The concept of a liquid workforce has emerged as a response to the changing dynamics of the modern workplace. Here's what it's all about.
As the wheel of work never rests and the dynamics of the workplace keep changing, the world has witnessed the appearance of a new phenomenon - liquid workforce.
As the name suggests, liquid workforce is like water – it can take different shapes, fill in hollowness, and run fast. This metaphor perfectly describes how liquid workers act – they can quickly adapt, provide necessary expertise, and move further on, to the next place where they’re needed.
In this article, we will discuss what exactly a liquid workforce is, how it became a thing, and why it’s crucially important for developing a long-term company vision.
The term “liquid workforce” first appeared in a 2016 report by Accenture, where it was identified as one of the five trends, inspired by the people-first principle.
It refers to specialized workers who provide their skills temporarily to help companies overcome challenges of different types. "Liquid" employees include freelancers, contractors, consultants, and any other temporary workers.
To put it differently, "liquid workforce" applies to flexible, mobile employees, able to self-manage, who can be hired from anywhere in the world, which was made possible thanks to technological development:
More recently, liquid workforce was described as new type of highly-skilled workers that can be "seasonally" attached and detached with ease as per the contingent strategic and operational needs. - The Emerging Liquid IT Workforce: Theorizing Their Personal Competitive Advantage, SpringerLink
While the traditional business model assumes that all employees should work in the same physical space, the presence of a liquid workforce lets companies employ talented and skilled people on demand, based on the company’s current need and regardless of their physical location.
This new approach has benefits for both employers and employees:
Of course, the idea of freelance work was not new. However, it has evolved, reflecting the change of mentality and attitude to work. At first, freelancing wasn’t seen as a career – it was rather an additional source of income, something you did between the actual jobs. Throughout the last decade though, the number of freelancers began to grow – and the concept of freelancing drastically changed:
Millennials were leading the charge. For them, it wasn’t about work – it was lifestyle. They yearn for the freedom of doing what they love, the flexibility of how and when to work, and the confidence that comes from being your own boss. – Micha Kaufman, the founder and CEO of Fiverr
The concept of a liquid workforce has emerged as a response to the changing dynamics of the modern workplace and the evolving nature of work itself. Several factors have contributed to the appearance and growth of the liquid workforce:
A liquid workforce has its own characteristics that specify it as a concept:
The availability of electronic devices and the Internet made unimaginable things possible – messages can be sent instantly, meetings can be conducted online, and files can be kept on shared drives. In other words, technologies enabled the development of a digital workplace that is no less productive than a real one – on the contrary, it can be even more productive, as it lets people work without distractions.
Besides, digitalization made it easier to involve freelance workers who possess the specialized skills and can provide deep expertise in the short or long term - through digitally planning your workforce. By using software, you can esure your company has all the necessary skills for reaching business objectives, both now and in the future.
For example, Runn make the process of development and following a strategic vision much easier, helping identify skill gaps, manage talent, and identify possible areas of growth.
A liquid workforce can be accessed from anywhere, which lets employees travel while working, and employers – find skilled people outside their geographical limits.
The representatives of the younger generation refuse to work typical office hours, from 9 to 6, and their arguments are quite fair. After all, effectiveness and productivity are about how much work you’ve done, and not about how much time you’ve spent on a task. The opportunity to work remotely lets people adjust their schedules and work flexible hours when it's most convenient to them.
Workforce planning tools help synchronize the efforts of liquid workers, whom managers cannot oversee daily.
Technologies inspired and enabled some of the most significant changes in the modern work culture, such as:
These tendencies will only become strengthened, which answers our question – yes, a liquid workforce is the future of the work, and companies will have to accept that as a new reality.
More and more people will become self-employed, shift to a remote work model, or work temporarily on specific projects. More and more people will look for human-optimized, inclusive, and agile organizations that provide opportunities for continuous learning. These things are already recognized and actively discussed by industry leaders, in particular in podcasts about the future of work.
This answer is also supported by the research conducted by Feverr, an Israeli multinational online marketplace for freelance services, which involved over 2,000 businesses globally:
A liquid workforce is an undeniable fact of modern business - and in the context of the rapidly evolving world, it is an irreplaceable instrument of success, as it can help you keep your pace in times of constant change. It will allow your organization to develop flexibility and adaptability, respond to changing markets, and get a fresh perspective.
Integrating liquid workers into teams of full-time employees is a wise choice that lets you look ahead to the future and stay relevant.
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