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The changing colours of the liquid workforce

Sam Liew, Managing Director, Technology, ASEAN, Accenture | July 29, 2016
Eighty percent of the 3,100 IT and business executives Accenture surveyed believed that flexible and fluid workers will be their most valuable employees in the digital age. So how do we turn our workforce into one of chameleon workers?

This vendor-written piece has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favour the submitter's approach.

With a new product successfully designed and developed, the project team is disbanding. A number of them -- external experts and freelancers who prefer flexible work schedules -- head out the door to assignments elsewhere. Across the hallway, a smaller group of full-time employees plug into the system with their mobile devices to find new projects to apply to, training themselves as needed through in-house and external courses.

Welcome to the new workplace of the liquid workforce -- adaptable, tech-savvy employees who function effectively in project-based teams and learn on the go. In short, the chameleon worker. For businesses, these digital natives who embrace intelligent automation and move easily from project to project are key to staying a step ahead of the digital revolution.

Employers are prioritising breadth of skills and ability to "quickly learn" and "shift gears" over "deep expertise for the specialised task at hand", according to Accenture's Technology Vision 2016. In fact, having deep expertise ranked only the fifth most important characteristic needed to perform well in a digital work environment. 80 percent of the 3,100 IT and business executives surveyed also believed that flexible and fluid workers will be their most valuable employees in the digital age.

Enter the chameleon

So how do we turn our workforce into one of chameleon workers?

Continual training is the key. Massive open online courses (MOOCs) are now widely available and several leading companies run their own corporate academies. DBS Academy, for example, conducts over 10,000 training sessions each year, including scenario-based leadership development programmes and digital masterclasses. It also has a state-of-the-art consumer banking simulation branch where employees learn the latest technology first-hand.

A growing number of "ready-made" chameleons are also steadily entering the workforce. Millennials - a generation comfortable with technology - became the largest segment of the global workforce in 2015. And by 2020, Asia will have 60 percent of the world's millennial population.

These employees are a boon to companies transforming themselves into the leaner, flatter and more agile workplaces demanded by the digital revolution.

At GE Appliances, a small cross-functional team designed and delivered a high-end refrigerator built twice as fast and at half the cost. It also sold twice as well as previous models. The US-based multinational attributes success to what it calls FastWorks - an approach that does away with rigid processes and allows employees to make quick decisions on projects, switching directions when necessary. GE supported its employees by providing access to smart data, and the training needed to adapt and thrive in this environment.

 

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