The Rise of the Extended Workforce

If you play a game of word association, confronted with the word ‘work’, some of the most common answers ‘desk’ ‘office’ ‘employee’ won’t really apply to almost a third of the workforce today.  Freelancers, temps and contract workers are making the extended workforce an integral part of a new economic framework.  Workers and employers are disassociating themselves from tradition and embracing a more open and flexible approach. Outsourcing is now a $6 trillion industry and outsourcing contracts with Fortune 100 companies have doubled over the last 15 years.

Gone are the days when companies would only seek out outsiders for auxiliary administrative duties. The demand for highly-skilled, knowledge-based talent in specialized areas is steadily increasing. And it’s not just the companies who are outsourcing by choice. It’s the workers themselves; looking for a more flexible work environment which allows them the freedom to balance life and work on their own terms. This new ‘officeless’ workforce is confined to neither a specific location nor a wardrobe of power suits.

Recent technology has made it easier for businesses to connect with expert remote talent. And the proliferation of cloud computing has made it possible for companies to not only source talent but to manage and collaborate with them in a transparent and cost-effective manner. Studies consistently show a positive correlation between companies using an extended workforce and tangible results that see them gaining an advantage over the competition. As the value of an extended workforce becomes increasingly evident, it’s falling on HR to roll up its sleeves and make smart strategic choices about how to successfully incorporate the extended workforce into their organization.

In order to adapt to this new elastic workforce, companies need to customize management practices in order to accommodate diversity. As your workforce becomes more flexible, so should you. Companies can tailor their talent search with a specific set of criteria based on geographic location, performance and potential, to name but a few. It’s important to remember that what may work for one fraction of your extended workforce may not work for another. So again, no one over-reaching policy will necessarily work successfully across the board.

Welcoming this paradigm shift in recruitment is key to gaining an advantage over your competitors. Embracing specialised talent will consistently bring a fresh and innovative perspective into your workforce, which is often exactly what is needed in order for a businesses to grow and develop.