Businesses that promote a Liquid Workforce are more proven to close the gender gap than those who do not (as demonstrated in Accenture’s Technology Vision for 2016)—but are enough businesses embracing this model? And will talented women look elsewhere if a prospective employer cannot match their working preference?
Accenture supporting the Liquid Workforce
Digital fluency—the extent to which both men and women have embraced digital technologies to become more knowledgeable, connected and effective—is a critical enabler of gender equality in the workplace, and if governments and businesses can double the pace at which women become digitally fluent, the UK could reach gender equality in the workplace by 2040.
To support the potential of a digital fluent workforce, businesses need to make sure their staff have the right tools to work: They must, in short, make sure they operate a Liquid Workforce. Which means companies need to master the art of harnessing technology, to enable the right people to do the right things in an adaptable, flexible, change-ready and responsive way.
Companies must harness technology to provide staff with greater freedom—for instance, the freedom to work where they want through connected devices, or to undertake digitally-led training that is tailored to their personal development. The freedoms this provides, and the connectedness it creates is a proven accelerant for increasing the amount of women in the workplace, and improving progression rates.
It is important to note, reducing the gender gap is not only a moral and social issue, it is a business issue which is critical to the future growth of an organisation. The Liquid Workforce encourages the gender equality shift from a faraway initiative to being part of a firm’s corporate DNA.
Why should firms embrace the Liquid Workforce model?
So, why should companies adopt the Liquid Workforce model and how does the company benefit? The Liquid Workforce can be enabled by technology. For example, mobile technology and collaborative tools allow for a more "on the move" active workforce, not physically tied to a workplace. At Accenture, we believe there are three core reasons why a Liquid Workforce is beneficial to a firm in achieving gender equality:
The enablement of people: A Liquid Workforce is beneficial in that it firstly focuses on the enablement of people—consumers, workers and ecosystem partners to accomplish more with technology. The growing use of technology enables people to balance their personal and professional lives and assess new opportunities in an evolving work environment. This is critical for women who may be trying to balance running a home and supporting dependants, whilst working full time. The flexibility that is brought forward by the Liquid Workforce encourages a more supportive environment for women to work and progress in.
Employee flexibility and freedom: As today’s workforce becomes more and more “liquid”, where more workers are transient and less tied to the ideals of having a standard full-time job, there needs to be a focus on “operationalizing” workplace flexibility as the key driver to closing the gender gap. This will provide employees with greater freedom to manage their lives both inside and outside of work, which is particularly relevant to women.
Provide a competitive advantage: Adopting the Liquid Workforce can act positively to persuade more women that digital fluency is an accelerant at every stage of a woman’s career. The more digital fluency in the workplace, the greater the growth potential for women. Accenture’s Digital Fluency Model shows that nations with higher rates of digital fluency among women have higher rates of gender equality in the workforce. Research consistently informs us of the business benefits of a more gender equal workforce. Organisations with higher rates of gender equality at the C-Suite level are more profitable, while teams with a ratio of 40-60 percent of women are proven to outperform those without. There is therefore not just a moral case for targeting gender equality, but clear competitive advantage to be gained too.
Will firms lose applicants over workplace preferences?
The workplace environment is a major influencer for women looking to join a company. Therefore, it is critical companies understand where they are on the journey to achieving a Liquid Workforce. Different companies are at varying stages of maturity and technology is certainly a key enabler. For a Liquid Workforce to be successful, the organisation’s culture must encourage working flexibly across organisational boundaries and hierarchies, and this culture needs to be championed by leaders at all levels.
Digital fluency and the adoption of the digital workforce is no one cure for all. However, the Liquid Workforce when aided by digital fluency supports the levelling the playing field for women, reducing the gender gap and building a workforce of the future.