Are You Sabotaging Your Flexible Workforce Before They Even Start?

The way the world works is changing. Whether you call it the Workforce of 2020, the future of work, or the rise of automation, as a business leader, you will undoubtedly have considered one or more of these factors in planning your organization’s ongoing workforce strategy.

I’ve worked many industries throughout my career - public and private sector, global organizations and start-ups, not for profits and publicly listed companies. It’s shaped my perspective and now, when presented with any business challenge, I break it down into 3 simple buckets: people, processes and tools.

As this is my first blog post for SAP Fieldglass, I thought I would share a topic that I get more exposure to daily than most business leaders might get in a month – the flexible workforce. In short, the people aspect of the ‘getting work done’ equation.

By now, most organizations are familiar with the concepts of contract workers, services based engagements, and how these can help organizations fill short terms needs or bring in niche expertise that they don’t have readily available. What is not yet prevalent is compensating contractors, freelancers, or service providers on outcome based delivery, rather than the somewhat antiquated notion of time and materials-based engagements.

I can imagine what some of you are thinking – you already engage contractors and service providers to achieve a set of desired outcomes. But is the way you look at engaging external labour within your organization truly fit-for-purpose?

Here in Australia, many contractors build a reputation for delivery, establishing a credibility that means they are never without a contract. However, these engagements are still dominated by an Hours x Rate payment structure. Many services engagements are also managed in the same way, with the service provider engaged on a time and materials basis. While there is nothing wrong, per-se with this style of engagement, it places the success or failure of the outcome with the engaging organization.

For example, an organization might bring in a contracted Program Manager to complete a system overhaul. There are critical decisions to be made that will ultimately determine the success or failure of the work. The program board meets, the contractor puts forward their recommendations, but the program board disagrees and decides to go another direction. If that Program Manager is paid an hourly rate, what will be the next steps? Now consider if that same Program Manager was paid to deliver a specific outcome – would their next steps change?

There are a million variables that go into that scenario, and it’s a nuanced question that can be debated a dozen different ways. If your business brings in external talent to help it undergo a transformation, how are you going to engage that talent? How do you properly empower them to deliver the outcomes you desire without inadvertently sabotaging the effort or reducing their efficacy?

It’s not an easy question to answer, but it’s one worth asking. As the flexible workforce grows and organizations increasingly look to skilled external talent to lead their business through key initiatives, the stakes are higher than ever. How are you empowering your external workforce and driving results?