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Workforce of the Future – Are We Ready for Real Diversity?

In my last blog, I explored how companies today have a huge opportunity to redefine their core value propositions as employers and working partners and reorient HR’s role in driving business strategy, planning, and outcomes as part and parcel of the “what it’s like to work with us” revitalization process. One of the key principles to consider in this transformation is how an organization provides support to all workers in the talent acquisition, development, and measurement processes.

As many have observed, more and more work is getting done in organizations today by people that are not on the actual payroll –  freelancers, contractors, third-party consultancy firms, and even full-blown outsourcing staff. Yet these people often represent themselves to a firm’s constituents, such as customers and candidates, transparently as working directly for the firm.

Oxford Economics, in collaboration with SAP, completed a research project Workforce 2020 which quantifies this trend by reporting:

• 83% of executives say they will be increasing their use of contingent, intermittent, or consultant employees.

• 41% of executives say their firm is increasingly using contingent workers.

• 42% say this increasing number of contingent employees is affecting their workforce strategy.

The question that comes to my mind reading these statistics is: how can more than half of executives (58%) NOT think that the increasing use of non-payroll workers affects their workforce strategies? In an HfS survey of nearly 5,000 workers worldwide, “clearer workforce strategy” was in the top five challenges needed to be overcome to improve workforce engagement, with two-thirds of respondents saying it was a considerable or huge need in their organizations (“smarter management talent” was the #1 challenge, which might explain this disconnect!)

An important dimension of changes in the workforce is also diversity in its many traditional forms. As the world goes through major population demographic shifts at the same time globalization takes root, gender, age, geographic location, education, technological savvy – all of these will have an impact on companies, including how workers want to literally engage with them – as traditional payroll people or through alternative arrangements. These impacts will be profound, such as affecting a company’s very culture, to the ordinary day to day: how a company communicates and collaborates with its diverse and distant workers.

HfS has a framework we use to redefine what HR and operations in tandem can and should be doing to support the business today which we call Workforce Support Services.  Just like sales and marketing have a customer support function, Workforce Support focuses on being the worker support function, providing traditional HR processes and programs like payroll, benefits, performance management and career development, but also workforce productivity and effectiveness support such as travel, virtual collaboration, and knowledge management.

A key part of both the demand and delivery of these services will be to acknowledge and embrace the diversity that exists and is expanding in the workplace. Companies have to ask themselves: what is the experience of every person working with and for our firms? Do people have easy access to information on the rewards, remuneration, and recognition we provide to motivate performance? Do they have easy access to job-related data, systems, and institutional knowledge they need to complete their tasks productively and efficiently today? Are we reducing administrative burdens including self-service as much as possible?

So much has been invested in enterprise technologies over the last decade that let organizations embrace the openness and diversity of the modern workplace through the Internet and streamline the administrative. The consumerization of technology has also helped spur the interest and adoption of new solutions to age-old problems of team-building, inspiration, and leadership.

To my mind, the simple solution is to provide an integrated global platform that connects the people to the data they need to make decisions to respond to the very changes that are the diversity of external markets today, and to allow people to connect and collaborate on meaningful work in the course of business day. Ultimately people serve people in business and the best companies will facilitate those diverse connections and conversations.

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