Savvy organizations have re-emerged from their Covid fog to plan and navigate what the future looks like in 2022 and beyond. One thing is certain: change is inevitable.
Work has been forever altered. General Motors CEO Mary Barra recently announced a flexible remote work plan for its 155,000 employees with one of the most sensible statements to date: “work appropriately.” It’s no surprise; a Harvard Business review study showed that 81% of employees either don’t want to go back to the office or would prefer a hybrid schedule going forward.
It’s time to revisualize not only the office, but how work gets done. Transitioning to a fully remote workforce was done by necessity, but as we return to work in the new normal, organizations must adapt or perish in areas far beyond simply where people work. While productivity increased during the pandemic, a new McKinsey survey revealed that anxiety has risen as employees feel they have not heard enough about their company’s post-pandemic plans.
These plans can take a variety of shapes: from return-to-office to rehiring, today’s CEO has much to consider.
Eyes on a flexible future
Over the past year, we reimagined work out of necessity. We measured output not by how many employees we saw, but by what projects were accomplished. This moved us from a system of hiring for people to hiring for tasks to be done.
All the while, we evaluated the ability to balance free cashflow with the real need to drive returns for shareholders and customers. As organizations pivoted, they often turned to specialized independent talent and consultants to fill the most in-demand roles— a move that enabled strategic growth, but also, in many cases, saved costs as well.
Divide and Conquer
Today, nearly 40 million workers—from graphic designers and writers to personal finance experts and cloud engineers—lend their expertise as independents, with 7.6 million of these workers specializing exclusively in the enterprise market. In our latest study of the independent marketplace—the only one with 10 years of trending data in the world—we found that these workers are happier, healthier and yes, wealthier than their traditional employed counterparts. They are also deeply satisfied, with nearly eight in 10 hoping to continue along their independent path, for reasons varying from their ability to control their own career destiny to the freedom to choose when, where and how they work, to a lowered risk profile as they spread income across multiple clients.
In a report that examined the rise of the external workforce, Oxford Economics found that some 65% of executives said that the external workforce is important or very important to operating at full capacity and meeting market demands, and 68%t say it is critical to developing or improving products and services.
Yet many organizations approach the “how” of engaging this external workforce without a designated strategy. Such indecision even 18 months ago may have been seen as cautious; today it is simply foolish.
The hesitations are fairly mundane: concerns over cost (easily overcome with data and a process), legal hesitations (notable, but manageable) and of course, the most obvious: concerns over the people themselves.
It’s a fairly easy decision what resource to engage: if the needs closely align to the job description of current employees or requires a high degree of oversight or is a core need to the business at large, it is a position or potentially a managed offshore team. But, engaged strategically, independent labor can also help organizations quickly develop new lines of business, open new markets or execute key organizational objectives. Find and curate these relationships directly to save anywhere from 30%-70% per engagement over traditional staffing or consulting firm models. The benefit? Developing pools of talent “known” (and loyal) to your organization as a result. The cost savings are significant, but the brand equity, immeasurable.
The unknown for many organizations? How to engage—and re-engage—these in-demand workers, playing not just as a valued employer, but also as a client of choice. The reality? This work is already being done at your organization—it just likely isn’t being done as strategically as it could be. And if there’s one thing we don’t need in the return to normal, it’s ad hoc initiatives.
Fluidity is the new normal
The opportunity is here. Now is the time to revisualize and right-size workforces by thinking of people as hives rather than teams that band and disband as needed, and thinking of work as a task to be accomplished, rather than as a skill to be hired on an individual basis.
Make this a priority now, or risk irrelevance as a result.