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Here's the One Thing 80 Heads of HR Agree on About the Future

The world of work is in a constant state of evolution--disruptive innovations create new industries and business models, while new technologies and social networks affect every aspect of how we communicate, collaborate, and work. Not everyone agrees on what the next evolution of the workplace will look like, but the one thing that nearly 100 heads of HR agree on about the future is this:

The drive to improve organizational capability and agility underlies increasing utilization of non-traditional (e.g., contract or contingent/free agent) workers.

Many of the jobs and functions of tomorrow likely don't exist today, but they soon will. To discover how organizations are capitalizing on the relentless state of change while preparing for the future, we recently interviewed more than 80 heads of HR--and a few CEOs and business unit heads--at leading employers. We asked them how work, the workplace, and HR will change in the coming five to 10 years. The overarching theme of their comments: the expanding role and impact of the non-traditional worker.

Use of contingent/contract workers has traditionally focused on cost-savings (often driven by procurement) and workforce flexibility to address seasonal and cyclical demand. However, we see a shift toward more strategic use of these non-traditional workers that may still yield cost savings, but that when purposefully targeted, can facilitate greater organizational capability and agility to enable:

  • Rapid and effective response to shifts in business or operational needs. Rather than relying on existing talent or hiring new talent to meet specific business needs, more companies will increase organizational capability by relying on the ability to bring in people or teams with expertise that can immediately address said need.

    For example: bringing in an outside team to respond to a short-term need for internal communications, or contracting with an individual to establish a process or program that requires specific expertise. While with a global automotive and equipment rental firm, one head of HR arranged to temporarily "rent an executive"--a former executive from a competitor--to craft and implement a new recruiting strategy and organization.
  • Improve financial agility.
    Cost savings realized by staffing to facilitate execution, then releasing contingent staff (and associated costs) upon project/job completion. One large healthcare provider established an internal staffing business, which consists of 3,000 contingent workers that can be called upon to help the provider staff up to meet seasonal demands or be equipped to administer services quickly in a remote area where healthcare service is non-existent but in high demand. This internal staffing business documented over $26 million (USD) in cost avoidance in 2014.
  • Increase workplace or workspace agility.
    Workspace design can be streamlined, lowering costs when less real estate is needed to accommodate staff because work is done remotely. This supports greater sustainability through lower use of resources and a smaller corporate footprint. A multinational manufacturer redesigned its European office, providing no permanent desks, only workspaces to be used as needed for individuals choosing to come into the office. Communal spaces also were provided, helping support collaboration, innovation, and a blended workforce.

More ideas and details gathered from the interviews will fuel an exclusive, interactive discussion on July 14th during i4cp's CHRO Board virtual meeting featuring i4cp co-founder Jay Jamrog and i4cp Thought Leader Consortium member, John Boudreau.

More from this extensive research study--which will outline what HR needs to do now to prepare for the future of work--will be revealed later in the year, but if you're an HR leader and want to join Jay and John at the July 14 CHRO Board virtual meeting, please contact us.

Kevin Martin
Kevin Martin is the chief research officer at i4cp. A highly sought-after international keynote speaker on all aspects of human resources and talent management, Kevin has been recognized as a “Top 100 HR Influencer” by HR Examiner, is a renowned keynote speaker, and has been published in Forbes, Wall Street Journal, and HBR.