Naomi Titleman Colla, formerely chief human resources officer with American Express Canada, has an MBA from Columbia University.
Thinking about the good old days when staffing was much simpler – the "personnel department" would gather some résumés, conduct a few interviews, hire the best full-time (human) employee and we would all get on with the job.
Now, thanks to the exponential acceleration of technology, powering what's often referred to as the Future of Work – or New World of Work (#NWoW) – there are countless ways to get work done. In this New World of Work, when considering "who" is the best candidate to complete a job, organizations are no longer restricted to full-time/part-time employees, contractors and outsourced providers, but can now also engage the "gig economy," crowds and automation – e.g., robotic process automation (RPA), and artificial intelligence (AI). By disaggregating work (see more in Lead the Work by Boudreau, Jesuthasan and Creelman), essentially blowing up traditional job descriptions, you may discover that work can be accomplished faster, cheaper and more effectively by assigning pieces of roles across a worker ecosystem comprised of all of these worker types.
Meet the new slate of candidates
Members of the gig economy: If you believe the statistics, 50 per cent of workers will be part of the gig economy (where workers opt for projects or "gigs" over full-time employment) by 2020. Freelancers can be excellent candidates for short-term, time-boxed, well-defined projects. Hiring freelancers can bring in additional horsepower and infuse diverse thinking into a project or team. It is also a great way to keep retirees, and their invaluable knowledge, in the organization in a more flexible way.
Thanks to technology, bringing in temporary/freelance resources is becoming easier through online marketplaces called talent platforms, which match talent to opportunities based on criteria provided by both parties.
Crowds: Crowdsourcing – tapping into a group of external experts who work together or independently to provide information or solve a problem – is a great way to access knowledge and expertise that doesn't exist within your work force, with very few if any strings attached. Crowds can provide a true "voice of the customer" and are powerful enablers of innovation. In one case study of crowds (in this case, gamers), individuals made a significant scientific breakthrough through a game called FoldIt (Fold.it). Because of the diversity and passion contained within this particular crowd, in three weeks, the gamers collectively solved a problem that scientists had been working on for years. Companies such as 10Eqs now provide crowdsourced problem-solving services to large corporations.
Robots: We've heard about the robots taking over our jobs for years. Sure, the reality of robots replacing some jobs and parts of jobs is sobering, however, by leveraging robotics, humans are empowered to move up the value chain, connecting better with customers, which is a win-win for employees and organizations alike. Try layering in automation such as robotic process automation, which is a great option for mundane, repetitive processes, or artificial intelligence, which can handle higher-level decision making.
As you consider these new potential candidates for your organization, don't forget about your existing work force. Ensuring your human workers are ready to co-exist in a workplace that includes all of these worker types is critical to the success of your company. (For more on this see Deloitte report Automation is here to stay … but what about your work force?)
How can workers of today and tomorrow stay employable?
In order to stay relevant, there are two fundamental types of skills workers need to develop:
Human skills: Many jobs will not completely disappear, but most will morph. Developing fungible, "human" skills will make you harder to automate and more valuable to organizations (a) because you are more able to work and lead across industries, functions and roles and (b) because robots haven't yet mastered the art of empathy or persuasion. Whether jobs or skills require eye contact is a good litmus test for likelihood of automation.
Tech skills: Evolve actively – because your competition is no longer only fellow human full-time colleagues. And years of experience is not necessarily what's going to land you your next role. Stay curious, and commit to lifelong learning and development – because jobs are changing and new job types (and university degrees and certificates) are emerging every day. Digital literacy has become a fundamental skill, as digitization is integrated into almost all jobs and functions. And for those interested in getting deeper into the tech world, coding is now a more attainable skill, not just for computer scientists … both because of the simplification of computer languages and also with the emergence of mainstream coding courses offered through companies such as Hatch.
How can organizations think about their talent strategy in this New World of Work?
In order to take full advantage of the new worker ecosystem, organizations should:
Take a hard look at role descriptions. Is there a different mix of skills needed? Will you actually find a single human being with all of the stated qualifications? Can the role be disaggregated to more effectively get the job done and increase the likelihood of finding a candidate to perform the work that can't be contracted out or automated?;
Seriously consider all elements of the worker ecosystem. Before filling any job, new or replacement, think about "who" is the best candidate to complete the work;
Prepare your work force both to work in harmony with robots and to be retooled if all or some of their job is being replaced.
While today's new world of work provides organizations with countless ways to get work done, there is also tremendous opportunity for employees to pivot and redefine their careers. Change, while scary to many, is inevitable and constant. Therefore, employees and organizations alike need to make the choice: evolve with the times or risk obsolescence.