Alternative Workforce Solutions and Total Talent: A Means to an End or an End to a Means?

The hype and subsequent backlash inspired by the gig economy conceal an important fact: the workforce strategies of the future will look very little like the workforce strategies of the past.  

Traditional employment may remain the dominant model for the foreseeable future, but the wide variety of flexible work arrangements now available has increased the importance of having a framework for addressing workforce needs. The increasingly strategic way that organizations manage new workforce alternatives could serve as the blueprint for getting work done more efficiently and creatively, amid ongoing skill shortages and competitive labor markets. 

Foundational Elements for Total Workforce Management 

Organizations have weathered the last two decades of economic booms and busts by experimenting with flexible work arrangements, including private talent clouds, task-based freelancing, and crowdsourced contests. These alternative work solutions do more than merely address short-term talent needs; they also help organizations ease into workforce strategies beyond traditional contingent workers, in-house employees, and project-based outsourcing. Doing so prepares these organizations for the workforce of the future, whether as a stepping stone to total talent management or as the new workforce model itself.  

Total talent management requires advanced technology platforms, business intelligence, and centralized processes for all work channels. Moving toward this type of comprehensive model can prove daunting for most organizations. Alternative workforce solutions such as private talent communities and app-driven freelancer marketplaces can serve as lower-stakes ways of exploring technology, analytics, and workflows beyond long-established ones. They make up a small, yet important segment of overall workforce activity that gets an organization’s influencers thinking about workforce requirements in a more strategic manner. Larger-scale talent initiatives seem more plausible with this new mindset and hands-on success with emerging strategies. 

The Alternative Becomes the Standard 

The workforce of the future could also see alternative workforce solutions gradually displace legacy contingent workforce strategies, to become the new normal. Freelancer management systems have already begun integrating with managed service provider and vendor management system processes. Usage of task-based engagements will likely rise, as these processes and rules of engagement become more mature. Engagement managers and MSPs becoming more adept at breaking job responsibilities into discrete tasks will also contribute to increased usage of these work channels. This model’s effectiveness in addressing skill shortages, achieving cost efficiency, and improving risk mitigation make it an enticing solution to common workforce challenges. 

Still, many remain skeptical about the likelihood of a majority of the workforce joining the gig economy. Even so, the type of work that lends itself to the app-enabled, task-based model could easily end up in the realm of artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, within the next decade. Those forms of alternative workforce solutions will very likely lead to a much larger shift away from traditional contingent engagements. Organizations that begin addressing this shift now will maintain an advantage, as the transformation accelerates. 

Related content: The Total Workforce Index

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