As the world shrinks, the ability to access and integrate global talent into your team is easier than ever imaginable. Referred to by some as The Liquid Workforce, or Agile Talent by others, this new talent landscape is made possible with the surge of the Gig Economy (a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work as opposed to permanent jobs). More companies are strategically using external experts to help achieve a business outcome.
Businesses are most successful when they have the ability to leverage talent that is right for them at a specific moment in time. External talent might include freelancers, contractors, outsourcing, consulting, offshoring, etc. instead of having to make a full-time, static hire; and it’s easier than ever to enable your company to use liquid talent and achieve your goals whenever you need.
The Gig Economy and the theory and execution of Liquid Workforce strategies create different ways for businesses to attract and engage with amazing talent in the market. Facebook’s Zuckerberg once said that workers can come to Facebook for two months, two years, or two decades and Facebook will leverage what they bring to the table for whatever amount of time the worker wants to be there. It can range from on-demand workers up to full-time employees. This all comes down to what I call utilizing mind-power capital vs. trying to own human capital.
A Different Way of Thinking
Liquid workforce requires companies to think a little different. If implemented properly, this model has and will continue to disrupt industries. For example, Uber (or maybe I should use Lyft) and Airbnb are liquid. Airbnb has no actual property and few employees focused on the actual service offering of the company but have disrupted an entire industry through the use of a liquid workforce. Uber has done the same thing for the transportation industry. Taxi cab companies are not only struggling with finding customers, but they are losing employees (drivers) to the on-demand car services companies because these individuals can use their own car and more importantly work their own hours.
Like it or not, this trend will affect you. As more people enter the gig economy, there are fewer resources for companies to hire FTEs (full-time employees). You can apply the “Uber” concept to almost any industry. It doesn’t translate seamlessly to all industries or companies, but it does have some impact at different levels across every organization. Not every company should, or could become the “Uber of their industry,” but there should be a discussion around how using a liquid workforce can change the landscape, capability and agility of the company.
Liquid Talent Benefits Startups and Enterprise
Startups tend to do this inherently. Companies like UpWork have emerged to make it easy for businesses to find freelancers and for freelancers to streamline the process of landing their next gig. Startups are just more accustomed to thinking this way and using liquid talent. They are consistently thinking about the outcome and have more cost constraints when hiring FTEs. As a startup, if you need someone to create legal docs, content, or any other quick hit project, you don’t have to hire a full-time person, you find a professional capable of creating a specific deliverable at a negotiated price. You might build a core team that will house the IP of the organization, but you can still access mind-power capital outside of that core team. A Denver-based startup hiring a freelance Data Scientist in Europe that will work on their projects 10 hours per week is just normal these days.
For larger companies, the liquid workforce can help solve some of their biggest talent problems. Often, there is a shortage of talent when you need someone with a deep level of expertise within a specific discipline. Let’s continue with the Data Scientist example. Many companies don’t need a full-time Data Scientist, but large companies many times insist on wanting to hire an employee into these roles. If that fails they will go to a traditional staffing firm to hire a 6-month contractor, but a Data Scientist can service multiple clients and multiple clients can leverage the mind-power of that person for multiple different business outcomes in today world.
You don’t have to own the person to leverage the insights and knowledge.