On Demand Work Force
In the age of labor shortages, rapid automation, and digital transformation, companies are confronting a growing talent problem, leading to a strategic bottleneck. How can they find people with the right skills to do the right work at just the right time? The half-life of skills is shrinking fast, and many jobs now come and go in a matter of years. Not only that, but major demographic changes are under way: bringing with them very different priorities about who should do what work—and where, when, and how it should get done.
To compete in the years ahead, companies must do better. They’ll have to acknowledge and embrace the full potential of digital talent platforms—which is to say, figure out how to engage strategically with what you might call the on-demand workforce.
Though millions of workers were laid off this past spring, in the coming months employers will begin to rehire—and when they do, they’ll need to be more purposeful about their approach to talent. How can they access hard-to-find expertise? Which positions or roles have changed, and what new capabilities are required? What work can be done more successfully and efficiently by skilled freelancers? In an environment of ongoing uncertainty, employers will be even more attracted to the freelance route for a variety of reasons: It makes hiring easier for hard-to-fill jobs, offers access to a wider set of skills, reduces head count, and allows more flexibility during times of change.
With the emergence of gig economy active use of talent platforms has become the new normal. In studying how talent platforms are being used, there are three identified areas where companies have consistently found platforms most useful:
- Labor force flexibility
- Time to market
- Business model innovation
Digital talent platforms can also help companies reinvent the way they deliver value. But a digital transformation requires a talent transformation. The two go hand in hand. The very nature of work changes with more technology and automation, as does a company’s ability to find the skills needed to do that work. Online talent platforms provide a way to develop that ability rapidly and with much less effort.
To engage with the on-demand workforce at a strategic level, companies will need to focus on five main challenges. There are:
- Reshaping the culture
- Rethinking the employee value proposition
- Reorganizing work into components
- Reassessing capabilities
- Rewiring organizational policies and processes
Talent transformations are often easier than they might seem. That’s because many companies have people on staff who already have a wealth of experience with talent platforms—the managers who have used them on an ad hoc basis. These people can provide valuable guidance.
Ultimately, however, to bring about change on the scale needed to innovate new business models, companies will have to appoint a leader to explore how online workforce platforms can unlock new sources of value. This must be somebody from the C-suite. It might be the CTO, the CMO, the CFO, or the CHRO. Of course, it’s not titles that matter. It’s finding leaders who understand the companies’ strategic positioning, who recognize the revolutionary potential of engaging with the on-demand workforce, and who can inspire a cultural shift in the organizations that will make a genuine transformation possible.