“How do you define your workforce?” We posed this question to dozens of executives and in several global management surveys. The most common answer is also the most surprising.
A confident minority of executives say that their workforce is just their employees. But the overwhelming majority, especially leaders on the front lines of organizational change, take a broader view that goes beyond just employees. Increasingly, they characterize the workforce as all the people and groups involved in achieving the company’s business objectives. Organizations’ expanding workforces have become so essential to their businesses, brands and vision of value creation that they need to think differently and act differently about their entire workforce.
This represents a change in management’s perspective since we began our study of the future of the workforce a few years ago. We are seeing this change across industries and a wide variety of organizations, large and small – and it is challenging leaders to redefine who and what constitutes their workforce and adopt new management practices and organizational structures. develops.
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Hierarchical, command-and-control, internally focused management practices are not appropriate for workforces that span internal and external organizational boundaries. Using separate functions to manage employees and external contributors independently, for example, is fraught with challenges: ill-defined decision authority, governance processes, and power dynamics undermine even the best-intentioned executives. Can In addition, technology systems are typically separate for managing employees and for accessing and tracking external contributors. This lack of integration creates inefficiencies that can frustrate efforts to acquire and maintain strategically valuable capabilities.
we define workforce ecosystem As a structure that includes actors from within and outside the organization, working to create value for the organization. Within the ecosystem, individuals work toward individual and collective goals, with interdependencies and complementarities among participants.
The workforce ecosystem includes employees as well as external contributors and a variety of partners – long and short term contractors, gig workers, application developers, service providers and crowdsourced actors. An ecosystem perspective clearly recognizes that workforce access and engagement is no longer the sole domain of the HR function, but cross-functional actions involving leaders in C-suite, IT, procurement, finance, legal and other areas. is required.
Deliberately orchestrating a workforce ecosystem requires leaders to coordinate activities within their own organization and those of outside contributors.
About the Author
Elizabeth J. Altman is Associate Professor of Management at the Manning School of Business at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. David Kiron is Editorial Director, Research at MIT Sloan Management Review. Jeff Schwartz is Vice President of Insights and Impact at Glott and an Adjunct Professor at Columbia Business School. Robin Jones is a Principal at Deloitte Consulting LLP and serves as Workforce Transformation Practice Leader. He is the author of Workforce Ecosystems (MIT Press, April 2023), from which this article is adapted.
1. EJ Altman, KC Kellogg, and D. Kiron, “Orchestrating Workforce Ecosystems,” in “The Power of Ecosystems: Making Sense of the New Reality for Organizations,” ed. S. Krainer (Business Ecosystem Alliance, 2022), 8–20.