Updated: Feb 20
Special Guest Blogger: Yolanda Lau
The future of work is rapidly changing and already impacting businesses today with the growth of the liquid workforce. Companies are also facing ever more complex challenges as we are increasingly globally connected.
Modern businesses need a modern business strategy built on strategic and operational agility to thrive and grow, especially in today’s turbulent times. To compete successfully, companies need to iterate rapidly and be opportunistic in their approach.
The future of work is rapidly changing and already impacting businesses today with the growth of the liquid workforce. Companies are also facing ever more complex challenges as we are increasingly globally connected. Modern businesses need a modern business strategy built on strategic and operational agility to thrive and grow, especially in today’s turbulent times. To compete successfully, companies need to iterate rapidly and be opportunistic in their approach.
Developing Strategic And Operational Agility
In Harvard Business Review, Donald Sull, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, wrote, “Business opportunities are not distributed evenly over time. Rather, firms typically face a steady flow of small opportunities, intermittent midsize ones, and periodic golden opportunities to create significant value quickly.” This statement is as true today as when it was first published in 2009 and underlines the importance of strategic and operational agility in any modern business strategy.
Since that time, what has changed for businesses are fundamental shifts in how we work, where we work and what we work on. Covid-19 has rapidly accelerated the shift to remote work, but the future of work is much more than that. Workers, particularly knowledge workers, are increasingly becoming their own bosses. Upwork and the Freelancers Union reported that in 2019, over 57 million people worked as freelancers in the U.S. Similarly, as companies increasingly embrace agile and scrum methodologies, work is becoming more project-based than strictly role-based.
Modern companies dynamically build specialized project teams to tackle different opportunities and challenges. Startups to enterprise-size companies can successfully develop and execute modern business strategy by enabling two key pillars: an agile, flexible workforce and project-based work.
Creating An Agile, Flexible Workforce
As the liquid workforce grows, companies are working with FlexTeam, GLG, Catalant, and other consulting companies or expert marketplaces to develop a blended workforce that consists of a mix of full-time and on-demand (liquid) talent. Human resources leaders are rethinking their approach to building and developing a company’s workforce, shifting to growing a talent-based workforce. With a talent-based mindset, these leaders consider both the near-term and long-term skills and experience needed to support a modern business strategy. The workforce is no longer composed primarily of employees; it’s now an overall talent pool of full-time employees and liquid workers available to tap on demand. With liquid workers as part of the workforce, companies can nimbly and quickly deploy the right talent to address strategic opportunities and challenges. Knowledge-based workers can swiftly jump in from day one to lead or execute projects. Companies benefit from faster time-to-market for projects and more cost-effectively managing their resources. A blended workforce often yields fresh thinking and new ideas — it can even boost diversity and inclusion for a company.
And while this workforce may be a fluid, yet integral, part of the team, it’s essential to have the right onboarding and processes in place to set up every liquid worker for success. Building strong relationships with your liquid talent is critical for retaining them in your talent network for future engagements.
Shifting To Project-Based Work
Project-based work has long been supported by traditional, big consulting companies. However, working with big consulting companies frequently poses challenges for modern businesses. These companies often move too slowly; the future of work requires modern businesses to move quickly to take advantage of opportunities or resolve challenges. Additionally, consulting companies can be expensive to engage, particularly for smaller companies.
Modern businesses are increasingly relying on liquid talent for project-based work. These knowledge workers can bring a new perspective and deep expertise and can quickly jump in and help these businesses address specific questions, challenges, and opportunities, often through shorter engagements. For example, liquid talent might create competitive or strategic analyses, conduct market research or build financial models. On-demand talent supports all levels of businesses, also serving as consultants and advisors for corporate boards.
The key to engaging liquid talent for high business impact is to focus on answering very specific questions or addressing particular challenges.
Transitioning To Modern Strategy Competing successfully in an increasingly complex environment requires businesses to be nimble, agile and opportunistic. Building an agile, flexible workforce and shifting to a project-based work mindset are critical. Without these fundamental building blocks of modern strategy, businesses are forever conceding the potential for first-mover advantage. Start taking advantage of the opportunities today and tomorrow by shifting to a modern business strategy approach.
About Yolanda Lau
Consultant | Entrepreneur | Advisor | Educator | Non-profit fundraiser | Forbes Contributor
Yolanda Lau is a co-founder of FlexTeam — a mission-based micro-consulting firm 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 and their most requested projects are market research / analysis, competitor research, financial models / analysis, and business strategy. FlexTeam is also the team behind Liquid, an all-in-one vendor management system for contracting and paying your freelancers and contractors (your liquid workforce).