We all know that digital technology is great for keeping us connected, but this very connectedness is pulling apart the traditional, "monolithic" workforce. What we’ve for a long time understood by the term "workforce"—a group of people employed by the same firm that work from locations connected with that firm—is becoming a thing of the past.
The workforce of the future will be shaped by data. People will be hired not based on their resume or interview performance but on the analysis of relevant data, which is a much better predictor of success. In the process, the workforce will become increasingly heterogeneous.
Meanwhile, specialized talent exchanges will emerge to match people with worldwide job opportunities. This will enable enterprises to tap into new talent pools such as remote workers, rural workers, those with talent but without formal credentials, older workers, part-time working parents and freelancers.
What we’re looking at here is a digitally connected, often crowdsourced network of skilled expert contractors and collaborators—a kind of “human cloud.” This is essentially the definition of the "Liquid Workforce"—a concept Accenture has championed as the best model for success in the digital age.
What do these changes mean for leadership and people management within organizations? How do managers engage with this fragmented workforce and keep them motivated and productive?
Clearly, the ability to integrate people from very different backgrounds working in very different locations and often in different time zones will be crucial. Leaders will therefore need to be unfailingly present, making themselves as available as possible to keep teams cohesive and productive.
A fragmented workforce also demands agile leadership. Groups of people will come together to solve problems or exploit opportunities and then will disband just as rapidly. The leaders of such groups need to be able to work across multiple business functions and geographies and integrate ideas seamlessly.
Finally, the managers of the future workforce will need to be able to inspire. Liquid workers are not loyal by default; they need a good reason to stay with a company. Increasingly, this means leaders need to be able to form and articulate a compelling vision of the company’s values. Leaders must also be able to share what’s on their minds to help workers understand their motivations and goals and thereby build engagement.
Read our full report on what digital transformation means for leadership: Leading the Digital Enterprise.
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