February 18, 2021 Why Virtual Workforces & Gig Talent are Good for D&I with Paul Estes

Uprisor is the future of work podcast, and this week’s episode features a true superstar in the space. Paul Estes is the Chief Community Officer at Mural, and author of Gig Mindset: Reclaim Your Time, Reinvent Your Career, and Ride the Next Wave of Disruption. Paul’s background includes overseeing some of the tech world’s most groundbreaking projects, including the launch of the Dell DJ product line and mapping out Microsoft’s new Xbox hardware gaming strategy.

Paul talks with Topcoder VP Clinton Bonner about the digital transformation of traditional staffing, how adopting a gig mindset has helped him find work-life balance, and why companies who want diversity and inclusion should embrace virtual workforces and on-demand talent.

The work system is Broken

Paul kicks off by opening up about the behind-the-scenes difficulties he faced early in his career, and the stress he felt about many of the norms of traditional office culture. For him, these were symptoms of a broken work system:

  • Traditional communication processes, whether that’s endless meetings or never-ending email chains, create incredible inefficiencies that waste people’s time.
  • Arcane standards about vacation, time off and sick days trap workers in meaningless rules that affect employee productivity and happiness. 
  • Companies might talk about workplace diversity but don’t actually change their hiring practices, with co-located offices contributing to continually homogenous teams.

Making Diversity and inclusion happen

As Paul worked to solve the problems he saw in traditional office cultures, he hired his first virtual assistant. He was immediately impressed by how quick and efficient it was to tap into global talent, and he began to consider ways to introduce this concept into the Amazons and Microsofts of the world.

It’s Paul’s belief (and ours too) that on-demand talent is about adding to existing teams, not laying off or replacing full time employees. Paul was able to win over his colleagues and stakeholders by demonstrating that on-demand talent can:

  • Help companies scale up and meet growing demand, or solve pressing problems, while still working within the constraints of their pre-existing budgets.
  • Increase access to world-class talent, anywhere and at any time.
  • Move the needle on D&I efforts by engaging freelancers from new and different sources.

YOU MUST Question the Norms

If you want to be a leader who has a transformative impact, Paul says you must be truly willing to question the norms:

  • Yes, there are potential drawbacks to a gig mindset and on-demand talent (e.g. constantly changing legal regulations surrounding contract workers), but companies can implement policies and guardrails to avoid problems.
  • Yes, there is an element of risk and trust, but all innovation requires pushing the boundaries and empowering employees to improve workplace culture. 
  • Yes, cultural change can be uncomfortable, but it is fundamental for any sort of marketplace success. 

Thanks to Paul Estes for sharing his wisdom and insights with the Uprisor audience, and inspiring leaders to push boundaries. If you want to hear more technology conversations centered on the Future of Work, check out the Uprisor podcast.

“For me, it was obvious to bring the tool of global freelancers into our work. It wasn’t a strategy to shrink the team, it was, ‘Hey, the company’s asking us to do aspirational things faster and better to serve customers. Is there a different way to do that?’ And there was. In some cases, it was an unbelievable unlock of scale.” —Paul Estes

Annika Nagy


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