Creative Solutions for the Future of Work
I recently had the opportunity to spend time with a group of CFOs at the Evanta CFO Executive Summit in Los Angeles where I moderated a discussion focused on an increasingly liquid workforce. The session, which included participants from Hyundai, Aramark, Dole, and other enterprises, explored how advancements in searching and matching technology and changes in labor demographics are creating meaningful opportunities—and some challenges—for companies.
We kicked off the discussion by sharing a few research nuggets that highlight the sea of change that is taking place in the workforce:
- By 2020, 40% of the American workforce will engage in independent work. (Intuit)
- While the Great Recession destroyed many jobs for low-skilled workers, it created a huge surplus of roles high-skilled workers. (HBS)
- Companies are now managing as many as five generations of workers, from Millennials to retirees, who want to stay engaged on a project basis. (Deloitte)
One key insight that emerged during our conversation was that when it comes to matters of managing the workforce, CFOs have historically served as the voice of restraint given the hefty impact of human capital costs on a company’s P&L. Several participants agreed though that the growing pool of independent talent, including elite knowledge talent (eg, consultants, specialized experts) creates an opportunity for CFOs to hold steady (or even reduce) human capital costs while delivering better outcomes for their company. Often this manifests in close partnership of the CFO with peers in HR, Procurement, and other functions.
The unique dynamics of managing a Millennial workforce emerged as another key theme in our workforce liquidity discussion. According to Deloitte University Press, Millennials are the largest generation currently in the US labor market. Employers who want to understand what makes them tick might want to check out The 2016 Deloitte Millennial Survey: Winning over the next generation of leaders. Interestingly, excluding salary, Millennials prioritize Good work/life balance as the most important job satisfier, followed by Opportunity to progress, and Flexibility (i.e., remote working and flexible hours). The report reveals that Millennials tend to have little loyalty to their employers because they feel underutilized and often perceive business are driven entirely by profit-seeking behavior.
Technology can be a valuable enabler for improving workforce productivity of this particular generation of employee. Millennials have grown accustomed to a connected style of life thanks to technology and are used to communicating, socializing, shopping, working, and traveling through tech platforms. As this generation enters the workforce they expect the same level of connectedness from their workplace. Exerting some level of control of the projects they work on, the skills they develop, the experience they build are all important to these workers—and all increasingly possible for companies to enable using currently-available technology. The technology challenge for executives is choosing what, and how, to deploy.
As workforce composition and priorities evolve, employer strategies will need to change as well. Advances in technology are allowing companies to leverage these evolutions into better and more cost-effective outcomes for their business. CFOs in partnership with other executive leaders can help drive their companies to this better future or risk falling behind others in their industry who recognized this opportunity faster.
For more on this topic, download the full whitepaper, Winning With a Flexible Workforce.