Today’s business environment is one of ongoing, rapid changes. Firms that build agility and flexibility into their processes are more able to respond to these changes. A key component of this type of nimble business model is a nimble workforce―one that can be adjusted to accommodate evolving business needs. Essentially, a nimble workforce enables nimble service delivery, which results in better business outcomes.

Today, firms have a variety of options for developing a more fluid workforce that can better respond to changing business needs than a traditionally structured workforce. This “liquid/adaptive workforce” enables firms to more effectively address the challenges of today’s competitive and volatile business environment.

What is a liquid workforce?

A liquid workforce is one in which a firm draws from a variety of resources in order to meet business needs, then adjusts those resources as needs change. Liquid workforce resources include regular employees, internal pools, contract (external) workers and consultants, and are supported by digital capabilities―including robotics process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI). Having a variety of resources to draw from is only part of the liquid workforce equation.

The real beauty of a liquid workforce is that it can be uniquely designed to meet specific business and individual needs, in real time. Liquidity comes not only from combining internal and external resources and capabilities (such as bringing in outside experts to work on projects), it also comes from recombining internal resources to achieve individual development goals. A liquid workforce can also potentially allow for fluctuating capacity in individual roles as well as utilise digital capabilities in an ongoing way.

Liquid workforce drivers

There are a number of circumstances driving the liquid workforce movement. Stronger regulation, increased competition, and new customer demands are prompting firms to adjust their business models for greater flexibility. The advent of new digital technology is dramatically changing who does what work and how, enabling greater flexibility and variation for both companies and their employees. Increasingly, employees are looking for a more flexible work-life and evolving jobs that provide greater development opportunities. Team models are changing as well, including blended teams in which machines and people work together to achieve objectives. Lastly, changing workforce demographics are not only impacting workforce composition, they’re also opening new workforce models.

For example, as Millennials dominate the workforce, firms must adjust their workforce models to meet Millennial demands for flexibility and the opportunity to make a valuable contribution. Baby Boomers are having an impact as well, primarily by expanding the ranks of the “working retired.” Baby Boomers are increasingly offering their expertise on an “as needed” basis through flexible work arrangements.

Why your firm needs a liquid workforce

By leveraging a liquid workforce, your firm will gain greater flexibility and agility that can open the door to new business opportunities, increase employee engagement (if managed properly), achieve greater efficiency and cost control, and more effectively meet business objectives. A liquid workforce also enables the type of rapid innovation that results in new customer-pleasing services and an improved customer experience. And, the liquid workforce has a special appeal to Millennials, who tend to reject the traditional corporate workforce model. All of this translates to improved business outcomes and benefits.

In my next post, I’ll share how you can help your firm organise for the adaptability today’s business environment demands, enabled by a liquid workforce.

For more information about adopting the liquid workforce into your workforce strategy, please see Accenture’s 2016 Technology Vision report, Liquid Workforce: Bank on “fluid” teams focused on results

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