A circle of diverse individuals holding hands - Representing creative destruction and the contingent workforce.

Creative Destruction and the “Other” Workforce

Creative destruction is an economic concept that describes the perpetual process of innovation and evolution in business markets. It “revolutionizes the economic structure from within, incessantly destroying the old one, incessantly creating the new one.” The implication is that outdated beliefs, behaviors, systems and structures must be intentionally deconstructed to fully enable the innovation and evolution required when change in our world is both relentless and accelerating. Otherwise, these old habits, mindsets and models will only hinder our success. 

One concept in the world of work that is ripe for creative destruction is the “other” workforce – commonly known as the contingent workforce, the alternative workforce, temporary workers or a number of terms implying something less than regular, full-time employees. The notion of otherness brought about by these terms can, unfortunately, relegate hard-working people to second-class status or worse at a time when workforce strategy, experience and development are top of mind for many C-suite leaders. 

True, some of this stratification emerged from regulations and classifications that were based on legal status and a completely different labor market. However, this notion of otherness, as associated with what is approaching half of the average company’s workforce, defies the efforts we’re making to enhance inclusion, belonging, productivity and agility in our organizations. It is simply impossible to fully upgrade workforce skills, organizational culture or digital business without engaging all types of workers. 

A Unified, Digital Workforce

Fortunately, workplace technology is converging with worker preferences and people-centric management to create a new vision of a unified, digital workforce. Rather than stratifications and second-class status assigned to non-employee workers, the unified workforce takes a page from the digital transformation playbook to unify the approaches to accessing, selecting, deploying, engaging and retaining talent. Through segmentation and personalization of the total workforce, organizations can attract and hire diverse candidates with a wide variety of skills that suit multiple needs while balancing personal preferences and organizational needs. 

We have been hearing about digital platforms for a few years as the solution to our talent woes as well as the 21st century digital business model. We have only begun, however, to tap into the power of these solutions to attract, match and deploy individuals based on their skills, location, availability and personal preferences.

Some of the benefits of unifying platforms include: 

  • Increased access to diverse talent sources: Organizations are gaining increased access to all types of talent as new types of purpose-built platforms continue to emerge and focus on gig workers, independent contractors, crowdsourcing and other specialized segments and supplemental services such as direct sourcing. Full-time employee platforms deployed by many enterprises are also a part of this picture. Connecting these platforms to unify the workforce and the critical people data they generate allows for a more holistic talent strategy while maintaining the appropriate segmentation to manage classification issues and create more personalized experiences for diverse types of workers.
  • Improved personalization and inclusion: Unifying the oversight of all workforce segments allows for the personalization of experiences for all types of workers. This facilitates deliberate efforts to extend culture, inclusion, communication, engagement and retention to every workforce segment in a manner that’s appropriate to each specific segment. This is done while maintaining requirements related to classification, budget and strategy while employment law catches up with current labor market realities. This matters when some of the most sought-after talent chooses to “try before you buy” an organization by accepting a temporary gig or contracting assignment when they are thinking about joining a company. 
  • Near real-time analytics: Unifying workforce platforms also allow for near real-time analysis of market, engagement and performance data to inform decision-making and the deployment of the best type of worker for any given segment. By comparing market pay rates, availability, skills access and performance of the various segments, including full-time employees, organizations and their people managers can make informed decisions about which source of talent and which type of worker meets specific business needs. 

It is tempting to see creative destruction as “dropping a bomb,” “blowing things up” or some other attention-getting tagline as our socio-economic models go through multiple disruptions. The very word “destruction” suggests as much, especially when we are fatigued from lockdowns, restrictions, massive change and inflation. But it is also important to recognize that some elements of the outdated behaviors, systems and structures we’re breaking down can also be reconfigured to help create new ways of generating value and improving work. This allows us to be more responsible stewards of the resources under our influence and maintain our perspective on the effects of continuous, massive change on our people.

By unifying the strategy and management of all workforce segments through platforms, organizations can remove the “otherness” associated with past practices around the contingent workforce while empowering their people leaders with greater access, oversight and engagement. 

Jeff Mike

Jeff Mike

Head of Research, Flextrack

Jeff Mike works closely with HR, Procurement and IT leaders to design extended workforce ecosystems that fuel and future-proof enterprise talent strategies. Jeff brings over 15 years of experience leading HR functions, along with five years leading global HR- and workforce-related research, to combine the best thought leadership, business practices, and platform technology into purpose-built solutions.

Jeff Mike