Tomorrow's workforce will come from the cloud, study predicts

Accenture report says more outsiders and fewer insiders are doing the jobs of today's organizations. And these outsiders will increasingly be contracted through cloud-based services.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

There are more outsiders and fewer insiders doing the jobs of today's organizations. And these outsiders are increasingly being contracted through the cloud.

A new report out of Accenture documents how more organizations are relying on global networks of outside contractors, outsourcing partners, vendors, strategic partners and other "nontraditional workers." The report, prepared by Yaarit Silverstone, Catherine Farley and Susan M. Cantrell, all of Accenture, says this growing shift to outside talent means "the end of work as we know it."

Many contract-based "individuals are jobless, but not workless," they observe. "Others have jobs in one organization but perform work for another, existing in a complex and intricate web of cross-organizational relationships that form a new 'supply chain' of talent." By various estimates, 20-33 percent of today’s U.S. workforce now comprises independent workers (freelancers, contractors and temps), up from 6 percent in 1989.

Overall, they continue, this is a positive thing for productivity and opportunity, but creates new challenges as well. For one, organizations need to ensure they are appropriately monitoring the performance of the extended workforce, as a way to tap the right people for projects. Plus, they are under the onus to provide training and learning opportunities to this group of temporary or project-based workers. Finally, employers need to get savvy about new ways to source freelancers, such as "cloud talent sourcing."

The report's authors cite recent data that shows emergence of online independent contractor cloud-based talent platforms — such as Elance, oDesk and TopCoder — is a rapidly growing market, with more than one million workers having earned between $1-2 billion over the past 10 years in this industry.

Cloud talent sourcing, as the term suggests, is a means for organizations to get the skills they need on an on-demand, transactional basis via global online services.  Online contractor exchanges are one example, and with cloud talent sourcing, employers can contract for microtasks, such as copying text from business cards on Amazon’s Mechanical Turk talent marketplace  -- which pays pennies.  "Other tasks are large, such as selling products for a fee using LeadVine’s talent marketplace," the Accenture team states. "Yet others consist of complex project work, including software design and programming."

The Accenture team states that with the increase of specialization in the workplace and the heavy reliance on project work in knowledge-based organizations, "highly educated specialists and professionals are serving as contingent workers in positions as varied as engineer, information technologist, healthcare worker and accounting and finance professionals." In addition, they add, "as much as 80 percent of freelancers on Elance have a professional degree, and their assignments can last as long as several months, reflecting the shift to knowledge and project work."

Today's companies and organizations are no longer hierarchical stacks, occupied by 9-to-5 wage slaves. They are networks of entrepreneurs, innovators, leaders and ad-hoc teams brought together to turn ideas into products and services. These networks coalesce, collapse and re-form to meet the fast-changing demands of markets and consumers.

(Thumbnail photo: Joe McKendrick.)

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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