The concept of “work” and “career” are undergoing a major shift. The COVID-19 pandemic may have expedited this adjustment, but contingent work is an idea whose time has come. Many workers have pivoted nicely into roles as freelancers, contractors, and part-timers. Some companies, on the other hand, must adapt quickly if they are to remain competitive in the battle for talent that will re-emerge with the reopening of the U.S. economy.
A New Paradigm
Human Resources departments evolved to build and implement strategies that ensure organizations could lock in the talent they needed long-term. But in today’s global market, technological advances in communication, distribution, and data analysis are quickly rendering these traditional approaches obsolete. While full-time workers still occupy an important position in most companies, non-traditional workers are gaining more and more traction as viable alternatives to large staffs. In the next few years, every industry will join healthcare, hospitality, media, and business services as major employers of non-employee workforces.
Negotiating the transition to the new way of managing work and workers requires enterprises to shift their focus. Rather than a multi-year horizon, HR and Procurement departments need to create flexible paths for acquiring and activating the talent they need quickly and for short-term engagements. Often, the best way to accomplish the mission is not by hiring more – or even the best suited – employees. Instead, successful companies establish relationships with consultants and freelancers they can onboard when their particular skill sets are needed for specific, task-based project components.
Talent-acquisition professionals must reevaluate their concept of work to concentrate on desired outcomes and the steps that must be taken to achieve them. From there, they can identify the talents they need to marshal to fulfill each task. It is a dynamic, digital process, one that HR practices built for the manufacturing age cannot hope to keep up with.
Drivers of Change
The new way of working is borne of value-adding activities that require specialized, individualized skills rather than “big picture” job roles and titles. Problems do not get solved by piling up sequential building blocks. Today’s business and customer solutions are iterative and collaborative. They need a variety of skills to be employed at various times throughout the process. As a result, workforce management teams need fast, accurate, and efficient ways to track these inputs, find the people who possess them, and bring those people and talents to bear at the precise time and place they are needed.
Becoming task-focused does not mean discarding the value a pool of diverse workers brings to work success. Nor does it mean treating people as mere cogs in a machine. On the contrary, by identifying the tasks that must be done, companies can customize jobs for all types of workers, often expanding their skills and applying them to mission-critical activities. For instance, you may have someone in your HR department who is responsible for creating recruitment, on-boarding, and training videos. A task-based approach would break her out of the “HR silo” to have her work on videos used as marketing messages, user manuals, supplier RFPs, and more.
Artificial intelligence and machine learning support the move to task-focused work. Technology can shoulder repetitive and routine tasks to enable on-staff talent to focus on the creative, cerebral activities. At the same time, it can analyze contingent worker talents to determine when they would be cost-effective to use and when they are likely to be needed.
Becoming a Task-Based Organization
Completing jobs and projects by managing the tasks that compose them gives workforce managers the flexibility they need to assign activities to the worker best equipped to accomplish them quickly, adeptly, and cheaply. In some cases, that will be an on-staff employee; in others, it may be a freelancer. Task-based management also allows teams to build in backup plans without incurring the costs of redundant systems and overlapping job responsibilities. Here’s how to start:
- Forget about job titles – Job titles lead talent strategists to think in terms of “worker packages” – bundles of unrelated activities people need to accomplish as part of their KPIs. Your marketing manager, for instance, may be able to negotiate highly favorable advertising rates. But, per her job title, she also must create graphics, write articles, post to social media, and coordinate events. She might be more valuable putting her best skill to use negotiating contracts with wholesalers and distributors – areas far removed from marketing.
- Identify critical tasks – Break down what your most valuable employees do that makes them valuable. List the skills they use and the projects they work on. Employees with adaptable skills may be candidates for additional responsibilities. Look for ways their abilities can contribute to projects outside their departments. Develop a taxonomy for describing each task with the aim of making “shopping list” items all departments can use when requisitioning teammates for enterprise projects.
- Review several recent projects – Take an inventory of the tasks each required, who was assigned to perform them, and the time, money, and other resources they consumed. At the same time, use internal and external data to project the skills that will be needed in the future. You can not only qualify the talents you will need, but also quantify them based on how often they will come into play at your company and how long they will be used on each project.
- Establish a hierarchy of solutions – Using the information gleaned in the earlier steps, identify the sources of each task and activity you will need to access. Rank them by preference and availability. From there, you can determine which skills demands are acute enough to lock in talent full-time. Other tasks, which are critical but occur far less frequently, will be better suited to contingent or part-time workers.
Metasys can help you determine which tasks are integral to your business’s performance and which worker types you should target to accomplish them. We can develop sources of contingent talent and enable your direct hiring of full-time employees. Contact Metasys to schedule a discussion of our total workforce solutions. Our robust infrastructure and experienced team of industry professionals can build a process to ensure you can access the critical talent you need to accomplish your vision. More importantly, we can advise on which type of worker is best equipped to perform the tasks that lead to greater productivity, creativity, and customer satisfaction.