The ‘liquid’ workforce – a mix of full-time and on-demand talent is where many are shifting their thinking about their companies workforce in the new future. Having this mix enables companies to smartly and cost-effectively employ the best available talent to meet their skill and work needs at any given time.
In our opinion, the solution to serving the flexible workforce’s space needs is through a flexible workplace solution. Space that can be scaled and flexed as and when the business needs.
What is the future of work? For many, this idea has become focused solely on shifting to a digital workplace. Covid-19 has caused us all to rethink how and where we work, accelerating the shift to the remote office, but the future of work is so much more than going remote. In my view, the future of work is the liquid workforce where workers are self-employed entrepreneurs.
An Entrepreneurial Workforce
Companies are increasingly relying on a blended workforce, engaging a mix of full-time and on-demand talent (or liquid workers). This enables companies to smartly and cost-effectively employ the best available talent to meet their skill and work needs at any given time. Liquid talent is being engaged at all levels, even as on-demand consultants and advisors for corporate boards. As the liquid workforce becomes a critical strategic asset for companies, HR leaders are evolving their roles and responsibilities to take charge of leading a blended workforce.
For liquid workers, and particularly knowledge workers, the future of work offers a return to our entrepreneurial roots. Liquid workers can achieve “work-life fit” and gain greater independence and control of their work.
This shift to the future of work is resulting in challenges and opportunities for companies and for liquid workers.
Opportunities For Companies
Shifting to a blended workforce requires companies to rethink their processes and systems. Liquid workers are not employees and need different workflows — for example, think about onboarding. The compliance steps and documents required are distinct for 1099 versus W-2 workers. How you welcome and bring on the liquid talent also needs to be different. Your onboarding needs to enable the flex worker to hit the ground running from the moment they start.
Working with liquid talent is also inherently very fluid, with projects simultaneously starting and ending across a company. It’s essential to have a robust contracting process that you can simply and easily replicate with every new liquid worker. Likewise, you need to have the right financial processes and systems in place to ensure full visibility of liquid worker costs, invoice management and payment. Today, many companies still manage their freelancers and independent consultants using spreadsheets.
To fully take advantage of the future of work and maximize talent pools through a blended workforce, we need engaging liquid workers to become as easy and as operationally standardized as it is with full-time employees. It needs to be easy and efficient to source, contract and manage liquid talent.
Opportunities For Liquid Workers
For individuals, although the idea of being your own boss and having your own company can be exciting, it’s also daunting. Just as with a startup, being a solopreneur can be an uncertain endeavor. It can also be confusing to figure out everything that needs to be done administratively as a self-corporation, particularly in areas such as insurance, disability and professional development that might have been taken for granted when working in a traditional corporate environment. Individuals new to being liquid workers can also find it to be isolating.
To shift from the traditional to the future of work, individuals need help to make running their businesses easy and time-efficient. They need support in managing their companies, addressing benefits (such as insurance, access to credit and disability), meeting legal requirements and building human connections (training, coaching, etc.).
Solving The Future Of Work
The shift of the professional workforce will continue, and the pace is likely to increase. The focus on the rights of liquid workers, such as with California’s AB5 law, is not abating. Managers will need to adapt their people leadership skills to lead, motivate and integrate a blended workforce successfully. But to fully achieve the future of work and realize the true potential of the liquid workforce, we need solutions that will address the barriers that still exist. Many solutions are under development, but there’s still so much opportunity left to build the capabilities required for the future of work, which include:
• Helping companies and liquid workers find each other and connect.
• Making it easy and straightforward for contracts to be executed.
• Enabling companies and liquid workers to work with each other effectively and efficiently.
• Simplifying the process of establishing and managing liquid workers’ businesses.
• Offering options for liquid workers that meet needs for traditional benefits, such as insurance and 401(k)s, professional development and community connections.
Companies and individuals are continuing to shape the evolution toward a more entrepreneurial and independent workforce. Remote work is just one aspect of the future of work. Consider how you can go beyond the integration of remote work and include the future of work in your human resources strategy.