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The 'distributed WORKFORCE’

In the last few years, a combination of movement restrictions, emergence of collaboration tools and sharp shift to digital channels have led to relevant changes in how people collaborate and deliver work. Employees were sent to work from home all at once, and those that were still required at a physical location increased their usage of other channels, supporting call centres or online order fulfilling.

Two major trends emerged around the workforce.

1. Increased flexibility for employees and employers

The last few years have proven that people can work and collaborate together in a remote manner. While it provided great flexibility to employees right away, it also expanded the options for employers to source talent in the mid-long term. With lower geography (and time zone) restrictions due to collaboration tools and level of automation/digitisation, there is increased appetite from organisations to source talent nearshore and offshore, utilise part-time/flexible and leverage vendors to execute work.   

Our research shows that Leaders have bolder aspirations to pursue a more distributed workforce. Although both Leaders and the rest believe remote work will continue being important, Leaders are 2.5x more likely to allow employees to work remote all the time.

Workforce mix: there seems to be a sweet spot in terms of balancing permanent and contingent (i.e. non-permanent) employees. Our research shows that more than half of the Leaders aim to have 61-80% of the workforce as permanent employees, thus allowing some capacity for other employment arrangements (e.g. contractors). Permanent workforce provides the necessary stability to foster knowledge retention, continuous improvement, sense of culture and higher connection with the organisation, its customers and community. However, some contingent capacity provides flexibility to scale up and down as required (at lower cost), bring in new capabilities and deploy temporary specialists for short term projects.

When prompted around where to source remaining workforce capacity, Leaders were much more willing to use technology vendors and other types of contingent options which can be partially explained by the higher demand for transformation resources in new capabilities areas.

2. Upskilling workforce to thrive in the digital era

The use of AI, cognitive technologies, and robotics to automate and augment work is on the rise, prompting the redesign of jobs. As machines take over repeatable tasks and the work people do becomes less routine, many jobs will rapidly evolve into what we call “superjobs”—the newest job category that changes the landscape of how organisations think about work. This dramatically increases productivity.

Focus on a new set of skills is required for the workforce to thrive in the digital era – tech fluency, agile and design thinking, empathy, curiosity, courage, imagination and influence.

By tapping into these capabilities, workers and organisations can better handle the fast paced and ambiguous future and create new sets of value and the return on human capital.

Conclusion and what’s next

Our research shows that Leaders have bolder aspirations to pursue a more distributed workforce including increased employee and employer flexibility, greater balance of permanent to contingent workforce options and better workforce upskilling. These Leaders are setting themselves up to thrive in the digital era by focusing on work that adds greater value and improving the organisation of their workforce to meet changing customer expectations, increased cost pressures and new partnering opportunities.

Our next blog will explore the what (and where!) of the future workplace including the three common levers to achieve and accelerate these changes as well as the new office.