Apr 14, 2021 - Economy

Companies struggle to manage on-demand workforces

Illustration of silhouettes sitting at a table.

Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

A new report explores the challenges of managing "workforce ecosystems" increasingly made up of non-permanent employees.

The big picture: The emergence of new labor-sharing platforms, the push to cut costs, and workers' own preferences all drive the emergence of a distributed workforce — and companies need to adjust their management strategies.

By the numbers: In a survey by Deloitte and MIT Sloan Management Review of more than 5,000 corporate professionals and leaders from around the world, 87% of managers reported that they consider non-permanent workers — like contractors, gig workers and even bots — to be part of their workforce.

  • A third of respondents say they expect to rely more on non-permanent workers over the next 18–24 months, and more than half say they'll use online platforms to access external talent.
  • "We're seeing the total workforce that an organization engages to do work on their behalf as part a 'workforce ecosystem,'" says Robin Jones, U.S. workforce transformation leader at Deloitte.

Of note: While it's easy to think of gig workers as the corporate equivalent of second-class citizens, "there's a greater focus on really high-cost, high-skill occupations like data scientists" among the extended workforce, says Balaji Bondili, head of Deloitte Pixel.

The catch: Only 28% of those surveyed say they are sufficiently prepared to manage that new ecosystem.

What to watch: How companies shift their talent management structure to compensate for a much more varied workforce ecosystem.

  • "If organizations can literally rewire themselves to create a more personalized experience while continuing the trajectory of work productivity and output, that is going to be the holy grail," Jones says.
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