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The workforce is undergoing a radical transformation. Globalization, the Great Millennial invasion (wink), social changes, and a shift from permanent/onsite to contingency/off-site employees are changing the face of the labor market, as well as are our definitions of work and workplace.

The Oxford Economics’ Workforce 2020 study shone a revealing, global light on these trends. Its findings are gleaned from surveys and interviews involving some 2,700-business leaders and 2,700 employees in 27 different countries. So the data has a certain thunk to it. Given the slippage I see in HR — the “are we there yet” lag between change and action, that may be just what we need.

What Workforce 2020 shows is that the future is now, but we’re not really dealing with it. Only 34 percent of businesses surveyed believe they have made significant progress towards building the workforce of the future. But the workforce of the future, soon to become the status quo, is clearly different.

• It’s global. 51% said shifts in the global labor market were a top concern, and already causing a profound shift on their workforce strategy.

• And full of new blood. Another 51% said their other top concern is the influx of millennials: this generation’s entry into the workforce is having a significant impact on their workforce strategy.

• And not always on the payroll. No longer is the workforce based on the traditional employee-employer model. A whopping 83% of executives surveyed stated they are using more consultants, intermittent, and contingent workers. 

How to manage this diverse pool of talent?

HR needs to seriously up its game to strategically manage this diverse, global, multi-faceted pool of talent. There’s an arsenal of tools and metrics out there, and it’s time to harness them.

My recommendations:

Get the C-suite on board. This is technically more of a mission. If you lack the C-Suite’s blessing (strategic and financial) for all those nifty talent management plans, you’ll run out of gas before you’ve started rolling. The Oxford study showed a marked gap between HR goals and company boards: just 52% of executives surveyed said HR drives their decision-making. Making a clear argument for the impact of workforce excellence on corporate health is imperative, and having a clear strategy as to how to do it is critical for this success.

That takes a) having a beautifully functional workforce, and b) having a way to work with all the data that stems from it. So:

  • Adopt an effective, mobile, flexible, social, uniform onboarding program.
  • Get everyone up to speed on the organizational vision and culture fast.
  • Include “millennial-friendly” mobile and social components.
  • Structure in a combination of uniformity (so everyone can easily confer and share the information) and opportunities for human contact / mentoring.
  • Incorporate collaborative aspects for teambuilding across generations.
  • Foster a relationship between employee and company for genuine engagement and retention.
  • Get everyone productive.
  • Get your metrics in gear. Or: reach for the Cloud. The relationship between Data and Insight, and Insight and Strategy, is a no-brainer at this point, and the Cloud is a powerful resource and a game-changer of a tool for HR. Companies need to turn to Cloud-based Big Data and Talent Analytics software in a big way now. Even when the data is available, according to the Oxford study, only 42% know how to extract meaningful insights from it. What’s needed:

    • A powerful benchmarking and metrics program
    • A cohesive, across-the-board strategy and the software to support it
    • A built-in flexibility that can realign HR to the evolving needs and vision of the company as well as its workforce.

The new workforce really does represent a break with norms of the recent past. To manage it, and capitalize on it, is going to mean being able to understand and embrace of its values, needs, and differences, and that’s going to take the new generation of HR tools. (And yet another edict we don’t have room for here is the necessity of having a powerful learning platform — not only to enable growth and advancement and increase the skillset of your workforce, but to also train your own future leaders.) Otherwise, while your competitors forge ahead, you may wind up facing an altogether new kind of Talent Crisis. Time to get on board.

photo credit: by citirecruitment via IM Creator cc