Liquid workforce: Flexibility reaches the office
A liquid workforce is one of the labor-market trends that is attracting the most interest from companies and workers worldwide. Flexible hours, remote work, the reduction of costs associated with hiring permanent staff, the rapid adaptation capacity of this type of employee and their interest in continuous learning, constitute some of the distinctive features associated with this new employability formula. However, there are still many companies that despite being in the 21st century and the rise of industry 4.0 or intelligent industry, continue to show a certain disaffection about the new working methods that break away from traditional structures. In this article, we give a detailed explanation of a liquid workforce and the technological tools you need to implement it in your company in an effective and agile way.
Do you want to boost digital transformation in your company but don’t know where to start? Click here and request a free consultation with one of our specialized technology consultants.
What is a liquid workforce?
A liquid workforce refers to a fluid workforce, i.e., self-employed, or occasional workers as opposed to full- or part-time permanent staff. This type of worker helps companies to adapt to the dynamism of market demands and to be much more resilient in the face of any unforeseen event, thanks to their multitasking profile.
To understand the nature of this concept a little more closely, we must go back to the beginning of the current decade and focus on a much broader phenomenon known as liquid society, coined by Zygmunt Bauman in his book Liquid Modernity. The Polish-born sociologist establishes a metaphor between today’s society and its volatile and fluid state. A society marked by the absence of values and constant uncertainty. Bauman’s work is divided into five sections: emancipation, individuality, time/space, work, and community. The concept that concerns us here, is that of work. On this point, the author reflects, assuring that “work has acquired - alongside other life activities - a mainly aesthetic significance”. He justifies this idea by asserting that currently, “Hardly ever is work expected to ‘ennoble’ its performers, to make them ‘better human beings’, and rarely is it admired and praised for that reason. It is instead measured and evaluated by its capacity to be entertaining and amusing, satisfying not so much the ethical, Promethean vocation of the producer and creator as the aesthetical needs and desires of the consumer, the seeker of sensations and collector of experiences.” “’Flexibility’ is the slogan of the day”, an idea that Bauman justifies by pointing out that “The place of employment feels like a camping site which one visits for just a few days and may leave at any moment if the comforts on offer are not delivered”.
All these reflections made by Bauman back in the year 2000 have progressively permeated into today’s society. However, the pandemic and technological and digital evolution have been determining factors in the implosion of the liquid work phenomenon.
In the current era of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation, organizations increasingly demand independent, collaborative, and autonomous profiles of a multidisciplinary nature, and with the ability to increase their agility and adaptability capabilities, in the face of constant change. This situation has been analyzed by Capgemini, A global leader in consulting and technology services, in its report “The Revolution of the Fluid Workforce”. During the research phase, the consultancy firm interviewed executives from different organizations that were committed to a mixed employment model, of which 4,000 belonged to a fluid workforce and about 1,000 to a permanent workforce. The conclusions drawn from this study include:
- Hiring challenges: 65% of executives surveyed agree that there is a growing gap between the skills that organizations demand and those that internal teams possess. A fluid workforce is a solution to this issue since it satisfies the need to fill highly qualified positions or those linked to new needs that arise from new technology implementations.
- Fluid models are trending: Four out of five organizations have fluid models. A trend led by India and the US. Also, at a functional level, the IT and Finance & Accounting departments are the most enthusiastic about having a fluid workforce, followed by General Strategy Development, Operations, Supply Chain, and Human Resources.
- Reduction of fixed costs: The flexibility of the fluid workforce presents an opportunity for many organizations when it comes to reducing their personnel costs. However, this employability formula should not be at odds with a human resources policy comparable to that applied to permanent teams. However, the reality is quite different, since there is a great inequality between both groups of employees regarding their working conditions.
- Remote work is here to stay: Proof of this can be found in companies like Nationwide and Mondelez. Two companies from very different economic sectors, namely the financial industry and the food sector, are studying the implementation of hybrid operating models, based on permanent remote work environments. Remote work is here to stay, and companies must be aware of this new reality, driven by the phenomenon of the “Great Resignation” or the Big Quit, in which thousands of workers have left their jobs in search of companies that offer better working conditions.
Digital Workplace: A virtual workspace that brings together the liquid and permanent staff
Organizations are currently filling gaps in critical knowledge and experience in certain areas or departments by hiring fluid workers. These types of workers make it possible to compensate for the increased demand for specialized skills by companies, as a result of the division of labor between humans, machines, and computer algorithms. In this scenario, a digital workplace facilitates permanent and fluid teams, by enabling the creation of a single and centralized work environment based on digital tools, such as:
- Remote work tools: Aimed at facilitating work in a mobile situation, from anywhere, at any time, and from any device. These are all-in-one platforms that include all kinds of native or added functionalities via connectors that connect users, data, and business applications in a single virtual space.
- Business Intelligence Tools: Designed to facilitate the analysis of all the data related to daily business activity. This type of application generates real-time statistics and provides interactive reports, which can be shared between the different work teams, to improve and expedite the decision-making process.
- Tools for intelligent document management: Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) enables the management of large volumes of data using Artificial Intelligence (AI). This tool minimizes human errors, providing a centralized system or data repository, which guarantees accurate, effective, and rapid case management.
- Intranet and extranet: Collaboration and communication portals between employees (intranet), and external portals (extranet) are intended to facilitate cooperation and interaction with suppliers, distributors, customers, and collaborators. These are virtual spaces used to guarantee participation and knowledge sharing between different teams. These types of portals offer all kinds of resources, from contracting services, personal assistance, time logs, and vacation requests to internal bulletins and loyalty programs.