of talent demand with relative ease, utilising experienced interim individuals to inject expertise when most needed.  We recommend a bench to be made up of varying levels of individual, from Programme Director to Business Analyst delivering a fully interchangeable and wide-ranging work force who have been referenced, vetted and tested to drive immediate value-add.

Currently the need for top talent is immense, and companies are experiencing increased attrition rates as employees seek different arrangements post-pandemic. Could the flexible work force be the solution to the ever-increasing gaps in organisational charts?

From a candidate perspective, the flexible bench approach is one which has gained a lot of favour post the implementation of IR35 in April of this year. With employees rolling on and off projects, working virtually and using their own equipment means they are more likely to sit outside of the legislation. The knock-on effect of this is that the opportunity to work for organisations in this capacity is viewed at a higher level than those seeking to appoint via a fixed term contract.

Furthermore, the hybrid nature of consultants operating on numerous benches enables them to maintain a positive work-life balance, which is an ever increasing driver for top talent.

Norman Broadbent is able to bring this concept to life for organisations, by building, vetting and maintaining a pipeline of immediately or shortly available talent for companies, globally. Our approach of managed delivery enables clients to maximise ROI by utilising a steady stream of talent along the entire project or programme life cycle. For example, ex-strategy consultants to build the business case and develop the programme road map, experienced change leaders and PMO to mobilise delivery and implement change, followed by independent consultants to continuously evaluate the success at agreed milestones.

Norman Broadbent is able to source via our interim management practice, assess via our leadership consulting practice and maintain via our research and insight practice, delivering a wraparound managed delivery model.

The new world of work is a ‘work in progress’ – but the trend for flexible resource we predict will continue upwards as the market becomes more active in the lead up to Christmas and into the New Year once budgets reset. As a firm, we see the flexible bench as one of the best and most cost-effective solutions to this demand, a view which is echoed by a number of our clients.

Norman Broadbent has a strong track record in delivering complete talent solutions for organisation, if you are interested in learning more about our managed delivery or virtual bench concept, please reach out to Mike Davies –