Guest blog by Ken Charman , CEO of uFlexReward
Trends point to the gig economy radically disrupting the workplace.
According to Morgan Stanley, freelance growth has outpaced overall employment growth in a handful of European nations, and the number of freelancers in the continent doubled between 2000-2014. The report further speculates that, within the next ten years, 50% of the American workforce could be made up of gig workers.
These figures may either scare or embolden CEOs, depending on their understanding of the statistics and their willingness to adapt to them. Wherever they sit on this spectrum, what matters most is their ability to capitalise on this change by embracing agile working.
This emerging approach, which empowers employees to achieve business outcomes without defining strict processes for how it occurs, is already being used by organisations future-proofing themselves against shifting demographics. It enables them to enjoy the benefits of a flexible, borderless workforce, while encouraging immersion in the data and technology required to embrace this change.
What is Agile Working?
Agile working differs from flexible working, although they do share some of the same characteristics. While both enable employees to take advantage of remote work and the freedom to choose working hours, agile working is a broader approach built around achieving an organisation’s goals as a priority.
It is perhaps most eloquently described by Paul Allsop: “Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).”
Many forward-thinking organisations have incorporated agile working into their own operations: look to examples such as Unilever, which views agile working as a fundamental tenet of the company’s culture, opting to eradicate traditional hierarchies and strict roles in favour of an objective-oriented work pattern where employees are expected to be more entrepreneurial in their approaches.
Agile working is born out of the needs of an organisation, but employees benefit from the skills and problem-solving methodologies acquired from the unrestricted work culture, where they’re free to tackle objectives as they see fit. For businesses, this opens up new revenue generation models as they learn to leverage the talents of a more flexible and distributed workforce.
What this Means for Talent Practices
Undoubtedly, we’ll witness the appearance of platforms that connect workers from around the globe, streamlining the process of connecting those with the skills to those that require them. Rather than watering down the role of employees, a tech-aided future will further value their skills, as this is the keystone of agile working. Talent practices will be tasked with developing and managing a borderless workforce that cooperates to achieve business goals. While this may result in the dissolution of the roles we’ve come to know, it will subsume titles and focus instead on relevant experience and skills in particular areas.
Given the incredibly short shelf life of tech skills, reskilling staff on an ongoing basis will be a vital task for talent practices – with a distributed workforce, it will naturally be necessary to do so not only through online mediums, but by cultivating an autodidactic mentality in staff.
Rewards and Agile Working
With traditional specialist job descriptions giving way to packages of skills that meet a demand within a specific team, the traditional reward hierarchy, based on promotion up a career ladder, will be lost. Reward will need to be negotiated on an individual basis, tailored specifically to the worker in question. Talent will need to be managed via digital rewards systems, which will ideally converge upon a standard adopted industry-wide – lest the entire system collapse into a chaotic field of one-off deals.
For the agile worker to be truly empowered, they need to have data at their fingertips. That’s because data enables them to make decisions, and it is decision-making that singles the agile worker out from the crowd. An abundance of information and a clear understanding of organisational objectives are all that’s needed for workers to weigh up challenges and to experiment with strategies to achieve said objectives. In order to do this in as holistic a way as possible, they need access to their total rewards breakdown, so they can customise their financial rewards and their employment benefits to best suit their agile working processes.
To make this possible, talent practices will have to embrace an agile working transformation of their own, using data and technology to test hypotheses about how they can make the most of the growing gig economy.