July 14, 2017

As the Gig Economy Grows, Companies Will Need to Learn How to Manage the ‘Multichannel Workforce’


According to the U.S. government, 40 percent of workers now hold contingent jobs, and some experts predict we’ll soon see an even 50-50 split between traditionally employed workers and those who have joined the gig economy.

Why are so many of today’s workers flocking to gig employment? There are a variety of factors at work, but the core of the matter is that the growth of the gig economy is “a manifestation of how the way work gets done is changing,” according to Rob Brimm, president of SAP Fieldglass.

Some gig workers prefer the variety and flexibility of project-based work, while others may find working on a gig basis to be more lucrative – especially those in what Brimm calls “hot jobs,” “the data scientists, user experience and user interface designers and developers, network engineers, security professionals, and a myriad of others who are in high demand.”

On the flip side of things, organizations have also played a role in driving more people away from traditional employment and into the world of gig work, Brimm says.

“Not only do many people prefer contract or project-based roles, but external talent also enables organizations to be agile,” he explains. “Using flexible workers helps [organizations] scale up and scale down with changing demand, access the skills they need when they need them, and drive competitive advantage.”

Trends in Today’s ‘Multichannel Workforce’

As organizations leverage more and more external talent to achieve their goals, they’ll find themselves managing what Brimm calls “multichannel workforces.”

“When an employer chooses to engage external talent, they have many options,” Brimm says. “They may engage a freelancer, contract with a consulting organization, go through a staffing agency, or tap into other alternate pools of talent. The ‘multichannel workforce’ is comprised of people who have been hired or contracted from a mix of these talent sources, as well as full-time employees.”

One key trend Brimm has noticed in these multichannel workforces: “People engage with organizations differently than they have in the past.”

“[People] don’t necessarily want to be tied to one company on a full-time basis and are choosing flexible work,” he says. “That is creating a rich pipeline of talent from which companies can choose as they consider the most effective and efficient way to get work done, irrespective of industry or function.”

train 12-21-52-274A second key trend: To succeed in the digital economy, businesses must become more agile than ever before.

“They need to move quickly,” Brimm says. “That drives the need to have information at their fingertips to help guide decisions about whom to hire where, when, and how. Being able to move at pace can make the difference between winning and losing in today’s business environment.”

For all the agility of the multichannel workforce, it does pose a problem for employers: Now that hiring has to happen more quickly, more often, and from a number of different sources, how are talent management teams supposed to stay on top of it all?

Turning to Tech

In addition to expanding their talent-source horizons, today’s organizations will also have to expand their technological horizons, adopting existing and emerging technologies in order to manage the speed and flow of information now involved in making hires.

Many believe that machine learning will be a critical technology for managing the multichannel workforce, Brimm among them. According to him, machine learning can help companies “benchmark, plan, predict, and simulate external talent scenarios,” thereby gaining insight “into market rates, hiring-cycle times, and supplier performance as part of a seamless process that culminates with the ability to make decisions and engage talent in a seamless, intuitive workflow.”

SAP Fieldglass is throwing its hat into this ring with Live Insights, which aims to help users identify “where to source the right skills at the most competitive rates” and “to immediately begin the process of requisitioning [this] talent.” The SAP Data Network used SAP Fieldglass’ database to develop Live Insights to help organizations understand and develop a strategy about how much they should pay, which talent channel to use, and where to engage them.

SAP Fieldglass is not the only company trying to help organizations manage their multichannel and gig-oriented workforces more efficiently, but Live Insights is a good example of the kinds of tech tools that are sure to proliferate in the digital economy. If you want to remain competitive in the talent market, it would behoove you to get familiar with them now.

Read more in Talent Management

Matthew Kosinski is the managing editor of Recruiter.com.