“The whole is more than the sum of its parts said" Aristotle. Many of us carry that to the workplace and frown at everyone who does not fit into a team. Organisations continue to reward loyalty and teamwork through promotions and rewards. Higher retention rates were carried as a badge of honour by HR leaders. However, the nature of the workforce was changing. Hence, we started to put our employees in different buckets based on their age to see if we can manage them better. By categorizing them from Baby Boomers to Millennials we tried to decipher the code on their drivers and how to make them more productive. But, the changes were more complex than just the demographics of the workforce. The future workforce needs were more complicated than the multi-generational employee mix.
The work related complexities have increased in different dimensions. The skills are more transient, technology has become more invasive. Career tenures have gotten shorter even at CXO levels, in many areas the talent demand has outstripped the supply. Additionally, business cycles have changed rapidly or got shortened. The visibility of job opportunities has increased manifold with technology, social media, and smartphone penetration. Massive urbanization, long travels, the rise in nuclear families, expensive office real estate have become headaches to both employers and employees. But, nothing more challenging than the rise of the knowledge workers and the millennials.
The real problem possibly could be the way we look at our knowledge workers. Traditional workforce planning revolved around how many people to be hired on rolls. The IT and BFSI Industries pioneered the benefits of outsourcing based on core competencies and costs. This initiated a large scale distinction of full time and contract employees. This is still at a nascent stage in India and needs a mindset change. We still crave for the so-called permanent jobs. Leaders in organizations also need to go through a paradigm shift to manage core and seasonal workforce composition.
Core vs Non-Core
The definition or distinction between core and non-core activities has seen a transformation over the years. Much of the work which was seen as critical few years ago is now done by just in time workforce. Many large IT firms tend to have about 5-10% of their staff in fixed term contracts. FMCG, Financial Services organisations have their frontline sales staff in either contract to hire or outsourced model. Many MNCs tend to have their administrative and support staff as contractors. With government also endorsing fixed term contract the acceptance of this workforce will rise further. HR needs to balance between managing the flexi workforce with dignity and also make it sound cooler than it is today. Studies have repeatedly shown that the contractual knowledge workers are more productive than full-time Employees.
Millennials are redefining workplace loyalties. First, they are not interested in long tenures. This is clearly demonstrated by the high attrition at entry level jobs irrespective of the nature of work or organisations. They are seeking greater flexibility, personal time and monetary benefits at the start of their careers. The boundaries related to roles, timings, bosses, organisation loyalties are not binding them. HR has to find newer forms of engagements to attract and make them productive. One work arrangement which can definitely enthuse them is the choice of being an independent worker. A freelancer arrangement is going make it easier for the millennials and less bounded to the organisation or supervisory rules. It will address the attraction, attrition, productivity challenges at the entry-level workforce.
What kind of work can be done by freelancers and how long are the questions that organisations need to answer. Whosoever is going to take the lead here has a first mover advantage.
The War for Talent
Pundits got it wrong when they declared that the war for talent was won by the talent. The so-called war was declared based on whether organizations could hire the talent they wanted. The best employers can never claim that they hired all the right talent they wanted. Similarly, the best of talent cannot claim they got the dream organization they wanted to work for. So, nobody really knows who really won except that few catchy slogans were written and circulated.
The quality of work will determine the attraction quotient to the talent. Some parts of the work are boring and some more interesting in any organisation. It is important to plan and diversify the workforce in the 3 forms of work. Can they be called as full time, part time and freelance to enable an agile, engaged and productive workforce?
The future wouldn’t belong to great places to work but for places which allows the choice of work. Talent would choose whether they want to be full time, part time or freelancers. Organisations which have this ready-made menu will be able to attract the best talent, optimise the workforce and eventually win.
Aristotle’s quote for the future should be rather rephrased as “the sum of its parts is greater than the whole”.