The talent marketplace will replace antiquated workforce models, says Bill McDonald

By May 29, 2017Food for thought

As published on

Digital tools are changing the workplace, but are we prepared for how far digital technology will ultimately change the workforce?

Driven by on-demand labour platforms and online work management solutions, digital technology is giving rise to talent marketplaces that are sweeping aside the old hierarchical management structures.

Becoming an on-demand enterprise is key to being able to deliver rapid innovation and organisational change to truly transform into digital businesses for the twenty-first century.

In this talent marketplace, businesses can bring together the skills they need into ad hoc teams, to accomplish specific goals, then release them back into the talent pool to tackle another challenge.

That may not appear daunting to a new or start-up company.

WordPress parent company Automattic has 450 staff spanning 45 different countries and business is done based on project teams ranging from two to 12 workers.

But new technology companies aren’t the only ones reinventing the traditional approach to the workforce.

Procter & Gamble, established some 180 years ago, is experimenting with on-demand talent marketplaces as a means to augment its own workforce, using Upwork Enterprise.

So far, products from this pilot programme were delivered faster and at a lower cost than with conventional methods 60 per cent of the time.

Labour platforms like Upwork allow for teams of internal employees and freelancers with the right skills to be quickly assembled to complete projects and then dispersed when the job is done.

It is a much needed talent revolution when you consider that 73 per cent of executives questioned in a recent Accenture survey reported that corporate bureaucracies are stifling productivity and innovation.

The companies that are flourishing are those that are leveraging technology solutions that address the talent problem: efficiently matching the supply and demand for people and skills in a highly personalised way.

In a similar vein, large companies like MasterCard, Airbus and World Bank have used Gigster’s AI-driven platform for their high end talent of software developers and project managers.

Companies can spin up new agile design and development programmes in just weeks, if not days, compared to the traditional model that takes months of planning, budgeting, sourcing and launching.

Companies that use online work management solutions are able to leverage both internal and external workers, fill a talent gap, jump start new projects and respond to market changes.

The supply of available, skilled freelance workers is already steady and growing, making on-demand labour not just possible but also ideal to quickly augment a company’s workforce.

Instead of a traditional structure where individuals are hired for a single position and engaged in fixed business functions, a marketplace-like approach will support people being dynamically teamed together on-demand from project to project, based on skills, knowledge and staffing needs.

But there are consequences.

Companies are also fundamentally rewriting the social contract – reshaping the view on the relationships and responsibilities that employers, government and society have with their workers. Who provides worker training for non-traditional employees?

Who pays for benefits if someone is a fluid worker, moving between different companies?

If freelance workers are between assignments are they unemployed?

At Accenture, we are exploring the future of engaging on-demand workers who take on project-based work while earning credits towards training and benefits.

It is going to be crucial that frameworks are created that provide the flexibility to scale the current and emerging worker relationships, while optimising the related mix of compensation, benefits, training and community engagement.

The nature of work and social contracts are in flux in economies around the world.

What is imperative is that we stop thinking about people working for companies and start making companies work for people.

Already we are seeing a ‘liquid workforce’.

This is where in response to constant disruption and fast-shifting business goals, forward-thinking enterprises are reimagining their workforce and no one person spends their entire careers doing the same job, suing the same skills.

Providing constant training that gives employees the skills they need to adapt and thrive and organising them into teams around projects, is becoming a competitive advantage.

Accenture estimates that as we look five years ahead is that in addition presumptive judgements around full-time employment and freelancers is likely to flip completely.

Compared to traditional full-time employment, talent marketplaces will provide workers with improved earning opportunities, more rewarding work, secure benefits and respected credentials.

In response, the business structures of the dominant companies will be based on small cores and powerful ecosystems, while the on-demand labour platforms will be the primary drivers of economic growth in both the developed and emerging economies worldwide.

Are you ready?