Stephen DeWitt, the CEO of talent automation software firm, WorkMarket, https://www.workmarket.com recently published a provocative piece in the NewCo Shift entitled, “The Trillion Dollar Economy of Inefficiency.” Stephen was good enough to spend time with me as I was researching my new book, Thriving in the Gig Economy. I found his observations about the future of work provocative prescient and possible. His recent article shares those attributes. In it, he mentions how so many of us delight in asking the Amazon Echo, Alexa, to turn on lights or play music. Managing those personal tasks is a breeze now with this automated assistant. Too bad, DeWitt says, that managing your workforce isn’t so easy.
He goes on to describe the friction inherent in sourcing the right talent for key initiatives. Many businesses operate in the traditional world of staffing regular jobs and have not adopted a more flexible approach. For those that do use all sorts of human capital resources, from employees to consultants to SOW contractors, managing this fluid workforce ( De Witt calls it a “liquid” workforce which is catchy…) can be challenging.
He goes on to explain how the WorkMarket product, which is quite cool, can reduce some of these problems by creating custom talent clouds. These clouds are so simple a teenager can build one, yet they are equipped with sophisticated AI technology that learns exponentially the best ways to allocate work. He finishes off with an Accenture prediction that in the future there will be a Fortune 500 company with no employees per se. This is not unlike some of the predictions made by the Irish economist, Charles Handy, in his most recent book,The Second Curve, https://books.google.com/books?id=yztOBQAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false, where he discusses the future world of work and how the physical aspects of workplaces will change. He refers to the independent workforce as fleas riding on the back of the corporate elephant.
In appealing for less friction in the management of the workforce, DeWitt is most concerned with the needs of the company; he does not addressthe need for an Alexa for the independent worker. As more and more companies recognize the power of the “liquid” workforce, more and more opportunities will become available for independent workers. Studies show that independent workers want flexibility and control over their time, but they also want control over the content of what they do and many if not most are looking for intellectual challenges. Working independently, they are managing their career, so securing substantive projects that lead to skill building opportunities that increase their own marketability is key. Independent professionals also want clear deliverables, and try to avoid situations where desired outputs seem to be in flux and scope creep is an every day occurrence. At a more banal level, they want clients who will pay in a timely way and treat outside providers with respect.
So wouldn’t it be nice to also have an Alexa that one could ask, “Who is the best client for me given my skill set?” Who knows, it could happen.