The art of managing the new mixed workforce

The only thing that can distinguish one member of your work team from another may be a simple piece of paper – the W-2 form. (Or an equivalent wage and tax return outside the United States.) Today’s work is done by teams of contractors, contingent workers, freelancers, and partners, as well as employees regular. There is also another type of worker emerging – the automated worker, designed to augment human labor and perhaps decision-making.

Mixed workforce is not a new concept, it has been around for decades. What’s different now is that many regular full-time employees work remotely or in a hybrid fashion, and therefore may be even more indistinguishable from their contract counterparts. Moreover, interconnected with technology – from collaboration platforms to shared cloud services – the status of the worker hardly matters anymore (except for HR departments).

What matters is that all participants are considered and managed as a single, cohesive workforce. There is an art to this, and it gets results. A recent study of 4,078 executives shows that such attention leads to better management practices, more effective recruitment and retention, and more effective resource allocation.

The study, published by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, concludes that those adept at treating internal and external contributors as one are willing to trade control for greater openness about roles than these new types. of workers assume. Above all, it means letting go of an old mindset that tasks should be done by the 9-to-5 workforce.

Interestingly, 43% of respondents themselves have worked as a casual worker (freelancer, independent contractor, or other non-permanent) in the past five years, according to the study. Most now have full-time jobs.

“The orchestration of workforce ecosystems is particularly timely given the ongoing workforce changes brought about by the Covid-19 pandemic, shifting worker preferences and the changing nature of work. ”, according to the authors of the study, Elizabeth J. Altman of the University of Massachusetts, David Kiron of MIT Sloan Management Review and Robin Jones of Deloitte Consulting.

Even in traditional companies, managers are learning to “adapt to a changing workforce where they have more contributors but less control,” they say. “In some cases, we’re seeing more than 30% to 50% of an organization made up of contingent workers, and organizations are increasingly relying on third parties to deliver some of their most essential services.”

There is work to do. Only about half of respondents, 53%, believe their organization will be able to effectively engage the external contributors it needs over the next 18-24 months.

Where can these workers be found? Only 28% have an internal talent marketplace (an internal platform that matches workers with available projects or extended assignments), and 11% are in the process of setting up such a service. A majority, 59%, expect to increase their use of technology for workforce augmentation, in the form of AI, robots or chatbots.

Orchestrating these expanding workforce ecosystems “requires a new set of management practices, leadership approaches, and other changes,” the co-authors state. “Leaders who view their workforce as an ecosystem structure tend to think differently and act differently towards their workforce than leaders who view their workforce strictly in terms of employees hired full-time,” they add.

This requires a major change in mentality. “Leaders who are actively making this transition not only think differently about their workforce and how work should be done, but also change their behaviors accordingly.”

Research shows that companies that most intentionally orchestrate their workforce ecosystems have five common characteristics:

  • They closely coordinate the cross-functional management of internal and external workers.
  • Hiring and engaging the internal and external talent they need.
  • They support managers looking to hire external workers.
  • They have leadership that understands how to divide the work of internal and external contributors.
  • They align their workforce approach with their business strategy.

Company culture also plays a role in the evolution of a mixed workforce. Questions that arise include how far managers should go to include external contributors into the existing corporate culture. Additionally, they should be aware of the principles and practices of diversity, equity and inclusion as they apply to external networks.

About Wanda Reilly

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