Or are they bringing opportunity?
They are part of what Deloitte calls, the augmented workforce. Driven by the rapid acceleration of connectivity and cognitive technologies like machine learning, natural language processing, speech recognition, and robotics, the augmented workforce is changing how work is designed and how jobs are organized. The ability to employ combinations of human and machine intelligence is disrupting the market for labor. Social platforms are flourishing as the new Gig Economy rises, with individuals and companies using crowdsourcing platforms like upwork, cloudcrowd, and clickworker (among hundreds) to connect work with people.
According to Forbes, freelancers now make up 35% of U.S. workers and collectively earned $1 trillion in the past year. As part of the new crowd economy, you can more easily make a living working without any formal employment agreement. The contingent workforce has gone global. Deloitte reports that 51 percent of executives in their global survey plan to increase or significantly increase the use of contingent workers in the next three to five years.
While Uber comes to mind, industries from transportation to manufacturing to business services are looking to purchase order, rather than payroll, workers to get the work done. While cost may be one factor (no need to pay benefits, or keep an employee year-round), getting the talent is a key factor. The need for data scientists, programmers, creatives, engineers, or other specialized talent gives employer and crowd the option to engage remotely and work arrangements that flex hours, payrate, and project type. Jobs will be less about “working for the man” and more about working for yourself. Employment history will more resemble a portfolio of work, than a series of job descriptions.
When companies need answers to perplexing problems or are looking for innovation or more research, they can outsource work to a loose, decentralized crowd with diverse skills, perspectives, and experience, differing from what they may have resident in-house. Via crowdsourcing platforms, companies can scale the number of people focusing on a problem to numbers that exceed multi-national corporations.
As the crowd-based labor market gives people the opportunity to pick up extra work, take on projects they enjoy, tackle work to sharpen or develop new skills, home life will change too. As more people begin to work remotely, we may see more co-working spaces in residential settings like the apartment building below.
The shared work studio takes it cue from coffee shops, and features long, shared work tables, café tables, indoor and outdoor fireplaces, computer bar, and a glassed-in children’s play area next door so parents can keep an eye on their kids. As the lines between work and home, and virtual and face-to-face interactions blur, co-working online or in a physical space with people with loose or no ties may become a norm. Interior designer, Clodagh, points out that the “demand for beautiful and comfortable work spaces is a corollary of being able – and expected – to work anytime, anywhere.” For more real estate porn, check out this article: Luxury Buildings’ Latest Amenity: Co-Working Spaces. Definitely an attractive alternative to working at home, alone.
Deloitte outlines these fundamental questions for business and HR leaders going forward:
- Who, where, and what is the workforce?
- How can HR, procurement, and IT collaborate to plan and manage the 21st-century workforce?
- How can the best workers be attracted, acquired, and engaged for an optimal cost, no matter what type of work contract they have?
- How can companies leverage automation and smart technologies to improve productivity and create more meaningful and engaging work where employees “race with—not against—machines”?
It’s up to individuals to decide if they view the augmented workforce as opportunity or threat, as “race with—not against—machines,” or as the new reality, a world of dynamic networks of diverse people, supported by machines.