Hollie Heikkinen, CEO/Founder of iWorker Innovations at Converge2Xcelerate Conference (Boston, MA)
- iWorker is the first organization to represent the independent workforce & provide education and. advocacy
- Independent workers contribute ~$1.56 trillion to US economy
- There are 68 million independent contractors in the US workforce
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 00:00
Welcome back. We are here today with Hollie Heikkinen, a CEO and founder of iWorker Innovations. Hollie, welcome. Thank you for taking the time with us. Hollie is a lifelong entrepreneur. She brings decades of experience to the world of independent work. She’s an expert advisor to national associations and serves as a trustee and committee chair for the committee for economic development. And as a leading member of the coalition for workforce innovation. Hollie, tell us about iWorker Innovations and how you came to start this company.
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 00:53
Yeah, so about four and a half years ago, I started working on a project with the former CEO of Kelly services and that project was basically how do we ensure that the 68 million independent workers in this country have fair access to political advocacy worker protections a community central and portable benefit structure. And then how did they have this experience that allows them to work in their chosen work style and be successful at it.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 01:03
68 million is an extraordinary number. That’s about the number of people who voted for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election. That’s an extraordinary number of unrepresented people.
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 01:12
It’s quite amazing. And that’s Mackenzie data. There’s data all across the board, anywhere from 57 million on up to the 68. But out of that 68 million, 22 million of those make all of their income as an independent worker. Then there’s another 12 million that I also like to talk about. That’s a 12 million that say that they too would choose to make all of their income as an independent worker if benefits access was an issue. So that really sparked to me and, and understanding what Kelly services had done with their talent supply chain and how they were managing, you know, millions of independent workers for their clients. It really sparked me and create an interest in how do we serve this group of people that every day get up and contribute to our us economy, but yet they don’t have protections like an employee would have. So there takes me to the journey to this data speak to you.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 01:45
That’s wonderful. How have you found the reception to what you are doing? At the corporate level? At the board level?
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 02:35
So as corporate social responsibility becomes really a thing that every company needs to focus on and more and more leaders of companies are, are becoming more I guess worker focused, I want to say employee, employer and then the independent contractor worker focused. We have these moments where they are saying, you know, what can we do as a company? How do we protect those independent contractors that are serving our company? And obviously, you know, increasing their profitability, a part of their revenue stream and all of that. So more and more leadership of large companies are looking at me and saying, we want to do something. We’ve talked about this. We know it’s an inadequate, you know, part of what, what the company is able to do. How do we partner with you to find solutions? So I’d say it’s been very well-received. It’s taken a bit of time to make know a lot of people understand that we do have these inequalities that have taken place. And there’s almost like this invisible workforce that is contributing. But once we kind of go through those times, people really see the relevance and see that we have to create a solution that’s relevant and applicable to their company.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 03:17
That’s fascinating. At the government level have you found resistance? Have you found encouragement at the state or federal level?
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 03:23
Yeah, that’s a great question. Thank you for asking it. Actually I would say that what I have created is been very well received both by both parties. We talk about Democrats for a minute. What we’re doing is, you know, very social responsibility driven. And then we talk about Republicans who tend to be more entrepreneurial driven. They’re, they’re receiving it too. So I really haven’t gotten a lot of opposition. I spent a lot of time in DC. I’m there at least once a month. I’m also a cofounder of a coalition called CWI, which is coalition for workforce innovation. That coalition has been extremely strategic in basically making sure that the voice of the company is represented and that we too have a voice that will help federal and state policy initiatives move forward in a favorable way to the company. And then also I must talk about my client for a minute. It’s iPSE-U.S. it’s the national association for independent workers. It’s the first national association founded not on somebody’s work type, but their work style. So iPSE exists to make sure that federal and state policies are favorable and in paying attention to that independent.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 04:46
A workforce that’s been ignored essentially for its entire existence. Now I would imagine that industry partnerships and corporate partnerships are a big part of what you do. Have you found companies to be receptive beneath the fortune 500 level?
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 04:59
And above the fortune 500 level, really on both. I mean, most companies nowadays somehow engage with independent contractors somehow some way. So all of them, again going back to this corporate social responsibility piece, they want to find ways to provide solutions that aren’t putting their companies at risk for department of labor violations and they’re not treating them as employees, but what they’re doing is giving us access to their workers so we could find ways that would be favorable to serving them.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 05:27
Do you have some thoughts on California’s recent legislation and how that’s going to impact without naming names, Uber and Lyft and other companies that have predominantly independent work workforces?
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 05:43
Actually Lyft is a part of the CWI coalition that I just referenced. So I do spend quite a bit of time with their policy lead there. I think that government needs to sometimes get out of the way of the people. And I say the words, “the people” in really meaning that is, sometimes we sit in a position where we think we know what is right for someone’s life, but we really haven’t spent the proper time in relationship talking and understanding why somebody does what they do or why somebody needs what they need. And so when I say that, I say to you like, look at this workforce, these are people that are all the way from, an Uber and a Lyft driver all the way to very highly paid PhD scientists that are working independently. I’ve come to know, and I’ve spoken to so many people throughout the years that the people that are choosing this type of workforce are doing it for reasons that allow them to organize their life around their work instead of the work around their life. And in doing so, they might be able to get their child off to school, they might be able to stay home, there to take care of an alien dying parent. You know, there’s just all these different reasons. They handicap children that they have, you know, might pose different restrictions on and to work everyday. We have to look at people and really just holistically think about why are they making these choices.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 06:44
Oh, absolutely. I’ve got a personal interest in being able to be flexible to take care of family. Talk to me about the next three to five years for you. Given the progress that you’ve made in just four and a half years, what are your priorities over the next few years?
Hollie Heikkinen – Founder/CEO, iWorker Innovations: 07:25
Yeah, so my main, main priorities are to partner up with the right companies that can really take the model I’d created and push it forward and make sure that this independent workforce has more access, lower rates, and better protections than even an employee has. So I often talk about this a way, and I hope it makes sense to people, but I have to use some depictive words to make sense of it. But if you would think of the best company in the country or the world that has an HR department that does everything and protects its workers and make sure that they have the best health care, they have access to all the benefits they need, they’re not discriminate against all these kinds of things. What I’m doing is to ensure that this independent workforce has even better than that. That these people that are choosing again everyday to get up and contribute to this economy are protected.
Ed Kim – Host, Traders Network Show: 07:43
That’s wonderful. Thank you. Hollie Heikkinen CEO and founder of iWorker Innovations. Thank you for your time.