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Navigating the talent shift in the digital transformation era

Today, companies everywhere are facing what leaders are calling the “Digital Imperative”—transform your business with digital speed, scale, and value, or else.

Our rapidly-changing Digital Economy has created a sharp increase in need for a new kind of corporate agility: an On-demand Workforce that is transforming the way the world does business. The question is, how will you and your company successfully navigate this unprecedented Talent Shift?

More than 10 years ago, I left my job as an executive at Microsoft and opted to become a consultant. I had a personal need for more flexibility and sensed a potential—now seismic—trend. I needed a new way to work and soon witnessed an emerging demand for what I experienced. I also began to sense an an emerging trend in the workforce: companies were looking to reduce cost and risk, often by slashing talent and resources vital to the business’s success, but they still needed experts to get the work done.

The result: I launched a consultancy which in just over a decade has evolved from a company of one to more than 7,000 consultants. Today, we work with technology companies to strategically deliver Enterprise Marketing Services. Every day we talk with leaders who share their greatest Digital Workplace challenges with us. Their sentiments are a sign of the times:

“The Digital Transformation Era is moving fast.”
“I have too much pressure, too many demands, and not enough people.”
“I don’t want to recruit—it takes too long—I need results now.”
“I don’t have headcount on my team, so I’m doing more than one job.”
“I don’t have the expertise to do my work.”
“I don’t have budget for an agency retainer.”
“I want to experiment with solutions.”

From the “Talent” perspective, I saw an opportunity to provide companies a cost-effective, low-risk way to tap exceptional talent. I also provided corporate professionals with the opportunity to do what I did—be in control and have a choice in their lives.

Now, looking back from where I sit at the end of 2017, the trend is clear. A great workforce shift is underway, driven by a constantly changing global business environment, a highly competitive marketplace that features hyper-specialization, project-based work, and a talent pool that aspires to—indeed demands—flexibility. Business cycles have accelerated; there’s a frequent need for fresh talent, and continuous “recruiting” has become a big part of every manager’s job. Clients are focusing on their business through a project lens. They’re looking at their goals as projects. These could be long-term projects; they could be strategic projects; they could be tactical projects. It’s really about identifying the right talent resources for specific kinds of projects.

A variety of economic, technological, and cultural factors drives this dynamic shift, but three major trends have converged to shape where we are: the coming of age of Millennials, the Baby Boomers’ impact on the workforce, and the trend that will impact about 48% of U.S. workers by 2020—the freelance “1099 economy.” These trends gained momentum during the Great Recession and its aftermath, emphasizing that the definition of talent strategies, and even the definition of talent, no longer work.

In my next article, I’ll explore the new work landscape and the drive to compete in the Digital Transformation Era.

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