Teams of The Future Workforce
“Embrace the changes we’re facing.”
“Start thinking differently about talent.”
“Focus on building a workforce for the future.”
You’ve either heard these phrases before or, you’ve said them yourself. Either way, the common conclusion we can draw from all of these phrases is that in order for strategic execution, operational excellence, and a high-performing organization and culture to occur, you need the right people on your teams. This isn’t new. Organizations need teams and teams need skilled people. What is new is where these skilled people are coming from. For starters, the old talent model is dead. The way people want to work has changed and the way organizations need to think about talent needs to catch-up.
In this blog, we challenge you to think about how talent has shifted as we discuss the components involved with building a Team of the Future, what that actually means for your organization, and what actions you can take to get started on a successful path forward. What exactly is the Team of the Future? As you can see in Graphic 1, it’s made up of three pillars: Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help with rote tasks and processes, traditional W-2 employees, and gig talent (1099 contractors from the Gig Economy).
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
It’s no secret that Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been on the rise and continues to increase on what feels like a daily basis. While some believe that AI will replace a significant number of jobs, others believe it will create more jobs, industries and ways of earning a living. In any case, AI will only continue to advance, and organizations must determine how to embrace this in a strategic way versus ignoring the inevitable. In fact, at the end of 2022, IBM reported that 35% of companies were already using AI within their organizations and 42% were exploring AI for future implementation. With a collective 77% of companies either using or exploring AI, there’s no denying the significant impact this new technology is making.
There are also many great ways companies are incorporating AI into their teams. For example, some are using AI to automate repetitive or mundane tasks such as bookkeeping to track expenses, categorize transactions, and generate financial reports. AI-powered project management tools are a great example of how teams can help manage tasks, assign responsibilities, and track progress against deadlines. Other organizations use AI to review resumes when candidates apply for a job or to analyze important data more efficiently and accurately. Lastly, we’ve also seen AI used as an innovative way to replace certain customer service jobs. Tasks that once required a human to assist with supporting customer service inquiries are now being replaced by machine learning, voice powered assistants and online chatbots, freeing up time to focus on more complex issues. This improved efficiency and accuracy of new software tools gives organizations the ability to process large amounts of data quicker and more accurately, helping reduce human errors and improve decision making as a whole.
Traditional W-2 Employees
The Team of the Future doesn’t eliminate the traditional W-2 employee. Instead, it shifts these employees into higher-level roles, allowing them to focus on more critical tasks as AI is removing the operational or more rote tasks. While the Gig Economy continues to expand (we will talk more about this later), a W-2 employee will always exist. The reasons for this are deep and personal. One of the main reasons people choose to remain W2 employees has to do with financial stability of a permanent role and the consistent job security that comes with it. This can be grouped in with the comfort level between the employee/employer relationship in that it is known, stable and therefore, comfortable. Other common reasons include things like access to health benefits, retirement plans and even having a consistent schedule.
We mentioned above some examples of the jobs being replaced by AI, but what does this all mean for the type of work W-2 employees will be doing? Think about the work AI can’t do, like the roles that require the ability to reason and draw conclusions from data depend on human analysis and expertise. Or the ability to be a leader, teach leadership capabilities and guide individuals and teams to become leaders of the future; all of which require human connection. Take sales managers for example. As they go through the process of gaining new clients and walking through the long-term deliverables their company can provide, relationships are building at every step. While AI may have the ability to analyze success rates of your current clients or report on your sales data over time, it cannot build and maintain ongoing relationships with customers or create a level of trust in the same way a human can. Even when making a sale or closing a deal, there’s often a level of emotion involved where people not only want to feel heard and understood but want personalized solutions to their problems. Think about the roles in your HR department as another example of why W-2 employees are needed (hint: the “Human” in Human Resources or the “People” in People & Culture). If you’re an HR Business Partner, you likely tackle several human relations issues on a case-by-case basis. This requires a strong level of emotional intelligence to make informed and critical decisions, especially when problems need to be handled right away. Again, these are all roles that require a human approach and employees who have a specific set of skills, life experience and personalized solutions in their everyday role.
Gig Talent (Independent Contractors)
The final pillar in this new talent model is all about the Gig Economy and the millions of people making the switch to becoming their own boss. Before the pandemic, 57.3 million US workers were part of the Gig Economy. As of February 2023, there were 73.3 million people working as freelancers and this number is expected to increase to 90 million by 2028. We alluded to this above, but these numbers make it clear that worker preferences have changed, and people want to work differently by moving away from the traditional structured talent model altogether. What makes this even more powerful is that these individuals are not lower-level workers, but rather experienced, high-caliber experts that are focused on their specific skillsets and craft.
Above, we talked about the work that AI cannot perform. Work that requires critical thinking skills, deals with human emotions and reason. However, this work doesn’t have to be performed by only W-2 employees. While W-2 employees will continue to play a critical role in fulfilling specific full-time positions, it’s also important to reconsider the common “one size fits all” approach that many organizations follow as far as job descriptions. In order to combat this, we need to start rethinking job descriptions altogether and start breaking things down into specific categories based on skillsets. This is where Gig Talent (aka consultants or contractors) comes in.
Historically, job descriptions have included not only the requirements of the role but also extra tasks for which the employee may not be interested in or qualified for. These job descriptions have traditionally been a catch-all. Instead of having a general job description that encompasses numerous projects and duties for one person, it is more effective to categorize tasks according to skillsets. For example, if your organization is in the process of implementing a new performance management system this type of work can be completed with an experienced HR consultant on a project basis, without the need for a full-time employee. The same can be said for recruiting and talent acquisition. Independent contractors can step in to assist with recruiting new candidates, conducting interviews, and managing the hiring process without spending a significant amount of time or money.
Speaking of spending, partnering with independent contractors is more cost-efficient, especially for the level of talent you’re paying for. Think about the “all in” costs that accrue when someone is employed full-time such as payroll taxes, benefits, training, onboarding and more. Overall, leveraging experienced talent in the gig economy not only allows for an outside perspective and objective approach to the work that is done, but it gives organizations the ability to utilize expertise on an as needed basis which can be particularly helpful for small businesses or organizations with a limited budget.
If you want to get started on this in your organization, consider the skills required for each task in some of your full-time roles and determine if one W-2 employee can handle a few of the tasks while delegating others. Then, separate out the things that can be completed by hiring a specialized gig worker. When you successfully develop a way to tap into what the gig economy and your own employees have to offer, you create a talent advantage in specific areas like growth, motivation, engagement, learning and development.
It’s clear the old talent model is dead as work continues to evolve and worker preferences continue to change. The problem is that organizations are continuing to think about talent and the make-up of a team in old terms. Organizations that are making the effort to think about how to source talent differently, embracing technological advancements such as AI to eliminate mundane or rote tasks, and restructuring job descriptions to include work completed by traditional W-2 employees as well as by 1099 contractors, are not only ahead of the curve, but will see increased levels of engagement and productivity on their teams moving forward, not to mention a solid competitive advantage from an outcomes perspective. Regardless of where your organization may be or feel ready for, consider embracing a new path that combines Artificial Intelligence, the Traditional W-2 employee, and Gig Talent to get started on successfully and strategically building something amazing; your Team of the Future.
Ready to get started? If you’re looking to partner with high-caliber, experienced talent to help build your Team of the Future, our Collective of GigTalent Certified Consultants™ and coaches are ready to help you get started. Email us today at firstname.lastname@example.org.