Editor’s Note: Interested in learning more about the Future of Work and its impact on contingent workforce management? Be sure to subscribe to the Contingent Workforce Weekly podcast, the non-employee workforce industry’s first (and only) dedicated weekly podcast. Ardent Partners VP of Research (and frequent CPO Rising contributor) Christopher J. Dwyer takes his listeners on a weekly journey into the gig economy, the evolution of the contingent workforce, and everything in-between.
The world of work is now in a state of perpetual change, consistently floating through the vacuum of evolution due to the progressions of technology, business thinking, and major economic developments. No longer do the traditional concepts of labor and work apply to the contemporary enterprise; ramifications from the “gig economy” and now-decade-long sustained growth of the contingent workforce are not only giving rise to fresh talent engagement approaches, but also concurrently becoming intertwined with a technological revolution that is actively changing how businesses address work.
This, the “Future of Work,” is the overarching (yet confounding) concept that is sweeping the business world. Economists, technology experts, industry analysts (ahem), authors, and even political pundits are all actively weighing on how businesses will run in the coming years…all from various points of view: talent, labor, automation, engagement, social, etc. The following attributes (the second set in our brief Future of Work series; catch up on the first round of insights here) are all relative gamechangers in any discussion of the Future of Work:
- Ultimate work optimization (including mobile and robotics). The evolution of technology is often taken for granted within the consumer world, as many everyday people expect new smartphones and entertainment devices to be consistently upgraded on annual basis. Within the business world, however, there is another movement occurring that plays right into the concept of the Future of Work. Optimizing not only how work is addressed (read more about this in Part I of this series), but how it is actually done is a critical component of the Future of Work. Robotics are actively supporting tactical and manual tasks within many sectors, while the advent of next-generation mobility (i.e. tablets and smartphones) is actively allowing workers to complete more and more tasks without the use of a desktop computer.
- Innovative support of remote working. More and more talented professionals are eschewing the traditional boundaries of work, choosing to adopt flexibility (some professionals are also embracing what is known as the “digital nomad” movement, which allows them to travel and work from anywhere). Because businesses today have altered their cultures to reflect a more “blended” workforce, they are also more supportive of remote working. Coworking spaces, which are veritable freelancer havens (bringing together workers from all industries in a central location to work, collaborate, and share ideas), have become a hot concept in today’s working world. Other notions, such as hot-desking, are following physical location modeling principles by eliminating traditional desks/cubes in favor of simple “workstations” that can be used by anyone within the organization (which also helps to promote remote work). Finally, the innovation held in new technologies such as virtual and augmented reality can help remote workers (both traditional and non-employee talent)
- True cultural and demographic diversity. Concepts like diversity and inclusion are key ideas within the world of talent acquisition and talent management. More inclusive hiring opens the average business to new ideas, new skillsets, and new cultures. The Future of Work will dictate that enterprises achieve true diversity across their talent base, sparking innovation and leadership from the voices and workers across various cultures and demographics.
- Total workforce management. Many of today’s business functions are either built on a foundation of holistic and seamless processes, or the desire to reach a similar state knowing the core benefits of such a model. It would only make sense, then, for the world of talent to follow suit. The very simple argument for building or developing a total workforce management (TWM) program (defined by Ardent as the standardized and centralized program for engaging, acquiring, sourcing, and managing all types of talent via linked procurement and human capital processes, integrated contingent workforce management and human capital management systems, and utilization of total talent intelligence) that can be stripped down to a primary advantage: the contemporary talent supply chain is diverse, multifaceted, and spread across numerous sources (both legacy and fresh). Thus, the businesses that can effectively find, engage, source, and ultimately manage this talent under a centralized program will be rewarded with the visibility to execute far superior business decisions in a real-time manner. This is yet another concept that plays into the Future of Work. `
- “People maintenance.” Talent is often considered the top competitive differentiator from organization to organization, so it only makes sense that in the Future of Work, businesses devote more time, energy, and resources in ensuring that their workers have the proper tools and support. Much like machines and hardware require regular maintenance, the advent of new technologies such as fitness wearables can help executives track how well “maintained” their workers truly are and take the necessary steps to avoid negative ramifications, such as burnout. Similarly, some organizations are even taking radical approaches towards the most traditional aspect of work: the 40-hour work week. By reducing this legacy mark by just eight-to-ten hours, businesses are allowing their workers to spend more time with family, rest, and recharge. A Future of Work concept? Absolutely.
- The “experience” is paramount. Technology and innovation aren’t the only attributes of the Future of Work. Other aspects, particularly taking into account perceptions and emotions, certainly play into the future work landscape. As such, human capital concepts such as the “candidate experience” or “employee engagement” (in conjunction with an idea discussed in detail in the 2016-2017 State of Contingent Workforce Management research study, the “talent experience”) become paramount strategies in ensuring that all workers (again, both traditional and non-employee) and prospective candidates are exposed to the organizational culture and deem a business’ core goals, initiatives, and mindset to be in line with their own values. Boosting employee engagement (a growing and critical concept in the world of human capital management and HR) creates more emotional buy-in from a company’s workforce, while ensuring that key non-employee management processes (such as invoicing/payment, visibility into project status, and open communication with key organizational leaders) are robust can also enhance the overall “talent experience” and push the contemporary business into the Future of Work.
- The evolution of skillsets. Talent is talent for a reason: today’s professionals typically hold a distinct set of skills that allows them to build the foundational elements of a flexible work lifestyle. However, as technology augments more and more of the human elements of business, enterprise skillsets will have to evolve to not only keep pace, but also bring enhanced value to the greater organization. New talent attributes like design thinking (applying design principles to complex business issues that range from utilization of technology to product development) and “soft” skills, such as collaborative thinking, social and emotional intelligence, and the ability to adapt and communicate, will be critical components of the Future of Work.