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Food for Thought

Published on July 11, 2024
Written by Deepak Rajasekar

What is the best workforce mix for you?

Opening Lines

In recent years, traditional talent models have been challenged, as organizations and workers grapple with greater degree of discontinuity and disruption than never before *1 . Organizations must experiment, pilot and innovate to define new work fundamentals *1 in today’s boundaryless world. And leaders must give more strategic thought to build a future-ready organization that harnesses the power of both tech and touch. Here is how.

New Realities to Ponder Upon…

According to a PwC Future of Report *6 , the way technology shall progress….

Today Emerging Future
Automating repetitive,
standardized or
time‐consuming tasks and
providing assisted
intelligence.
Fundamental change in the
nature of work. Humans and
machines collaborate to
make decisions.
Adaptive continuous
intelligent systems take over
decision‐making.
Result: Hence Increased
demand for STEM skills to
build new tech ecosystem.
Result: Hence uniquely
human traits – emotional
intelligence, creativity,
persuasion, innovation,
become more valuable.
Result: The future of humans
at work is questioned.

There exists an impending dichotomy – on one hand, technology shall shrink certain jobs as repetitive processes are being automated. On the other hand, new technologies are automating and augmenting work done by humans, and enhancing human and team performance *1 . As a result, we see two polarized reactions to this technological advancement

73% think technology can never replace the human mind. *6

37% are worried about automation putting jobs at risk – up from 33% in
2014.*6

As a result, business owners and CXOs must deeply understand how technological advancement and adoption shall impact business transformation and employment. Here are some perspectives:

  1. Deep-dive into technological implications:

    The below statistics *8 , 2023-2027 ranks technologies by the share of organizations surveyed who are likely or highly likely to adopt this technology over next 5 years:

    Deep-dive into technological implications

    Some key points to ponder:

      • The advent of Generative AI, 19% of the workforce could have over 50% of their tasks automated by AI45 and job losses making headlines 

      • Large Language Models can already automate 15% of tasks.

      • When combined with applications which can correct known issues with existing Large Language Models, this share may increase to 50%. *8

    Thus, automation will result in a massive reclassification and rebalancing of work. Some sectors and roles, even entire sections of the workforce will lose out but others will be created.*6

  2. Understand today’s talent needs:

    Today’s talent seeks self-determination i.e. ‘meaningful choice and influence over the work they do (how, when and where they work)’ and activism i.e. ‘alignment of their organizations’ values, strategies, policies, and actions with their own personal values’. They want remote working opportunities combined with genuine flexibility; learning and career growth; strong financial incentives and above-average benefits *3 .

    49% of Gen Zs and 62% of millennials say work is central to their identity and work-life balance is something they are striving for *7

    46% of Gen Zs and 37% of millennials have taken on either a part-time or full-time paying job in addition to their primary job. (+3% versus last year for Gen Zs and +4% for millennials) *7

    The underlying talent-psyches that have transformed talent-needs are – peoples’ ability to live life on their own terms agnostic of societal expectations, ambition to continue learning new skills, willingness to continuously reinvent and inherent passion for their work itself. Theseneeds cannot be met with traditional employment models. Naturally, talent models are evolving, with interest in part-time jobs on the rise. In fact, 60% survey respondents think ‘few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future’. This is the Future of Work and Future of Workplace. As a leader, the sooner you adapt to this reality, the better you may be able to build a talent- advantage.

  3. Comprehend skill dynamics:

    The above two factors, combined with the impending skill shortage creates a skill-dynamic in which that exceptional talent is in high demand. Hence, organizations must look at building the optimum talent-mix. The futuristic talent strategies shall revolve around building a ‘core group’ of pivotal high‐performers (by offering excellent rewards), and buying-in flexible talent and skills as and when needed. This will mean ‘retainer and call‐up’ contracts are frequently used for rare skills *6 .

How can you decide your ‘ideal workforce mix’?

59% of respondents expect to focus on reimagination in the next 2-4 years,
a 2X increase from pre-pandemic (2021) levels *1 .

– Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report 2023

A blended workforce is definitely the way ahead, but the moot question remains, “What blend is best?”. “How do you decide what talent model works for your business?”

Only about 30% of an organization’s talent holds the intellectual property (IP) of the company, and the balance of talent can be contingent (Akshaya Garg). But should you blindly follow this mode? Here is a checklist to brainstorm and arrive at your optimum workforce mix, to build a present-savvy and future-ready business.

  • Does your talent mix meet client-needs and talent needs?
  • Do you have adequate talent-access?
  • Do you, as an organization, embrace values such as growth, innovation, agility? 50% survey respondents believe that enabling a culture of organizational agility was of key importance, only 19% believed they had the current capability for this – a 31% gap *3.
  • Are you able to mitigate talent shortages? Focusing on skills helps alleviate talent shortages by providing a more expansive view of work people are able to do *1.
  • Do you have or wish to build a culture of meritocracy-based talent growth?
  • Do you accept moonlighting, from an ethical standpoint?
  • Do you espouse DEI as a culture? 80% of organizations reported purpose, DEI (and equity in how organizations access talent), sustainability and trust as top focus areas *1.
  • Are you able to quickly fill talent-gaps without the worry of what to do with your hire when their specialized skills are no longer required?
  • When refilling top talent, are you able to mitigate the risks?
  • Are your talent costs optimized?

If your answers to the above questions are “No” while hiring talent, bringing on a full-time employee can be wholly unnecessary *8. You may want to devise a talent mix that fits the real-world talent pool by ‘renting’ the skills and experience you need to achieve a specific objective, rather than locking in for the long term. In fact, there is a strong business case for effectively matching workers to work:

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Look-outs while designing the talent mix

A blended talent strategy has its own risks. When tapping into the blended workforce model and hiring contingent talent, it is advisable to think through these look-out areas:

  • Socio-cultural acceptance:

    Similarly, from an organizational-perspective, adopting a blended workforce strategy demands a future-forward mindset. For example, only 17% of organizations are ready for worker agency, and 16% for worker ecosystems*1. Similarly, non-acceptance of different work formats by leaders and managers across levels is an issue. A case in point – when managers use the contingent workforce to work around headcount and labor spend controls, driving increases in baseline costs, with no discernible increase in value *1.

  • Resistance:

    Similarly, from an organizational-perspective, adopting a blended workforce strategy demands a future-forward mindset. For example, only 17% of organizations are ready for worker agency, and 16% for worker ecosystems*1. Similarly, non-acceptance of different work formats by leaders and managers across levels is an issue. A case in point – when managers use the contingent workforce to work around headcount and labor spend controls, driving increases in baseline costs, with no discernible increase in value *1. Similarly, from an organizational-perspective, adopting a blended workforce strategy demands a future-forward mindset. For example, only 17% of organizations are ready for worker agency, and 16% for worker ecosystems *1. Similarly, non-acceptance of different work formats by leaders and managers across levels is an issue. A case in point – when managers use the contingent workforce to work around headcount and labor spend controls, driving increases in baseline costs, with no discernible increase in value *1.

  • Lack of an integrated workforce management strategy *4:

    Even when organizations are willing to adopt blended workforce strategies, the lack of robust infrastructure at the demand and supply end abound. This makes blended workforce management a logistical hassle.

  • Poor data management, inadequate technology*4:

    The lack of a tech-led, intuitive, intelligent and integrated talent marketplace that brings together contingent talent and contingent employers, poses operational challenges. For example, how do organizations access contingent workforce data to be able to harness its true potential?

  • Business continuity:

    Contingent workforce always poses the question of longevity and loyalty. Somewhere at the back of one’s mind, there is the question, “Will this person leave midway?”, hampering business continuity, especially in C-suite and turnkey roles.

  • Legal, regulatory and IP risks:

    The expanding use of contingent workers can expose companies to competitive risk from the loss of trade secrets, intellectual property, and organizational knowledge. Poor management of contingent workers can lead to legal and regulatory challenges due to misclassification of contingent workers. This can lead to significant penalties, fines, and legal costs*4.

  • Human risks:

    Organizations need to move from a lens of potential risks that talent poses to organizations, to a broader view of how risks affect humans at large. These risks have a material effect on a company’s long-term viability, and must be understood by all executives, with ultimate accountability sitting with the board *1.

Closing Lines

Evolving the talent ecosystem is a journey, not a destination. Organizations must mitigate the risks and create the applicable model for ownership and accountability. This starts with first assessing the current state using the right diagnostic tools to unveil your talent DNA. SolveCube tools such as p.three and hr.ready enable this.  Leaders must not shy away from asking the hard-hitting questions, starting with…

“How do we design the workplace to best support the work itself?*1

“Are we ready?” OR “What is our Readiness gap? *1

Then, define the principles of what can and cannot be contingent, using skills, not jobs as the baseline workforce decisions*1. Create a new ownership model focusing on ‘how’ work gets done, not ‘where’. And then design the approach to bring transparency to their contingent workforce spend and management*4.

All this should tie in to…

“What is the ultimate purpose?”

Be sure to measure the impact on communities, governments, global coalitions, and society at large. 75% executives say that hiring, promoting and deploying people based on skills helps democratize and improve opportunities *1.

It is up to today’s leaders to use tech to help humans become better versions of themselves, leading the intersection of ESG and human risk with workplace design.

deepak

Deepak Rajasekar S

Deepak Rajasekar S, Partner & Director – SolveCube, is an experienced HR leader and entrepreneur in the people strategy space. He brings 30+ years of extensive experience across diverse industries and geo-locations such as India, Malaysia, Singapore. His expertise lies in Talent Management, HR Transformation, HR Technology, Strategic HCM, and Business Development. He has earlier served as CEO of an end-to-end HR solutions company, before bringing to life his passion of building an “intelligent talent marketplace”, through SolveCube.

Reference Sources: 

*1 New fundamentals for a boundaryless world, Deloitte’s 2023 Human Capital Trends Report

*2 Managing the extended and connected workforce, A framework for orchestrating workforce ecosystems, Deloitte Insights

*3 The future of HR: Moving from “function” to value generator, KPMG Report

*4 HR Functional Perspectives: Contingent Workforce, Deloitte

*5 The Future of HR: From flux to flow, KPMG

*6 Workforce of the future : The competing forces shaping 2030, PwC Report

*7 2023 Gen Z and Millennial Survey, Deloitte

*8 Future of Jobs Report, 2023, World Economic Forum

*9 How the gig economy is disrupting the C-suite

How to Build an On-demand Workforce: Key Decisions

Published on May 23, 2024
Written by Deepak Rajasekar

Uncertainty and dynamism mark today’s macroeconomic landscape. Geo-political outages, economic ramp-ups and ramp-downs, technology-driven transformations, and skill shortages are a daily conundrum businesses must override. Only those businesses that are nimble and responsive to sudden shifts, can survive and thrive. Moreover, the workforce dynamics are changing with new-age skills, interests, aspirations, preferences and potential, changing the rules of workforce management. The rise of the gig economy is proof enough, as more and more experienced professionals prefer Flexible work to avail freedom and to make a deep impact in their high-skilled domains. An agile workforce calls for agile talent management.

60% participants think ‘few people will have stable, long-term employment in the future. *1

Organizations that adapt their strategies and practices to fit this real-world talent pool, which is far more complex and increasingly composed of non-traditional ways of working, will gain access to skills and experiences*3 to accelerate growth, innovation and agility. To tap into this budding yet hidden contingent talent pool, organizations must embrace a skills-first hiring approach*9.

79% of business leaders say leveraging top-level contractors can yield key competitive advantages*2

Challenges in On-demand Workforce Management

A blended workforce may lead to disparate management approaches, directly impacting the organizational strategy, leadership, and culture. This is because the present workforce management systems are not designed to bridge the management gap between internal and external contributors. In fact, only 16% organizations are very ready to inclusively lead an expanding workforce, including those inside and outside the organization *3

86% of believe that effective management and orchestration of external contributors is now critical to their organization’s performance.2 But only 33% believe their organization is sufficiently preparing to manage a workforce that will rely more on external contributors*4

Some workforce planning pointers to manage highly skilled contingent talent: 

  • Define clear roles & responsibilities between internal and external contributors across business owners, HR, and all other functions. 
  • Continuously drive and measure the value of this ‘fluid’ on-demand talent 
  • Manage the large volumes of contracting & compliance to ensure scalable talent
  • Checks and balances to manage data security and privacy
  • Devise new and modern models of collective bargaining *5
  • Mitigate competitive risk from possible losses of trade secrets, intellectual property, and organizational knowledge. *6
  • Address labour-related legal and regulatory mandates to prevent penalties and fines. 
  • Cultivate an enterprise-wide culture of collaboration

First Steps to Kickstart an On-demand Workforce Strategy

Now is the time for business leaders to tap into ‘the rise of the pivotal talent’*6, to leverage people with critical skills. Here is how: 

  1. Align with business strategy: Define your organisations’ approach and principles regarding the workforce mix and make a solid business case for the “Why”. Analyse your business dynamism, business continuity and business criticality, capabilities and competency gaps, intellectual property rights management, costs and financial impact, etc. from an outside-in perspective. The “Why” can be one immediate need, for example, driving efficiency and turning profitable through a turnkey project by a curated specialist, or making forays into a new market by a seasoned marketing industry veteran. Or it can be a blend of reasons. Assess the impact on the business, for example, hiring a contingent workforce may lead to shorter delivery times on critical projects due to the quick access of the right temporary resources. So how does this talent-dynamic impact your business outcomes? 
  2. Define a successful contingent workforce strategy for the overall talent strategy: Don the talent lens and study the talent demand-supply, benefits of contingency, policies and processes, measures to attract-engage-develop-retain, integration with the larger organization, collaboration and partnering mechanisms, cost-benefit monitoring mechanisms, compliance and regulatory checks, and degree of digitization of HR systems and HR technology etc. Develop a detailed talent management strategy for the contingent workforce, including talent acquisition, performance management, engagement, learning, rewards, and exits. 
  3. Decide on the optimum workforce blend: With the plethora of options in the contingent workforce market, it is important to assess what works best for the business’ needs. Decide on the mix of FTE versus contingent, generalists versus on-demand domain experts. Select the right type of contingent workforce based on the business size, stage, strategy. From task-based, time-based, location-based engagements, from consultants to coaches to fractional executives to crowdsourcing, there are different types of contractual arrangements, each with its specific uses. 
  4. Set goals and success measures: A contingent workforce management strategy must be measured and assessed time to time, to ensure it is working well for the business. Clearly define KPIs, collect feedback (both qualitative and quantitative) to assess whether your contingent experts are adding value. 
  5. Implement apt processes and technology: Create standardized, cross-functional business processes, policies, and roles across business units and regions, supported by a single information technology platform*6. Since much of contingent hiring happens through relationship-building with senior level professionals, a personalized talent acquisition approach will help build a connection. Sometimes, creating such an in-house HRMS may not be feasible, it is then best to outsource the contingent hiring needs to an external specialist for optimizing the process. 
  6. Cultivate a conducive culture: To enable a culture of acceptance and integration, on-role employees must be educated and coached about the what-why-how of a contingent workforce, especially when starting out. Train employees on the new tools and processes, build a collaborative and community mindset, time-and-schedule management for flexi-boundaryless working, enable influencing without hierarchy*4, and uphold DEI for a contingent workforce. This shall ensure the team spirit and cohesiveness prevails for internal and external contributors. 

Here is a Snapshot of some recent instances of how SolveCube helped organizations carry out contingent hiring

  • Hired a C-suite HR expert for a turn key assignment with a global conglomerate in India. The task was to recommend, design and guide the implementation of the revised strategy for the group. 
  • Found CISO talent for a consulting firm in Singapore to advise on setting up and maintaining Data and Cyber security.
  • Brought in a Fractional CFO for a well-funded  startup in Singapore in the healthcare domain,  to work towards getting it listed in Nasdaq- Singapore and India. 
  • Enabled 2- 4 Executive Coaches hiring for a consulting firm in Malaysia to bring in program management – project management experience. 
  • Enabled 3 Digital Transformation Leaders for a consulting firm in Singapore to mentor and coach the participants of a Government sponsored programme to drive Transformation and Innovation in their respective organisations.
  • Helped a manufacturing firm in Australia enhance their sustainability initiatives by bringing on board a Sustainability Advisor. 
  • Fostered growth for a high-growth BFSI startup by hiring 5 Strategic partners in the form of mature experts, leveraging their networks for Business development/client origination. 

How to Decide your “Ideal Talent Mix”

The talent acquisition strategy must outline the choice of contingent engagement, which in turn depends on the business needs: 

  • Task-based: Project-by-project work is a rising trend for the C-Suite. For example, due diligence for an acquisition, creating a DEI strategy, creating an investor deck for fundraising, or other turnkey projects of strategic significance. 
  • Time-based: Full-time or part-time based on the scope and extent. They can be advisors, coaches, interim managers, or fractional executives. 
  • Geo-location based: Brick-and-mortar companies, especially in traditional sectors may require on-site involvement for a ground-level view of the business. Or maybe geo-location agnostic for new-age businesses.   
  • Consultant based: These can be of various types and may work on any of the above models. For example, a company may contract independent directors on their Board of Directors for 1 -2 years, rather than for lifetime. Other types of consultants are: 
    • Coaches and Advisors: CEO coaching has become prevalent to help founders and CXOs navigate new situations and challenges, through various stages of the company’s growth. Coaching is more about showing direction, while advisory may be more functional in nature. 
    • Fractional Executives: Fractional executives take up regular executives roles, either full-time or part-time. This is usually preferred by smaller companies who may not afford a full-time professional, or till they are able to hire a FTE. Part-time fractional executives may parallelly work with more than one client, and may bring in their own team for operational implementations. 
    • Interim Managers: In the eventuality of a leadership exit, recruiting the right talent takes time. To fill in the skill and leadership gap on short notice, companies may hire interim independent domain experts. Eventually, if found a good fit and willingness to join, the interim leader may take on the role full-time. This ‘try before you buy’ model works well for both organization and executive. 
  • Crowdsourced based engagement: Best suited for idea-generation and task-completions in the technology or product space, often referring to niche skills. 
  • Contractor engagement: Labour is ‘contracted’ out to a company for a finite amount of time listed by a contract, and can be full- time or part-time work. The advantage is that usually such talent can be scaled up and down on demand. 

Whatever be the contingent workforce model selected, it is critical to handle the entire contingent talent lifecycle, from talent sourcing to talent engagement, to exit management and possible future re-engagements. This begins with an omni-channel talent acquisition strategy. Some companies may not have the inhouse bandwidth or capability to build such an integrated workforce strategy and may avail the expertise on-demand, of  a contingent hiring and management specialist firm or a talent aggregator: 

  • Better equipped to advise on strategic choices suited to the business and industry
  • Global connectedness and reach for talent
  • Market know-how about compensation and benefits for this workforce
  • AI-powered recommendations help tap talent deeply and widely
  • Possess the right technology, structures and procedures for firms to plug-and-play into their talent strategy.
  • Knowledge advisory on the softer aspects, for example on how to cultivate a culture which backs the contingent-operating model
  • On-demand access to contingent talent basis business ramp-ups and ramp-downs, with options to hire, re-hire, let go
  • Minimizes legal and compliance risk due to third-party-deployment model
  • Single ownership and accountability to ensure the desired value is created
  • Offer protections to contingent talent, such as establishing policies, protocols, community standards, customer support, training and wellbeing opportunities, etc. 

Final Thoughts

In a survey of C-suite executives worldwide, 60% predict that the number of interim experts in their companies will substantially increase within the next three years. *8

To build a strategic intent and integrated workforce management strategy, one must first seek strong leadership buy-in. This will fuel end-to-end commitment. Companies must invest in integrated cross-functional processes, technologies and align stakeholders across functions and the business to drive ownership and accountability for this blended workforce.*6 Such a tailor-made people strategy will help strike the right balance between control and flexibility, between risk and returns, and eventually make talent work towards surpassing business needs. 

We are here to share our experience and expertise in talent discovery. 

We would love to hand-hold you & enable a blended workforce strategy curated to your business

Click here to leave a message or email us @ [email protected]

deepak

Deepak Rajasekar S

Deepak Rajasekar S, Partner & Director – SolveCube, is an experienced HR leader and entrepreneur in the people strategy space. He brings 30+ years of extensive experience across diverse industries and geo-locations such as India, Malaysia, Singapore. His expertise lies in Talent Management, HR Transformation, HR Technology, Strategic HCM, and Business Development. He has earlier served as CEO of an end-to-end HR solutions company, before bringing to life his passion of building an “intelligent talent marketplace”, through SolveCube.

Reference Sources: 

*1 Workforce of the Future Report, PwC

*2 Talent on Demand, Odgers

*3 New fundamentals for a boundaryless world, Deloitte’s 2023 Human Capital Trends

*4 Managing the extended and connected workforce, Deloitte Insights

*5 Working Without Borders: The Promise and Peril of Online Gig Work, World Bank

*6 HR functional perspectives: Contingent Workforce

*7 The Rise of the Fractional CXO: The Gig Economy Goes Executive, Medium

*8 The Return of the Gig Economy, Russell Pearlman

*9 The Future of Recruiting 2023, LinkedIn