Rethinking The Role Of Human Resources In The Future Of Work

The future of work is the liquid workforce, and as such, the role of human resources must evolve to meet today’s challenges. Yet, many HR leaders are only engaged in areas related to their full-time workforce and aren’t involved in the planning and management of the liquid workforce.

Here are some things to keep in mind as you rethink your HR role.

Automation Is The Future Of Work

A recent McKinsey report predicts that automation will result in many occupations — such as administrative assistants and bookkeepers — shrinking through attrition and reduced hiring. Millions of Americans will need to be retrained and redeployed during the coming automation age.

HR will need to take the lead in helping to develop a digitally ready workforce that can adapt to the changing needs of each company. But this workforce will also look very different from today’s — companies are migrating toward a blended workforce that includes full-time workers and liquid workers. HR leaders need to reconsider how they develop and retain the best talent. To do this, they need to fully understand the direction of their companies and the types of talent and skills needed to support that direction.

Digitalization Is The Future of Work

As HR leaders shift from managing full-time employees to managing talent, they will need to embrace digitalization. For HR, Gartner noted that digitalization is changing everything. With a blended workforce, your talent acquisition processes and systems must evolve to encompass traditional hiring and on-demand skills sourcing.

In many companies, HR leaders are not involved in overseeing the contingent or liquid workforce. Often the procurement or purchasing department takes the lead, resulting in an emphasis on cost over talent sourcing or management.

HR leaders need to develop a talent network that encompasses internal and external talent and focuses on identifying, matching and developing the skills that the company needs at any given time. As part of developing that talent network, HR must build relationships with global online talent marketplaces.

Shifting To A Talent-Based Workforce

As HR leaders rethink their workforce strategy, they need to assess where using the liquid workforce makes sense. What skills does the company have within its full-time workforce? What skills will it need in the near future? Are these long-term or short-term needs? Will the demand for these skills vary over time? HR leaders should assess these factors to determine where the liquid workforce should be integrated into their strategic workforce plan.

As the blended workforce grows, HR needs to reconsider not only how and where talent is sourced, but how to manage that talent. Organizations must have rigorous contracting and onboarding processes in place for their liquid workers. These processes protect the company, aid in meeting compliance requirements, and enable the rapid on-ramp of liquid workers. Also, a consistent onboarding process helps liquid workers instantly feel like part of the team and hit the ground running on projects.

Managing Performance With A Liquid Workforce

The skills required to engage with and manage a liquid worker are similar in many ways to those required with full-time employees. However, the “how” and “what” of using those skills are very different since liquid workers are entrepreneurs who are working in partnership with an organization. People managers will need support and training from HR to adapt their styles to partner most effectively with their liquid workers. HR leaders should encourage the sharing of best practices for working with liquid talent across the organization.

Performance management also needs to be rethought with a blended workforce. Having a performance management system with your liquid workers is essential. Every engagement with a liquid worker should be evaluated and assessed against performance metrics and goals. Evaluations should be maintained in your talent database.

Similarly, retention strategies need to be redeveloped for a blended workforce. Consider how to reward high-performing liquid talent. For example, some organizations offer performance bonuses, equity or back-end profit participation.

Modern companies are shifting to a more blended workforce where liquid workers represent a greater and greater share of the workforce. HR needs to take the lead on the workforce strategy and plan not only for full-time workers, but also for liquid workers. Liquid workers are human resources and, as such, should be part of the strategic remit of HR leaders rather than co-mingled and lost among vendor spending. It’s time for the role of HR to evolve and truly encompass all human resources.

This article was originally published in Forbes.

Yolanda Lau is an experienced entrepreneurship consultant, advisor, and Forbes Contributor. She is also an educator, speaker, writer, and non-profit fundraiser.

Since 2010, she has been focused on preparing knowledge workers, educators, and students for the future of work.

Learn more about Yolanda here.

FlexTeam  is  a mission-based micro-consulting firm, co-founded by Yolanda Lau in 2015, that matches talented mid-career women with meaningful, challenging, temporally flexible, remote project-based work opportunities. FlexTeam’s clients are businesses of all sizes across all industries and sectors. FlexTeam’s most requested projects are competitor / market research, financial models, and investor decks. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid.