What’s a workforce marketplace? How work will get done in the future

Companies are moving from hierarchical models with defined job roles to labor platforms that allow opportunities for people to work on different things and in different ways.

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WordPress parent company Automattic has eliminated traditional organizational structures for its 450 employees across 45 different countries, demonstrating the future of work. Business is done based on project teams ranging from two to 12 workers, without traditional managers, and they’re encouraged to experiment with new ways of collaborating to complete jobs. So far, it’s working. More than 25 percent of websites use the Automattic platform and the company is valued at more than $1 billion.

Driven by an increase in on-demand labor platforms, crowdsourcing, online work management solutions and the growing millennial population, companies like Automattic are dramatically reinventing their workforces, dissolving traditional hierarchies and legacy models by replacing them with open talent marketplaces.  

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This ‘Workforce Marketplace’ trend isone of five identified in this year’s Accenture Technology Vision 2017 report. Imagine a large enterprise, but with almost no organization chart. Companies are moving from hierarchical models where people had a specific job within an organization to labor platforms that allow more on-demand models where people are given opportunities to work on different things and in different ways. In doing so, this change unlocks a whole new level of productivity and creativity for people and companies.

By taking advantage of an increasingly digital and on-demand workforce, companies can now gain the power to quickly look internally or to the external labor market to meet demand for skills, creating efficiency and the ability to rapidly innovate in ways that were not possible before.

It’s becoming increasingly clear that workforce marketplaces are a recognized competitive necessity. Of the 5,400 IT and business executive respondents to the Technology Vision companion survey, 73 percent report that corporate bureaucracies are stifling productivity and innovation. As such, 85 percent said they plan to increase their organization’s use of independent freelance workers over the next year.

So how can businesses move toward this new model? The first step is to continue to embrace the digital management of work by leveraging communication and collaboration tools like Slack, Microsoft Yammer or Google Hangouts that make remote and flexible work more effective and efficient than ever. Complementing these collaborative tools, freelance marketplace providers like Freelancer and Gigster have built online work management features into their services and created dedicated enterprise offerings. These features give companies powerful new capabilities for managing work online throughout the project lifecycle. 

Second, businesses must look to connect their labor requirements with an on-demand supply of skilled workers. New platform technologies have emerged to solve this challenge, using intelligent algorithms to eliminate friction in terms of time, cost, location, quality, and transparency in matching workers and employers. These matchmaking platforms will be a core enabler to workplace innovation, eliminating traditional barriers, transparently connecting labor, and transforming the business world through new economic structures.  Freelance platform Upwork, for example, posts three million jobs annually, and reports more than $1 billion in freelancer earnings per year through matchmaking transactions via five million customers and 12 million registered freelance users.

The digital era is breaking the industrial-era models of how companies should do business. As they transform, businesses are taking steps to determine the new role of workers in this new environment where the binary employee or contractor classification is blurred.

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Marc Carrel-Billiard is senior managing director of Accenture Labs.  Follow him on @mcarrelb.

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