Incoming! News and Musings on the Future of Work
by YOSS Community Writer, on May 16, 2019 at 12:00 PM
Welcome to the YOSS blog! We’re about to embark on a new journey exploring an evolving phenomenon that deserves space for thought.
Over the past few years, the world of work has been experiencing tectonic shifts. We are in the midst of new global cultural formations as professionals challenge the nine-to-five fixed office paradigm and remap boundaries of meaningful work and life.
Work: The New Frontier
A unique figure emerges at the frontier of this movement. Agile talent, independent professional (iPro), field expert or freelancer—call them what you may. Not tied to any single organization, or even geographic location for that matter, these dynamic free agents who actively choose diversified work are agile, limber and muscled with momentum. Like other pioneering folk, freelancers have particular mettle. They are resilient lifelong learners, self-directed and entrepreneurial. As such, they insist on the freedom to chart their own professional courses. They are not “employees”; they’re your business partners. They have “clients” not “bosses.” These autonomous professionals render valuable services to many clients over time and layer projects to weave a complex tapestry of work and life experiences. To label them simply as “gigsters” would be inaccurate.
Studies by the Freelancer’s Union and McKinsey Global Institute cite 30–35% of the American workforce (or 55 million people) to be engaged in some sort of freelance activity in 2016 (projected to grow to over 50% in the next decade). Of those, 30% choose a diversified income from project work over traditional single-income employment. In their study, Harvard and Princeton economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger found that the lion’s share of new jobs created between 2005–2015 were “alternative work arrangements,” and that the US workforce engaged in these grew from 10% in 2005 to 16% in 2015. Freelancers reportedly contributed 1.4 trillion dollars to the economy last year.
Agile Talent, Agile Spaces, Competitive Edge
Dubbing this “The Era of Agile Talent,” Jon Younger and Norm Smallwood distinguish freelancers from other “alternative” workers of the past. Unlike the temp worker, contractor or outsource, who are traditional hired to fulfill administrative or operational work (in place of a full-time employee), the freelancer represents a strategic move. This strategic use of external experts—made possible by digital platforms, collaborative working technology and the globalization of talent—allows companies to fill in critical skill and knowledge gaps as they go lean and adapt to shifting market dynamics.
The freelance revolution brings a degree of innovation, speed and flexibility to the workforce unseen in previous ages. Many fields and industries are advancing so quickly that traditional training and development cannot keep up. The ability to integrate independent talent into an organization to increase innovation and knowledge production will make all the difference between success and failure. Businesses seeking out the growing pool of talented freelancers can accelerate and expand with increasing competitive edge. It’s not just startups; talent platform-savvy enterprise businesses are now adding a bench of highly-skilled specialists they can call on when needed—not to replace their core team, but to lever and complement them.
Building New Work Culture, Bridging Knowledge Gaps
We live in an exciting moment in which we get to explore and participate in a culture-in-formation. Much of the shape it takes over the next few years will be determined by the new working dynamics and relationships forged with flexible talent in this agile working space.
The “Freelance Revolution” brings surging opportunities, but also learning challenges. For clients, less defined working dynamics and structures will require new talent management strategies to fully harness the power of the flexible workforce and hybrid teams. The important questions will be: How to harness and lever talent you don’t own? How to best integrate the talents of these highly-skilled experts and when?
For even the most dynamic freelancer, being an all-in-one wheelhouse of business, marketing and skilled professional requires building diverse skills and management strategies. This will require a robust community and culture of knowledge-sharing and support. Being a fairly new workforce, freelancers do not yet enjoy the protection of policies and regulations or a historical archive of legal resources. As freelancers organize around the world, this growing global workforce and its collective demands will form the energy around which new policies coalesce.
Expect Interesting Things in the Future of Work
Whether you’re an aspiring or seasoned freelancer, a thought leader of a startup or enterprise looking to adapt agile talent into your business strategies—this is a place to learn and share. This blog provides a forum to bridge the knowledge gaps among freelancers as well as between freelancers and potential clients. You’ll hear from the freelancers, change agents, thought leaders and organizations embracing on-demand talent as short-term and enduring solutions.
Throughout, we’ll be profiling independent pros, industry leader, technologies and tips to add to your freelancer knowledge tool kit. We’ll put freelancers in relief to see dimensions of their desires and motivations against the backdrop of global work trends and shifting currents. You’ll read “Freelancer Stories: From the Charmed to the Damned” as freelancers share personal experiences to help guide their fellow frontiersmen and enlighten clients.
We’ll examine the art of freelance collaboration as well as the romance of long-distance relationships. We’ll learn strategies that small businesses, fast-growing startups and established enterprises can adapt to support their core teams and freelance talent.
We’ll gleam insights from how giants like Samsung, Google, BBC and IBM strategically deploy freelancers to achieve striking results. We’ll hit on pain points. We’ll offer balms and solutions. We’ll also apply some topical humor.
We’re trying to cultivate some emotional intelligence around these shifting dynamics and understand these important relationships shaping the future of work.
Join us for an ongoing learning adventure series!