As individuals, it’s not hard to feel the effects of accelerating technological change. Companies—not to mention public policy—move more slowly.
Most organizations already recognize the advantages that technological advancement offers: enhanced organizational agility, increased efficiency, and improved productivity. Yet the monumental challenge of overhauling outdated, yet deeply entrenched, HR systems and hiring processes can slow progress to a crawl.
However, the fact remains that work is changing—and quickly. According to recent reports by Bullhorn and Deloitte, the companies that are fastest to embrace the “organization of the future” as an opportunity, not an obstacle, are the ones that stand to gain the most.
What is the organization of the future?
Both reports agree that the future of work is one in which we shift away from traditional organizational hierarchies in favor of team-based work. This new, more agile workforce model is expected to help businesses leverage rapidly evolving technology and maintain their competitive advantage in an increasingly complex global economy.
A project-based model diverges significantly from the process-based one most of us are familiar with. But Deloitte found that even executives recognize the inadequacy of the old model. Only 14% of the executives surveyed believe a hierarchical structure is the key to their organization’s effectiveness.
So why are businesses so slow to change? In some cases, they don’t know where to start. In others, they struggle to establish an enterprise-wide human capital strategy. And for an unfortunate few, they worry that the new model will be the wrong sort of “disruptive.” In all cases, such a big change requires a mindset adjustment across the entire organization, and that alone can be a significant challenge.
Finding talent for the future
In Bullhorn’s 2018 North American Staffing & Recruiting Trends Report, researchers found that while revenue and profitability claim the top two spots for HR prioritization, “41% say the talent shortage is their single biggest challenge, and 64% list it in their top three.” For larger firms, the skills deficit is even more pressing: 52% say it’s their biggest obstacle, with IT and manufacturing being among the toughest skills to source.
As technology becomes more specialized, so do the skills that support it. This is one factor contributing to the skills shortage; however, the issue is compounded when businesses rely on a push, rather than pull, approach. Bullhorn says it’s critical to meet candidates where they are by using prevailing technologies—such as SMS messaging—to reach them. Deloitte, on the other hand, emphasizes the importance of culture and employee engagement.
In a team-based work structure, the employee experience becomes even more important. It takes an integrated approach to attract and retain skilled employees. Rather than focusing solely on perks and benefits, Deloitte suggests that HR should prioritize learning and career development, as well as wellness, rewards, and inclusion—things that can truly differentiate their organization.
Where do digital platforms fit in?
Digital platforms such as Business Talent Group offer a viable solution for companies looking to shift to a flexible, project-based, small-team model. But despite the fact that there are more ways than ever to find on-demand talent, staffing firms and businesses still aren’t entirely sure how to best integrate these new platforms into their hiring strategies.
Bullhorn reports that staffing firms are open to partnering with digital platforms, with 21% of respondents saying the arrangement could help their business, and only 16% worrying it could hurt. Interestingly, 63% indicated that they are unsure as to how digital staffing platforms would affect them, revealing a potential gap in knowledge or possibly even reluctance in acknowledging the influence of this growing sector.
According to Deloitte, 66% of companies surveyed say they expect their use of contingent, freelance, and gig workers to grow significantly in the next 3-5 years, but only 6% rated it as a priority for this year. A full 55 percent reported that “they have never used or do not understand how to leverage crowdsourcing.”
Still, companies recognize there is value to be gained from this model: 26% see it as becoming important in the next 3-5 years, a 400% increase from today. Once again, the key is going to be establishing the infrastructure to support contingent labor. Almost half of Deloitte’s respondents say managing off-balance-sheet labor is not something they currently do well.
Will AI upend everything?
Many digital staffing firms already use AI to streamline their processes, applying data from past successful matches to help predict new ones. At the same time, traditional staffing firms know automation has the potential to improve candidate selection, screening, and performance tracking, but according to Bullhorn, 40% have yet to integrate it into their hiring process.
Deloitte found a similarly lagging deployment on the executive side, with only 41% of respondents having either “fully implemented” or “made significant progress” in adopting cognitive and AI technologies. Yet “only 17% of global executives report they are ready to manage a workforce with people, robots, and AI working side by side—the lowest readiness level for a trend in the five years of the Global Human Capital Trends survey.”
In addition to simply not being ready, reluctance to use AI often stems from worries about worker displacement and trading the “human touch” for sterile efficiency. Deloitte contends that the automation of rote tasks doesn’t devalue or displace human contributions. If anything, it elevates their importance and gives workers more time to focus on strategic concerns, decision making, and customer experience. The challenge lies in redefining individual roles and reskilling employees to work alongside automation.
While it’s clear there’s still a ways to go before the augmented workforce of the future is fully realized, there are steps organizations can take now to start moving in the right direction. Of the eight directives Deloitte outlines in its report, we found these two to be particularly salient:
- Assess all available talent segments and technologies and determine how best to integrate them to get the job (or project) done.
- Actively plan and guide the workforce transformation with a roadmap that considers all aspects of your organization, from HR and procurement to IT and finance.
With these two paths laid out in parallel, it’s impossible to go in the wrong direction.
Emily is an award-winning writer who specializes in B2B marketing. She has been helping global brands reach targeted audiences to drive sales and awareness for more than 15 years. As a small business owner herself, she understands what it's like to source a team that can scale with sudden growth.