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The new work landscape and the digital drive to compete

A lot is happening, and happening fast. The big question: How will companies compete in this new economy?

Across the planet, companies everywhere are working to adapt to the speed and demands of Digital Transformation. There is—what BCG calls—a Digital Imperative to take action. In fact, things are happening so fast there isn’t one current, agreed upon definition for “Digital Transformation”. Brian Solis, digital analyst, anthropologist, and futurist, recently defined it as: “…the realignment, or new investment in, technology, business models, and processes to drive new value for customers and employees and more effectively compete in an ever-changing digital economy.”

A lot is happening, and happening fast. The big question: How will companies compete in this new economy?

Forbes recently published a fascinating statistic: by 2020, 40 percent of the workforce won’t want to be your full-time employee. The Digital Imperative has created a Talent Imperative. Old hiring models simply can’t keep pace with the times. The best practices of 15, 10, or even five years ago no longer apply, yet the way talent is accessed hasn’t changed significantly in order to keep pace. Managers are more over-worked and more stressed than ever. And it’s costing their companies multi-millions.

So what happens if companies cling to old ways? To illustrate, let’s start with a story.

Imagine a CEO from the 80’s is transported (by way of magic or time travel, your choice) to modern-day Corporate America. He finds that he’s the head of a successful business in his industry, but he doesn’t understand this new landscape; he’s lost as to how to operate in it. The technology both alarms and confuses him. In a panic, he issues a company-wide memorandum ordering that all work must be done on technology from the ‘80s, telling himself that since it worked for him in the past, he’ll make it work now.

Instead of laptops and smartphones, employees are left to handle daily communications using typewriters or clunky DOS computers that only do basic word processing—on a dark green screen with a blinking cursor. And instead of cloud storage and office-wide networks that make collaboration easy and backup reliable, everything is put on floppy discs that must be traded back and forth if more than one person wants to work on the same file.

Anyone who leaves the office must find a payphone if they need to call in to check their messages, find out why they’ve been paged (remember pagers? Or payphones, for that matter?), or get directions if they have lost their way to a big meeting. If anyone outside the company needs to communicate information, it must come in via fax, mail, or courier. When someone needs to look up basic information, it’s time to head to the library and the microfiche machine.

Yes, this is a ridiculous scenario. I’ve made it as extreme and far-fetched as possible to illustrate the point that the best and most successful companies, leaders, and managers must evolve and adapt with the times. They recognize when their time-tested strategies, business models, and “best practices” have become outdated or insufficient, and they’re willing to invest the time to learn what it takes to stay relevant and competitive in the current landscape.

The data raise a big question: Is traditional Recruiting dead? In my next article, I’ll explore the new On-demand Economy: what it is, why it’s happening, and why the On-Demand Workforce is here to stay.

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