Identifying and developing digitally ready talent sets the foundation for an agile business that is ready to adapt and scale.
Before 2020 started, remote and virtual work had already grown 159% since 2005. This growth has been driven in part by the rise of the liquid workforce. Freelancers and independent consultants have long been shaping the future of work and making a digitally ready and virtual workforce a reality.
The work that we do and how we do it is also transforming. The World Economic Forum has predicted that over the next 10 years, digital skills will be required for 9 out of 10 jobs, and automation will change 5 out of 10 jobs. Freelancers are also at the forefront of this skills transformation.
Rethinking The Workforce
The current environment is rapidly accelerating these trends. So how can we develop a digitally ready workforce that can scale and grow a business? Insights from working with executive-level freelancers and consultants can help provide the answers.
The liquid workforce has steadily grown over the last decade, with over 57 million people freelancing in the US last year. This growth has been driven in part by the shift to more project-based workflows in companies. One of the fastest-growing segments of the gig economy is knowledge workers due to the demand for a digitally ready workforce. Knowledge workers serve as on-demand consultants and advisors, helping companies to take advantage of business and technology trends.
Redesigning Work Styles And Workspaces
Increasingly, companies are moving toward a blended workforce, with a strategic talent pool of full-time workers for long-term needs and liquid workers for dynamic, short-term needs. This strategic approach increases flexibility, agility and diversity while fluidly scaling digital readiness.
The events of 2020 are likely to result in fundamental changes to our workspaces, accelerating the shift to virtual and flexible work and making it increasingly important to communicate effectively with fewer meetings. The new digital workspace will require managers to embrace flexibility and autonomy. Freelancers have learned how to build trust virtually. A key enabler to building that trust is having shared, clear goals and objectives. Combined with proactive, open and transparent communication through modern communication channels, freelancers can establish effective working relationships despite never interacting in-person.
Developing An Agile Mindset
Managing Freelancers and Vendors?
Our customers report saving 20 hours per month (on average) when they use Liquid’s complete contractor and vendor management system.
The accelerated shift to digital and virtual interaction in our workspaces will put pressure on soft skills, with communication, collaboration and emotional intelligence all increasingly essential. The importance of emotional intelligence, also referred to as EQ, is often underestimated but is directly related to not only great leadership, but also the ability to learn from experiences. We all need to learn to adapt our work styles to match the fluidity of our workspace with a more versatile approach. For example, we need to easily pivot between multiple internal communication channels, adapting our communication style and tone to each for effective virtual and in-real-life collaboration.
Core to any digitally ready workforce is the ability to handle and seek change. Individuals need to be agile, flexible and willing to learn. Successful freelancers are entrepreneurs and, as such, must be nimble, ready to take risks and look for opportunities. These freelancers are curious and take the initiative to continue to advance their knowledge and skills. When hiring freelancers, you can use trial projects to gauge fit. Similarly, you can task employees with small projects to assess their agile potential.
Investing In Continuous Learning
To develop the necessary agile mindset, individuals must be comfortable with being uncomfortable. According to research by McKinsey, the key traits to seek among individuals are the ability to handle ambiguity, agreeableness and conscientiousness. Agile thinkers embrace change and adaptability and strive to keep improving their skills and knowledge.
Successful freelancers continually assess and develop their skills, following personalized pathways of development. Seventy-eight percent of freelancers surveyed by Upwork responded that soft skills were at least equally important as technical skills to their success. These development pathways are pursued by combining online courses, mentoring, coaching and experiential learning. For freelancers, proficiency in using collaboration and productivity tools is a minimum standard to achieve. They also require strong technical skills in their areas of specialty, combined with cognitive and soft skills.
Developing a digitally ready workforce requires assessing your company’s current talent in terms of both hard and soft skills. You also need to understand their passion for learning and curiosity — key traits that the best freelancers share. Support continuous, ongoing learning within your team, and help individuals develop the best personal learning pathway. Developing digitally ready talent isn’t a one-size-fits-all journey.
Identifying and developing digitally ready talent sets the foundation for an agile business that is ready to adapt and scale. While half of jobs may change due to automation, creative and critical thinking, thoughtful communication skills and emotional intelligence will be essential strengths to develop, regardless of how technology evolves over the next decade and beyond.