The liquid workforce brings together a multitude of ideas about what the future of work.
The future of work — or, as some call it, work of the future — has been a hot topic for many years. Most people think of the future of work as it relates to a specific technology or social issue. For example, the wide range of ideas we’ve heard discussed around the future of work include:
Jobs at risk of being automated due to advancements in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).
The end of physical office space as companies transition to fully remote operations.
A digital workplace that includes virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR).
Diversity and inclusion.
Attracting and retaining top employees in an increasingly competitive talent market.
Soft skills and emotional intelligence.
Retraining and reskilling workers for the future.
Finding work-life balance or work-life fit.
The rise of multivendor software as a service (SaaS) for personal and team productivity applications.
Good jobs that pay a living wage, regardless of education or sector.
The gig economy.
Government-enacted policies and regulations, like California AB5, designed to protect and effectively tax freelance workers.
So which of these many options is truly the future of work?
We believe it’s a combination of all of the above, and it can be summarized by saying that the future of work is the liquid workforce.
Working For Yourself: The American Dream
Working for yourself used to be the American Dream. We were a nation of farmers, creators, builders, and individuals with a shared identity as aspiring achievers taking charge of our futures (and destinies). According to historian Steve Gillon, before 1860, most Americans lived in rural areas, and upward of 80% of the workforce was self-employed. By the late 1970s, the self-employment rate dropped to an estimated 7%. Today, that percentage has risen and continues to rise faster than the overall labor growth rate — 10% of workers are classified as self-employed, and 20% to 30% of people are engaged in some kind of independent work.
Corporations And The 9-to-5 During The Industrial Era
As America transformed from a nation of rural farmers to one of industry, so did the way we work. America became a nation of large hierarchical corporations, and our industrial economy required reliable, cookie-cutter workers. The 9-to-5 traditional workforce is a relic of this era: Early 20th century factories introduced the five-day workweek (down from six days to improve productivity).
Future Of Work In The Digital Age
In today’s digital age as AI and machine learning begin to automate jobs and as VR and AR change our workplace and training abilities, the structure of work and the skills needed to succeed have changed. Soft skills like emotional intelligence are now paramount to success, requiring changes to our education system. People are increasingly looking for work-life fit and choosing to leave traditional jobs and instead engage in independent, and often remote, work.
From the corporation side, the talent market is becoming increasingly competitive, requiring companies to engage the liquid workforce as part of their talent strategy. Remote work is becoming commonplace for both liquid workers and traditional workers. Governments are looking to regulate and capture taxes as the workforce evolves. And as the business case for diversity and inclusion has been made clear — that diversity in thought correlates directly to increased economic output — corporations need to add more diversity to their workforce. Corporations are increasingly turning to on-demand workers, consultants and advisors as part of their diversity and inclusion strategy.
The Liquid Workforce
Paying Freelancers and Vendors?
Our customers report that using Liquid allows them to put off hiring an Operations Manager and/or Bookkeeper.
What brings this all together is the idea that the future of work is the liquid workforce — a diverse, robust economy where more and more workers go back to being self-employed, where we go back to our roots as an entrepreneurial nation.
Where the corporation was once the structure driving our economy, the future is an agile, technology-enabled, human-optimized, and inclusive system. The individuals who comprise the liquid workforce will work anywhere, anytime on projects with varying durations. This idea encompasses the changing policies, mindsets, and strategies of the future of work, and more importantly, the opportunities that follow.
Opportunities Ahead In The Future of Work
Integrating the liquid workforce will bring fresh and diverse perspectives to companies and add new energy and ideas. Businesses will be nimbler and able to quickly respond to changing customer expectations or shifting markets. Developing an adaptive workplace and systems will enable companies to support their flexible blended workforce in terms of both productivity and experience.
The future of work is the liquid workforce, and it is already here. Companies that expect to compete in today’s fast-paced digital landscape must activate the liquid workforce, often by engaging on-demand advisors and consultants along with other freelance workers.
Are you ready to take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead in the future of work?
Note, this article was originally published on Forbes and appears here under license by the author (Liquid’s CXO Yolanda Lau).