A workforce on the move

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A workforce on the move
Bryony Kelly

10 mins

A workforce on the move

Today, we are in unchartered territory, with a workforce unlike any seen before. In October, we released a whitepaper commenting on tech and talent trends shaping the working world, which included the below piece. In the face of such rapid change, how will the workforce shift? Read on to find out more and how you can still read the full whitepaper.

The world of work moves at light speed. In less than a century, we’ve gone from family-run businesses to international conglomerates, from jobs-for-life to portfolio careers, from cubicle-style offices to open plan and remote working, and from male-dominant workforces to diverse working environments. In 100 years’ time, we’ll probably be even further removed. As the working culture has evolved, so have individual expectations. Retaining top talent has become harder as the workforce has diverged – today, no two people expect or want the same.

Itchy feet and retention challenges

As the boundary between work and personal life has eroded, careers have become increasingly personalised. Individuals are encouraged to bring their full selves to work, to map out their own careers, and to tailor their working experience – from choosing their workspace to picking their hours. Candidates are more self-aware and empowered to flex their independence when it comes to career choices. Job satisfaction today is driven by more than simply stability.

This, accompanied by a more openly competitive marketplace, has meant that many candidates are open to hearing about opportunities. Jobs-for-life are being replaced by portfolio careers, or the less savoury ‘job hopping’. According to LinkedIn research, 90% of professionals are open to new opportunities if presented with the right role . Employee engagement is now a key concern for 40% of HR professionals, followed closely by recruitment (37%) and retention (36%).

And if the Deloitte 'Global Millennial Survey 2019' is anything to go by, this trend is only likely to continue. In 2019, more millennials than ever surveyed (49%) would quit their job in the next two years . 

Technology skills continue to be in demand, with an expected 800,000 vacancies in 2020. With such extreme competition, organisations are feeling the pressure to treat their technology team as a separate organisation – with their own tailored attraction, selection, and engagement approaches. This is actually a good thing, in my opinion. If you have a really defined idea of what you’re looking for, you can align your approach to target the top percentile of candidates, and you can be more creative with it. Rather than taking a generalist approach, you can start out with a shortlist of perfectly selected talent.

At Lorien, we use innovative tools and technology to improve our clients’ access to talent and their understanding of the target market. This helps us to take a more precise approach to delivery. Our innovation hub Origin is committed to not only finding and investing in cutting-edge technology, but also to curate these for customers, ensuring that they are presented with the right tech assistance at the right time. Staying attuned to what people not only want, but also need and expect, is crucial in such a candidate-driven marketplace.

Darren Topping, Business Solutions Director - Lorien

The gig economy

Small wonder then, that our models and ways of working are becoming more flexible and individualised. The gig economy – where workers are engaged on freelance or short-term contracts for specific “gigs” (with Uber and Upwork being popular examples) – has thrived over the last decade, despite legal setbacks. In the UK, 4.4% of adults have undertaken gig work in the last 12 months. For workers, the gig economy offers greater flexibility and autonomy to choose their hours and workload; for businesses, it offers a cost-effective way to source skills, either on-demand (e.g. Uber) or via crowdfunding for specific skillsets.

The gig economy is also helping companies to bridge skills gaps globally. As gigs are often found virtually, through apps or websites, there isn’t as much need for in-country presence. This means that businesses can outsource for roles with skills that may not be readily (or obviously) available in the local market, as well as scaling up operations globally. This is particularly important for skill short sectors such as technology.

In fact, research by PwC indicates that the gig economy will have a revenue expansion of roughly 35% yearly between 2015 and 2025 – around 10x faster than the wider economy. This may be fuelled by the rise of portfolio careers in Gen Z and millennials, with 50% saying they would consider gig work over working fulltime and 61% saying they would do gig work to supplement existing employment.

Workforce motivation

All of this is happening while the cogs of the fourth industrial revolution are turning. Like the industrial revolution which preceded it, the technological revolution is forcing people to reconsider their place in the world and the skills they bring to it.

In 2018, McKinsey conducted a study into the future of work and the role of workforce automation between 2016 and 2030. According to the study, demand for higher cognitive skills (e.g. creativity or critical thinking) will grow by 14% in Europe through 2030, while social and emotional skills will grow by 22%. This highlights a shifting emphasis for desirable skillsets. The employee of the future is not only technologically competent, but also socially, emotionally and cognitively advanced.

Nevertheless, workforce automation doesn’t mean human redundancy. In fact, 77% of McKinsey’s respondents expected no net change in the size of their workforces, and 17% expected it to grow . Rather, workforce automation will trigger humans to develop and fine tune new skills – leading to more opportunities, not less. 

Interestingly, this revolution isn’t just displacing individuals who need to upskill, but also businesses. As individuals sharpen their cognitive, emotional and social skills, they will also become more specialist and aligned. Workers will move into higher skilled roles as machines take away lower skilled work. According to McKinsey, 40% of companies that are extensive adopters of automation and AI expect to redistribute work activities so that higher value skills are carried down the chain . Organisations will then be able to harness these individual, highly skilled specialists to form expert teams. The workforce is moving up.

Naturally, this focus on specialism will give rise to a different type of worker. Individuals who offer specific expertise for projects do not necessarily need to be full-time employees. They can just as easily be freelancers or temporary workers; in fact, 61% of respondents anticipate hiring more temporary workers through 2030. This will add to the momentum of the workforce on the move.

Tackling a workforce on the move

The workforce of the future is more diverse, more disparate and more transient. As the lines between permanent and contract/temporary roles become more blurred, employers will need to find new ways to attract and retain talent. We believe that this begins at the top of the pipeline, with accurate workforce planning to determine the optimum route to talent – maybe it’s remote, on-demand gig work, home-grown graduates or upskilling your existing talent?

This agility must then be carried on throughout the recruitment attraction and engagement process. Businesses that are upwardly mobile and flexible to different worker needs can expect to attract and retain more candidates, especially in younger generations. Career opportunities and progression can no longer be simply vertical, but rather multi-dimensional, catering to the unique and ever-changing demands of workers.

As people’s situations change – in their personal life, in their skillsets, in their ambitions – companies must be willing to adapt. Staying attuned to candidate demands and threading this throughout the recruitment process, conveying versatility to candidates and expanding how you use the workforce to achieve different outcomes, will all help to futureproof an ever-mobile workforce. 

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