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Optimizing Your Blended Workforce: Using Technology to Harness the Expanding 1099 Economy

Can you predict your business needs twelve months out? Does your organization have all the people and expertise necessary to compete successfully? What about six months from now? Managing turnover and resource needs in an uncertain economic climate, you have likely considered how to access the growing number of independent workers. Technology can facilitate your ability to tap into a wealth of new resources as part of an updated talent management strategy. In a rapidly evolving marketplace, sophisticated new software and services expand opportunities effectively for all types of employers and workers.

The marketplace used to advance at a steady pace and be reasonably stable. It was relatively easy to predict needs. However, with technology accelerating the pace of developments, business requirements are much less easy to forecast, plan, and hire ahead for. In a tighter labor market, there is further strain on organizations that are frequently working at a resource deficit in an increasingly competitive environment.

At the same time, technology creates opportunities to access talent globally and enable them to contribute from wherever they are, depending on the work to be done and skills involved. Companies can now be digitally-equipped to gather detailed information internally and utilize predictive analytics to forecast more accurately and quickly.

Rob Brimm, President of SAP Fieldglass, explained how customers’ data can be used to help them manage their resources. Brimm explained that in banking—one of the largest client sectors of SAP’s Live Insights product—companies’ workforce composition is trending from 30 up to 50 percent external workers, including vendors such as outsourced IT. With SAP’s advanced applications, banks have proven the competitive efficiency of using talent pools, combining quality resources with saving costs while staying compliant.

If you plan to use a blended workforce which comprises a higher proportion of independent contractors, a modified approach to enterprise work will enable you to be most effective. Ardent Partners’ research report “The State of Contingent Workforce Management 2016-17” revealed 63 percent of companies are reevaluating how enterprise work gets done – i.e. by whom, how and where – as they contemplate greater participation of freelancer and contingent workers.

In a traditional, stable workforce of employees, tasks are allocated according to the discipline area and general job descriptions of employees. However, typically contractors must do specific parcels of work to be legally compliant, so projects need to be broken down into their component parts. These detailed, smaller blocks of work can then be reviewed to identify: where there might be external expertise needs; whether these are short- or longer-term; which work is well-suited for contracting out; and the availability of internal and external individuals and teams of resources depending on the project timeline and urgency.

Elizabeth Eiss runs ResultsResourcing, a company that is focused on providing well-vetted independent contractors for small and mid-sized businesses. Eiss outlined how they often guide new clients through a critical preparation step on how best to break down work into discreet tasks. A smart questionnaire helps identify and define clients’ needs which are then automatically converted into job descriptions. They can then support decisions as to which resources are appropriate to fulfill each task – internal and external.

Eiss gave a simple example of a company developing marketing content, where the project tasks were defined and the writing was outsourced to a freelancer, while the editing was done in-house. Tasks allocations may evolve over time with insights from results helping optimize resources and task assignments. As business direction and requirements change more rapidly, and the workforce and authority are more distributed, componentizing work facilitates appropriate responses.

Resource-related services utilize technology in different ways to provide talent solutions. In complex situations, machine learning can compare much historical information with new client needs relating to: existing internal talent; previous solutions for specific expertise; type of task requirements; and any location-based components. Brimm described how Live Insights’ sophisticated algorithms also parse through extensive data of relevant contractors’ availability in the appropriate locale and their known hourly fees or competitive current rates in the open market.

Analysis can normalize data across widely dispersed locations factoring in the cost of living, even internationally, allowing clients to find the right person at the right price for the work in question. Tradeoffs can be understood and adjusted for, depending on a particular project and its urgency. Moreover, a company can rank different worker categories when filling resource gaps, such as prioritizing retiring employees who have transitioned to project work if the skills match.

ResultsResourcing’s proprietary platform utilizes intelligent automated searching across numerous relevant sites they work with, combined with live interviews to gather a carefully-curated and vetted group of quality independent contractors. It normalizes resumes to optimize the matching process and refine the prioritized worker recommendations.

OpHaus engages vetted professionals across industries. As talent join OpHaus, they share accomplishments, skills, and differentiators. In return, OpHaus’ match algorithm brings them relevant job opportunities along with offering tools to benchmark and develop their skills. CEO, Kate Ferriera, outlined how their middle market-focused tools also allow clients to understand internal skills gaps, focus their employee training spend to optimize ROI and recruit full-time and contractor talent from the OpHaus network as needed.

Different internally-integrated and external solutions enable companies to manage and monitor all their non-employee resources (including budgets tracking capabilities) to maximize contributions. Human Resources is an emerging new participant in the oversight of contractors as the blended workforce increases.

Technology is supporting and enabling today’s and tomorrow’s new mix of workers, connecting and integrating them effectively with and into the businesses that need their services, wherever they may be. Sophisticated services are promoting full utilization of the new blended workforce possibilities that not only permit businesses to optimize their resources but also builds viable earning possibilities for the millions of independent workers. The Future of Work heralds win-wins for employers and the labor market.

Sophie is Workforce Innovator and founder of Flexcel Network. She consults to companies helping them transition to new ways of working. She speaks frequently to corporate audiences about Future-of-Work issues. Follow Sophie @ASophieWade. Read her new book Embracing Progress. Next Steps for the Future of Work.

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