Navigating the Changing World of Work

Chris Dwyer

Vice President, Research, Ardent Partners

Since 2006, Christopher J. Dwyer has been one of the world’s foremost spend management experts and leading authority on contingent workforce management (CWM), authoring hundreds of research studies and evangelizing the evolution of the non-employee workforce. Dwyer is the voice behind Contingent Workforce Weekly, the industry’s first (and only) weekly podcast dedicated to this space, and is an expert on the future of work and gig economy.

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The world of work is changing. Traditional concepts of how to engage, acquire, and address enterprise talent have been replaced by innovative, on-demand strategies to fill business’ skills-based needs. And, with the transformative mindset adopted by many of today’s executive leaders geared towards harnessing the impact of the “gig economy,” the boundaries between full-time equivalent (FTE) and non-employee talent are starting to blur. In this new world, the notion of the “blended workforce” has become a reality, forcing organizations around the world to adopt more forward-thinking approaches as to how to best manage all facets of their talent engagement, talent acquisition, talent management, and contingent workforce management strategies and programs.

The changing world of work dictates that executives rethink their mindset regarding talent, as well as the underlying tactics to effectively drive total talent visibility, real-time alignment of projects/requirements to expansive networks of talent, and a baseline of total workforce management to prepare for the “future of work.”

A Surprisingly Complex Concept

At its core, the very concept of total workforce management seems so simple: manage all enterprise talent, no matter its source, under a centralized and standardized set of holistic processes, strategies, and systems. However, the core is more complex than it sounds: the total workforce management model follows a series of layers that are linked to not only better engage, source, and manage all types of talent, but to also generate insights and produce real-time workforce intelligence.

In a future of work scenario in which businesses (of all industries and sizes) will rely on their one true competitive differentiator (yes, talent), the main benefit of total workforce management will shine through: when a new need for talent arises, the business leaders that can react to that need faster and with greater clarity are more likely to achieve successful outcomes. This, of course, is powered by a total workforce management program that:

  • Leverages the “power” of two main functional units: procurement and human capital management
  • Harnesses the strength of technology integration from platforms such as Vendor Management Systems, Human Resources Information Systems, talent acquisition/talent management automation, online talent platforms, and Recruitment Process Outsourcing
  • Generates deep, on-demand insights from the total workforce intelligence gleaned from total workforce management’s holistic processes and linked systems
  • Allows the modern enterprise to react to dynamic business challenges in an agile manner


Forward-thinking approaches must be taken to appropriately adapt and adjust to these major shifts in the market, such as communicating the value of new sources of talent (like social media/networks and online talent platforms); helping business leaders truly understand the implications of the gig economy; and building “scenarios” that take into account the enhancement of quality if the company were to expand its talent engagement.

Think Differently to Avoid Roadblocks

To get there, it’s really a matter of both re-engineering strategies and beginning to think differently about talent management technology. Executives must understand that the blended workforce is a reality now and will become even MORE of a reality when the contingent workforce threshold hits 40 percent or more. With new sources of talent available, and the ability to execute more informed and agile decision-making based on the intelligence generated from deeper technology integrations (VMS and RPO, VMS and online staffing, etc.), executives essentially have to transform their entire mindset. The future is now, and legacy approaches will not allow the contemporary business to succeed in this new world of work.

The biggest roadblock for staffing firms is that they are still entwined in the “old” ways of addressing talent. Organizations today expect on-demand results, on-demand insights, and yes, even on-demand talent. Even more so, the legacy thinking of the past regarding partnerships (with technology platforms, with other staffing providers, networks, etc.) must be altered. Forward-thinking businesses that are beginning to think about total workforce management as a reality are going to desire a vast network of talent and expertise, and they’re going to want it available to them in real-time.

Also, if you look at one of the core requirements of total workforce management’s technology foundation (integration!), every layer of the ecosystem must co-exist and be able to not only provide its users and customers with the talent they need, but also the data and intelligence they will crave to develop total talent visibility.


Transforming Workforce Management

The contemporary talent supply chain is diverse, multifaceted, and spread across numerous sources. The businesses that can effectively find, engage, source, and ultimately manage this talent under a centralized program will be awarded with the visibility to execute far superior business decisions in a real-time manner. Also, today’s global market feeds on agility, flexibility, and innovation; enterprise programs related to workforce management must be transformed in order to keep pace with the talent evolution.

Total workforce management represents the next wave of progression in the world of work, building on the paths tread by a growing contingent workforce and increasingly-blended makeup of enterprise skillsets.


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