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Workforce Ecosystems – When thinking of your organization’s workforce, who comes to mind?

When thinking of your organization’s workforce, who comes to mind? Do you think of just full-time employees? Or do you think of everyone who contributes to your organization’s success? Our latest research finds that 87% of managers include contractors, gig workers, service providers, and even bots in their organization’s workforce, but only 28% feel sufficiently prepared to manage a workforce that includes external workers. In the 2021 Future of the Workforce research report, we share how implementing a workforce ecosystem approach can help your company develop a more holistic view of its workforce.

Ask managers today how they define their workforce, and a common answer is, “That’s a very good question.” It’s a good question, managers tell us, because they feel often squeezed between two realities. One reality is that their workforce increasingly depends on external workers. The other reality is that their management practices, systems, and processes are designed for internal employees. The struggle to reconcile these two realities is an ongoing challenge, with significant implications for strategy, leadership, organizational culture, and workforce management practices.

Our research makes clear that most managers today consider employees and other workers who create value for the enterprise — including contractors, service providers, gig workers, and even software bots — to be part of their workforce. Our recent global executive survey affirms that the vast majority — about 87% — of respondents include some external workers when considering their workforce composition.

The research and analysis for this report was conducted under the direction of the authors as part of an MIT Sloan Management Review research initiative in collaboration with and sponsored by Deloitte.
At the same time, most workforce-related practices, systems, and processes focus on employees, not external workers. Workforce planning, talent acquisition, performance management, and compensation policies, for example, all tend to focus on full-time (and sometimes part-time) employees. Consequently, organizations often lack an integrated approach to managing a workforce in which external workers play a large role.

As one of the executives we interviewed for this report told us, “Wouldn’t it make sense to become just as mature about managing this segment of the workforce, which can be even bigger than your payroll workers?”

The search for an integrated approach to strategically managing a diverse group of internal and external workers has led some forward-thinking executives to the idea of a workforce ecosystem.

We define a workforce ecosystem as a structure focused on value creation for an organization that consists of complementarities and interdependencies.1 This structure encompasses actors, from within the organization and beyond, working to pursue both individual and collective goals.
This promising idea — which we discuss in detail in this report — offers several potential benefits that could help managers think through the strategic, organizational, regulatory, and practical implications of a workforce comprising employees, external workers, and others.

This report explains what workforce ecosystems are, reflects on the trends driving their emergence, discusses their benefits and challenges, and identifies shifts in management practices associated with creating and managing a workforce ecosystem. Our discussion is based on findings from a recent global executive survey of 5,118 professionals, 27 executive interviews, and a review of human capital and ecosystem management literatures.

This research is part of a multiyear MIT SMR and Deloitte research collaboration on the future of the workforce.2 Our research to date offers compelling evidence that many of today’s executives expect workforce ecosystems to be a significant part of their futures. It is an open question whether the trends that have been moving companies toward workforce ecosystems — such as the changing nature of work, and shifting worker preferences — will continue to drive companies in this direction.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story @ Workforce Ecosystems: A New Strategic Approach to the Future of Work


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