Workforce Ecosystems: An Innovative Strategic Approximation to the Future of Work

by Vassiliki Vitaki, Member of the Financial Affairs Research Team

When considering an organization’s workforce, who comes to mind? Do we think of just full-time assistants? Or do we think of everyone that contributes to an organization’s success?

Into the futureDriving future of workforce ecosystems | Deloitte Insights

As businesses face up to an ambiguous, post-crisis landscape, Albert Einstein’s quote prompts them to revoke that  “in the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity.” In particular, as organizations shift from a mindset of coping to one of competing, the dominant companies in the market will seize the unique opportunity before them to envision—and plan—new organizational practices and strategies that are more adjustable, consolidated, flexible, and eventually, more anthropocentric approaches. 

These organizations will view themselves as interconnected organizational structures that seek to constantly investigate, fail, acquire new knowledge, develop—and commence the procedure afresh when the world perpetually evolves again.  Consequently, the best possible way to conceptualize and greet these shifts and associated practices is through the lens of workforce ecosystems.

Adopt a Workforce Ecosystem view

In 2014, Tesla made the professedly revolutionary choice to open-source its patents and encourage other organizations to utilize its intellectual property. In retrospect, as it turns out, that resolution was an eminent model of the ecosystem-oriented decisions that all future-ready corporations should consider. In the case of Tesla in particular, of major importance was the fact that it recognized that it could not develop without external partners to build charging stations and provide the services needed to build infrastructure and support electric vehicles [S]. So, by following a different corporate strategy and enclosing the company at the center of a burgeoning workforce ecosystem of partners, Tesla laid the foundation for its rapid growth. Future-proof companies will take such examples to heart, acknowledging that traditional organizational boundaries about where a corporation lies have being transformed.

Today’s workforces, as already mentioned, include not only employees, but also entrepreneurs, independent contractors, on-demand professional service providers, contract firm workers, business associates, and others.  However, at this point, it is worth noting that according to recent management research, the workforce ecosystem defined as a structure focused on value creation for an organization that consists of interdependent or complement actors (workers or organizations), from within the organization and beyond, working to pursue both individual and collective goals [1].

The structure of workforce ecosystems may differ, considerably from one industry to another, but they all have several features in common: They pursue value and anti-fragility creation for the enterprise, they count on complementarities or interdependencies between ecosystem members, — including contractors, service providers, gig workers, and even software bots —, essentially workers depend upon each other for their business success or failure. Increasingly, however, the efficient operation of workforce ecosystems is feasible through networks where business partners share data, code, skills, and communities of enterprises create value together [2].

This ecosystem approach is a meaningful divergence from the conventional composition of the workforce, which envisions individual employees conducting work longwise linear career pathways to generate value for their organization.

So, in the course of time, the mechanistic, process-driven view of work and monolithic centralized programs converged on optimizing business performance has principally given way to a team-based, project-based view of work that is centered on agility, innovation, and partnerships [3]. Another significant aspect to realize is that partnerships should be cultivated for the long-term to better develop the anti-fragility that serves partners in crucial periods. For instance, Johnson & Johnson’s JLABS provides operational support and resources, markets, science, and other essential elements to promising start-ups [4]. So, along these lines, the company  develops and strengthens relationships with entrepreneurs on the “fragile front lines of innovation.”

These fundamentally unconventional methods are enthralling some leaders to invent new rulings about how to orchestrate their workforces. Future-ready organizations confront co-workers as extensions of themselves. Thus, the transition to project-based work engenders new opportunities and possibilities for organizations to bring in external expertise for definite engagements or to use internal talent marketplaces that permit employees to move efficiently among departments to reach emergent requirements.

Workforce Management Practices

When the workforce changes from being primarily employee-centric to incorporating a diverse community that converges an organization’s boundaries, core talent processes need to evolve. Most of these methods have been in place for decades and were composed and designed to maintain a traditional employee life cycle approach. Nevertheless, moving to a workforce ecosystem approach, as presented in the table below, calls for a shift in management practices, including making modifications to underlying viewpoints, operations, and methods.

Conclusion

Transforming and leading to the future of work is a unique process for any organization, as everyone has its own business vocation, challenges, aims, and outcomes. In particular, as it turns out, it is not a one-dimensional change but an ever-evolving process. The key to prosperity for business organizations lies in supporting a shared vision for the future that focuses on the effective management of a modern workforce. More specifically, this workforce ecosystem includes both internal and external factors, in a way that is in line with both the business strategy of an organization and its values, which is a critical business necessity. 

It is worth noting, however, that the management method often remains focused on an increasingly outdated view of the workforce, as business executives face key decisions about how to manage their workforce. Whereas they can either remain to lead employees, external staff, and other corporations through complex, often parallel, systems, or they can develop an innovative, more holistic workforce strategy that covers organizational boundaries and different types of employees and contributors. Reorganizing the ecosystem from a one-dimensional approach focusing exclusively on employees to a workforce ecosystem approach can lead to meaningful strategic value.

In the final analysis, it is easy to understand that the process of developing a workforce ecosystem combined with strategic planning is a systematic way of identifying and ascertaining best practices to achieve business goals, but also their thorough approach based on the requirements of each workforce ecosystem. With the primary goal of turning business values ​​into action, visions into reality, difficulties and obstacles to innovation, and risks to benefit. Accordingly, diversifying and redesigning a growth-oriented business strategy is the change that workforce ecosystem leaders seek to turn uncertain opportunities into remarkable successes.

REFERENCES

[1] R. Kapoor, “Ecosystems: Broadening the Locus of Value Creation,” Journal of Organization Design 7, no. 12 (2018): 1-16.

[2] See last year’s report for more information: M. Schrage, J. Schwartz, D. Kiron, et al., “Opportunity Marketplaces: Aligning Workforce Investment and Value Creation in the Digital Enterprise,” MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, April 28, 2020, https://sloanreview.mit.edu.

[3] For a comprehensive overview of the ecosystem construct in management research, see Kapoor, “Ecosystems.“, Ecosystems: broadening the locus of value creation, Rahul Kapoor.

[4] J.D. Arnold, C.H. Van Iddekinge, M.C. Campion, et al., “Welcome Back? Job Performance and Turnover of Boomerang Employees Compared to Internal and External Hires,” Journal of Management, July 16, 2020, https://journals.sagepub.com.

[5] S. Mansoor, “‘I’ve Been Missing Caring for People. ’Thousands of Retired Health Care Workers Are Volunteering to Help Areas Overwhelmed by Coronavirus,” Time, March 26, 2020, https://time.com.

[6] J.B. Fuller, M. Raman, J. Palano, et al., “Building the OnDemand Workforce,” PDF File (Boston: Harvard Business School and BCG Henderson Institute, November 2020), www.hbs.edu.

[7] J. Schwartz, “Work Disrupted: Opportunity, Resilience, and Growth in the Accelerated Future of Work” (Hoboken, New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, 2021).

[8] L. Gratton and A. Scott, “The Corporate Implications of Longer Lives,” MIT Sloan Management Review 58, no. 3 (spring 2017): 63-70.

[9] J.B. Fuller, M. Raman, J. Palano, et al., “Building the On-Demand Workforce,” PDF file (Boston: Harvard Business School and BCG, 2020), www.hbs.edu

[10] E. Volini, J. Schwartz, I. Roy, et al., “Leading the Social Enterprise: Reinvent With a Human Focus, Deloitte Insights, accessed Dec. 21, 2020, https://www2.deloitte.com


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