From a fixed to a flexible workforce…are we there yet?

I remember when I joined Agfa in 2001, people told me that finally I had chosen a company that would offer me guaranteed employment until my retirement. Needless to say, that, at the age of 29, the prospect of spending 30 years in the same company freaked me out.
As I am settling in into my new co-working space, I cannot help but think how much employment has changed over the past 15 years.

And we seem to be taken it even further as one of the major trends for 2018 is the evolution towards a more flexible workforce. From the traditional organisation consisting largely of employees with clearly defined roles and responsibilities, we will evolve towards organisations with a diverse workforce of employees and independent individual contributors working in a project-oriented way.

From an economical point of view, this evolution makes perfect sense. In today’s rapidly changing business environment, companies that rely solely on full-time employees are finding they have neither the skills nor the agility to sustain success. Working with a blended workforce, will allow leaders to unleash fresh energy and thinking inside their organisations, and quickly meet staffing needs when new opportunities arise.

But when I look at every day’s reality, I cannot help but wonder…are we there yet?

Start-ups tend to feel 100% comfortable with this type of organisation. It allows them to be agile and to quickly respond to market needs. The majority of their workforce also consists of millennials who put a lot of emphasis on the flexibility an employer is offering, not only from a working hours or location point of view but also from a content point of view. But even there, research indicates that millennials seek flexibility within a full-time context.

When it comes to more established organisations, there is a larger gap between the creation of a flexible workforce and everyday reality.
The majority of my clients still prefer to select candidates who are willing to commit to an organisation long term. They tend to select candidates with a traditional career path, with growing responsibilities with a few employers rather than people who combine interim assignments with pay-roll based roles. Positions are closely linked to job descriptions, stating clearly defined roles and responsibilities rather than profile descriptions for project oriented roles based on key skills.

Evolving towards a flexible workforce will require different skills from both managers and employees but above all, it requires a different mindset.  Both parties will need a shift in mindset towards more open, less restrictive organisational structures emphasising partnering and collaboration.
Managers will need to learn to lead virtual networks of individual contributors they can no longer “manage by walking around.” Key management traits will be the capability to manage scope, launch teams and provide feedback and coaching to individuals they do not formally control. Employees will need to develop skills relating to quickly forming relationships and facilitating teamwork among project staff who have never worked together before.

Ultimately, the new world of work requires executives to completely revise their relationship with talent. HR will need to play a leading role in driving this shift. Organisations should focus more on defining capabilities and enabling access to the skills they need, and focus less on where internal people sit or finding the perfect person for an internal role.

Lets face it … what a challenge this will be. I cannot wait to see what 2018 will bring. And you…do you think this trend will truly become reality or will it remain one of the many buzzwords?

I look forward to hearing from you,

Through a personalised and tailor-made approach, Ingenium Executive Search aspires to assist you in attracting the right talent that matches the DNA of your company

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