The New Workforce: Are You Ready for It?

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Fifty years ago, it was easy to describe the workforce by what workers did and where and when they did it. Not everyone, of course, but most people toiled on farms, in factories, stores and offices. They harvested goods or manufactured goods or sold goods or tracked goods. They worked from sun up to sun down or in eight-hour shifts, often of the 9-to-5 variety. The majority relied more on their hands than their heads to get the job done. These traditional notions of the workforce are deconstructed more every day. Now the workplace is any place and is a flexible concept that matches work to worker in a myriad of different ways – fewer and fewer of them mirroring the traditional employer-employee construct. The workforce isn’t as simple as it once was. Today, it is more diverse, more distributed and, frankly, more complex than ever before.

Managing workforce complexity – the focus of our latest perspective on the contingent workforce and services supply chain – requires new strategies, structures, skills and practices. It requires a deep understanding of the workforce and expertise in how to optimize the tools and technologies available to source, engage and manage a diverse mix of talent. It requires visionary thinking but practical execution. None of this will happen overnight, nor be found in one neatly packaged solution. The options available to employers are many, and the possible routes to excellence can be convoluted, but once you understand how and why the workforce is changing, you take the first step to the future, which is a good thing, because the future is now.

Why and How the Workforce Has Changed

Technology, globalization, economic uncertainty and demographics have all contributed to reshaping not only the nature of work but the workforce needed to deliver results. How work is performed has created demand for completely new skillsets, many that continue to confound employers due to severe imbalances between supply and demand. At the same time, the changing expectations of workers have also impacted the way that employers and employees come together. Traditional full-time employment is only one of many different ways to work. A number of others fall under the contingent labor umbrella. Once thought of as temporary and somewhat of a commodity, i.e., any warm body can do the job, contingent work today comes in many shapes and sizes. It encompasses a comprehensive range of skills, at every level of experience. More importantly, contingent labor is recognized as a strategic tool companies can use to provide greater flexibility and agility in capitalizing on market growth opportunities. A study by Ernst & Young cited that 40 percent of organizations will increase their use of contingent labor in the coming years. In fact, by 2020, 25 percent expect contingent labor to comprise 30 percent or more of their workforces. It’s no wonder that the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that more than 40 percent of workers are now contingent.

Managing this New Workforce

The new workforce is typically comprised of a diverse combination of traditional full-time employees, supplemented by a variety of consultants, freelancers, independent contractors, temporary staffers, alumni, interns, etc. Sourcing, let alone engaging and managing all these different types of workers, is fairly complex and often costly and unwieldy. A number of approaches – supported by powerful technology – can be used to streamline processes, gain efficiencies and lower costs. Doing so requires enterprise visibility into the complete contingent workforce and services supply chain in order to answer critical questions:

  • Who does the work?
  • Where is it done?
  • When is it done?
  • How are results measured?
  • How much does it cost?

The answers to these questions can serve as a starting point for taking a more strategic approach to the workforce.

Getting Ready to Meet the Future

The nature of work and the workforce continue to evolve at breakneck speed. The evolution of technology, the introduction of dynamic digital platforms and the continuing transformation of the global workforce demand new strategies and structures to optimally manage a new world of work. Organizations that have the vision and the capability to establish innovative programs to successfully manage the contingent workforce and services procurement will be those destined to lead in the future.

To explore the possibilities for your organization, review our latest perspective on the contingent workforce and services supply chain: Are You Ready for the Brave New Workforce?

Trish Braa is an executive vice president of solution design and business solutions at Workforce Logiq with over 20 years of operations experience. She develops and deploys strategic global workforce solutions that help customers achieve their corporate goals. Trish is an expert in operations management and change management with a focus on improving supply chain efficiency.

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