New Ways Of Working…Managing The Open Workforce

This report explores the emergence of the open workforce - one in which talent and resources are spread across a complex mix of in-house teams, freelancers, contractors and external business partners. It also explores the dramatic implications for how tomorrow’s market leaders will govern the open organisation and how to stay ahead in the era of the open workforce.

Businesses today are entering a new era in the way they are resourced and organised. The “open workforce” has arrived, and it has dramatic implications for every aspect of business.
Based on a programme of in-depth interviews, and a survey of over 1,100 senior executives from around the world, this report outlines the emergence of the open workforce, and investigates the new structures and principles that tomorrow’s market leaders will use to govern the open organisation of the future.
Some of our key findings include:

Organisations increasingly rely on external talent to deliver on mission-critical goals

More than one in four respondents reported that external talent such as contractors, outsourced service providers, temporary staff and freelancers, makes up greater than half of their organisation’s total workforce today. The research also reveals that the shift in resourcing from employees to external resources is set to accelerate over the next five years.

“External talent makes up more than half the workforce for over a quarter of organisations”


The new ways of working are spreading rapidly around the world

The US and Canada were first to embrace the open workforce, but companies in every region are beginning to move in this direction. Companies in Asia Pacific predict they will move rapidly over the next five years to increase their use of external talent.

High-performing companies are using the open workforce to deliver competitive advantage

There is a strong correlation between companies that identify themselves as outperforming their peers, and those that have been quick to embrace the opportunities created by the open workforce. High performers are both more likely to be using external talent, and also more likely to have the tools, strategies and frameworks in place to leverage these complex structures more effectively.

Companies need to rethink how decisions get made

Today’s complex and highly distributed organisations need a new framework to govern decision making. In particular, they are finding it difficult to strike the right balance between control and empowerment, with 62% of respondents indicating that their organisations are either struggling to get the balance right or feel that they have got it wrong.

“62% say their organisation doesn’t strike the right balance between control and empowerment”


Performance management has become harder yet more critical

Companies urgently need new tools to help them manage performance across today’s networks of employees and collaborators. That gets harder when you rely on people who don’t formally report to you. Nearly a third of respondents indicated that their companies lacked a clear line of sight over the cost and performance of their external talent. Organisations need a new approach to performance management to ensure that they are mobilising all their resources effectively.

“One third say their organisation lacks information on the cost and performance of their external talent”


New risks need to be managed

The open workforce exposes companies to risks that few have fully understood. In the survey, companies show concern over information leaks, whether because of cyber security issues or intellectual property (IP) theft. Less obvious – but equally challenging – are the reputational risks that arise when vital tasks are performed by people and partner organisations that do not necessarily share the organisation’s values or targets for quality.

Corporate structures will be transformed

The companies of the future will be increasingly open, agile, innovative, collaborative, automated and digitised. This new breed of company will require leadership that can unite a dynamically shifting, loosely affiliated network of talent around a coherent corporate vision and set of values.

The opportunity is huge

The open workforce allows companies to reduce costs but it also unlocks a whole range of opportunities. With open innovation strategies, we see companies increasingly collaborating with suppliers, customers and other business partners to deliver new products and services. The open workforce can also give companies much greater agility, so they can redeploy resources and augment their capabilities with unprecedented speed.

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