The Liquid Workforce: It’s Not Science Fiction, It’s Our New Normal

Today, some 38 percent of workers say they feel more comfortable working as an agile employee (aka independent) than a permanent employee.

Why? Here are the Top 3 reasons:

  1. Flexibility of Hours;
  2. More Control over my Career;” and,
  3. I can pursue my passion” (in that order).

By 2019 it’s estimated that up to 50 percent of the workforce will be “agile,” according to the Randstad 2025 Workplace Report.

How did we get here? We are in the digital age, with multi-functional devices connecting us, brick and mortar giving way to a remote workforce and co-working spaces. Millennials don’t need a pat on the head, they want intelligent feedback, inspiration, leadership, and to make a difference.

Maybe we should do a better job of understanding them as they will be 50 percent of our workforce in a couple years. And they redefine loyalty — they won’t stay if they are not engaged, and maybe that trumps the 20 year veteran who really stopped trying somewhere along the 12 year mark but didn’t tell you.

The Workforce model is changing to a “fully liquid enterprise”

Per Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends, we are moving away from a full time workforce and skill requirements to multiple workforces and technologies defining delivery. The old style hierarchal leadership is on its way out, along with big mahogany desks and side bar of scotch.

Yes, Don Draper has left the building.

Today, we are moving to a flexible organizational structure; now it’s about co-creating rather than managing. With artificial intelligence and data at workers’ fingertips, more decisions will happen on the front line, where work occurs. Per Accenture’s Technology Vision 2016 report, there will be a “fully liquid enterprise “operating with no full-time employees outside of the C-suite.

What exactly is the Liquid Workforce?

The data that the BLS (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics) has for these “non-traditional” workers is about a decade old and much has changed since then.

The “Liquid Workforce” is made up of traditional employees and a wide variety of non-employee workers including temporary workers, independent contractors/consultants/ freelancers, volunteers, outsourced resources, and even non-human options such as robots, drones and cognitive computing applications.

This workforce allows companies to optimize competitive performance, to react to fluctuating markets and demand as well as balance labor costs and workforce agility. It’s finding the right combination of internal employees, freelancers and technology for each new project.

This “fluidity” allows companies to win by focusing on workplace innovation and viewing their people as a strategic differentiator. The lines are being blurred between permanent, contingent, IC, cloud and crowd sourcing. Leading companies are using collaboration tools and cloud-based workflows that empower anytime, anywhere working.

What is the right combination of internal employees, freelancers and technology for each new challenge? More importantly, what is your strategy to source and retain top talent for your fluid workforce?

Becoming uber cool so top talent will work (and stay) for you

You need to understand what motivates outside candidates to want to work for you, and then once they are in, how to get them to stay?

For starters, you need to hear them, and understand the Voice of your Customer (VOC). Often used in Lean and Six Sigma initiatives, this is about asking candidates and employees what your organization could do better.

Is the information you are providing to candidates enticing enough to earn a response from them? Are you responding to their needs in a timely fashion regards updates on their status and next steps in the process? What makes them want to stay once they are hired? These are just a couple of questions you could ask via brief surveys or polls to provide a better candidate experience.

Once you get top talent, how do you get their friends?

Here’s how: establish Brand Ambassadors.

A Brand Ambassador typically promotes a memorable experience related to your organization’s brand. In the case of candidate experience, you could include previous candidates, new hires, and tenured employees in your interview process to not only evaluate the candidate but also sell the opportunity through a lens that resonates with them.

This goes deeper than free yoga and dry cleaning, because candidates hear it from your employees, the people building your company. Companies such as Yelp, Hollister, and Sonic automotive have successfully implemented Brand Ambassador programs for internal initiatives and external marketing efforts to leverage real life social networks of their customers and employees to better gain market share.

We are entering a new era that some say is the biggest since the Industrial Revolution. The way we work, and the reason we work, is changing — and technology is a primary enabler.

The way we lead and grow a company is also changing, but what hasn’t changed are people, because they are and always have been the lifeblood of your company.

Keep that at the forefront and you will be successful.

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Terri Gallagher is an international speaker and writer as well as a seasoned talent solutions executive and workforce strategy architect. She is the founder of Gallagher and Consultants, a consultancy firm that provides innovative strategies for small-mid size clients to optimize their contingent labor and integrate into effective total workforce strategies. Follow Terri on Twitter @GallagherandCo1 or connect with her on LinkedIn.
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Bradley Savoy is a Managing Partner and Founder of Titan Talent Partners, an Executive Search and Talent Management Consulting firm that empowers organizations to transform themselves through the efficient and effective deployment of People, Process, and Technology. Follow Bradley and Titan Talent Partners on LinkedIn and Titan Talent Partners.


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Terri Gallagher is an international speaker and writer as well as a seasoned talent solutions executive and workforce strategy architect. She is the founder of Gallagher and Consultants, a consultancy firm that provides innovative strategies for small-mid size clients to optimize their contingent labor and integrate into effective total workforce strategies. Follow Terri on Twitter @GallagherandCo1 or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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