How to Respond to the Rise of the Agile Workforce

More companies are tapping external talent to help meet business goals. That growing reality will require that leaders adopt some new attitudes.

As the rise of the agile workforce continues, terms like temp, consultant or freelancer will continue to blur along with it. Businesses will be challenged to further integrate this employee group into their talent management strategy. After all, almost half of companies are committed to building an agile workforce model, according to a December 2016 report from staffing firm Randstad.

In an email, Jim Link, chief human resources officer for Randstad North America, shared his thoughts on what the agile workforce means for business in general and for learning and development strategy specifically.

Jim Link

Jim Link

Chief Learning Officer: More companies are on board with building an agile workforce than five years ago. What’s influencing this shift?

Link: Companies are embracing the idea of an agile workforce as a result of shifting attitudes from workers themselves. According to our study, nearly half (46 percent) of workers surveyed said they chose to become an agile worker, with another 28 percent saying it was the best option for them. Many misconceptions about agile employment are beginning to fade as well. Some 48 percent of agile workers agree that agile work offers them better career growth, while another 56 percent report generating more income. There are also abundant findings to support a connection between companies’ utilization of an agile workforce model and their future success. Nearly 9 in 10 (89 percent) employers and 92 percent of workers agree that by 2025, companies adept at managing a mix of traditional and agile talent will be most successful.

CLO: What industries are most inclined to embrace this shift?

Link: We expect to see agile workers across multiple industries as more and more employees seek the customized control agile work offers. Finance, technology, healthcare and more could all experience a shift toward agile work arrangements, with C-suite executives increasingly in favor of building an agile workforce as well.

CLO: What’s the value in building an agile workforce?

Link: Talent scarcity continues to weigh on executives’ minds, with 33 percent reporting it as a top reason to build an agile workforce. As projects come and go, the future of work will require high-skilled workers with niche specialties, workers who will be increasingly content to have an agile career rather than a permanent job.

CLO: What implications does this shift have for traditional, permanent, in-office workers?

Link: It’s estimated that virtual or remote workers make up 22 percent of today’s organizations. By 2025, this will increase to 33 percent, meaning even those employers with traditional in-office workers will embrace an increasingly agile and remote workforce. In addition, the same technologies making remote/agile work possible may give permanent workers more flexibility than they had before.

CLO: Given the mobile and consultative nature of the agile workforce, what do Randstad’s results mean for learning leaders?

Link: Technology is a crucial component of an integrated, agile workforce initiative. With the advancement of technology and software functionality supporting this purpose, organizations can obtain reliable, real-time data for measuring and managing talent.

Although executives want to get the most value possible from external strategic talent, their organizations are not set up for it. As more and more of them look to “the cloud” to access and leverage agile talent, they are increasingly bumping up against several big issues, including compliance and regulatory requirements that hinder full integration into their organizations.

For example, tax rules in the United States and other countries are biased toward full-time employment relationships. As a result, many organizations keep external resources at arm’s length to avoid potential legal problems and fines.

Bravetta Hassell is a Chief Learning Officer associate editor. Comment below, or email editor@CLOmedia.com.

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