What does the future of work look like? It doesn’t take a crystal ball to predict based on trends that have developed over the last couple decades: Businesses staffed almost entirely by freelancers. Fortune 500 companies using open-source crowd platforms to innovate. AI solving some of the world’s trickiest challenges.
The pace of change is astounding. “A few years ago, Accenture predicted that, other than the C-suite, a fortune 500 company would be entirely staffed by freelancers,” says Human Resources expert, author and tech-startup advisor Jon Younger. In fact, Google and Apple both now hire more freelancers than full-time employees. Some frontrunners have few or no full-time employees. Other organizations are rapidly adopting a blended freelance-employee model and utilizing crowd sourcing to solve problems and innovate.
We recently spoke with Younger and Steve Rader, Deputy Director for the Center of Excellence for Collaborative Innovation (CoECI) at NASA, to talk about the future of work. Here are the four trends they predict.
1 – The “Half-Life” of Skills Will Shrink
Research tells us that the “half-life” of expertise is shrinking. The half-life for engineers is 2.5 to 3 years, says Younger. “Freelancers get it,” he says. “They have to go out there every day and sell themselves and do the work, so they are more attuned to the need to keep their skills up to date.”
Employees typically are less focused on remaining technically up to date “Whether you’re full-time corporate or not, technical or not, you must anticipate a future that is different from today and requires change in your skill set—quantitatively and qualitatively—and plan accordingly,” says Younger.
2 – “Taskify” or Languish
Just as technologies like computers or cell phones created profound changes in how we work, crowd platforms provide an opportunity to do more with less, says Rader. “As people learn how to use them as tools, we’ll see a jump in productivity and efficiency.”
Businesses will unlock the ability to do much more than was possible in old work models. “If someone needs data analysis, an infographic, and a video to be combined into a killer presentation, they won’t necessarily need to have the skills and time to do each of those things,” says Rader. Instead, they’ll “taskify” each project and match those tasks to the right resources from the talent networks.
This new way of working won’t just change presentation design. On-demand talent will be top-level, too. “You’d be able to say, ‘Hey, I need a nuclear physicist for three weeks,’ and they can be available for you immediately,” predicts Rader. And the approval process from legal, IP, and HR departments will become seamless.
3 – Employee-Freelance-AI Blended Models
What kind of support is needed? Rather than hiring or problem-solving in the same way every time, businesses will have decision-support tools and processes that help detect “when and where to use what type of service, which part they’ve got to learn themselves, which part they need help with, and what type of help they need,” says Rader.
“Can the help come from support like artificial intelligence, or should the help come from a person? Whatever the mechanism is, it will be easy to do right there,” says Rader. “You won’t have to get special permission, get legal approval, prove that it is cheaper or wonder if there are better ways to go about it. All that will have been predetermined,” he says.
4 – HR Will Be More About Skills Access
Human resources will become focused on accessing human capital and redeploying people from the crowd across different parts of the company, says Rader. What’s more, managers themselves will encourage and promote this way of working.
Freelance skills and crowd sourcing will become a standard part of operating budgets and will factor in the expenses associated with contractors and materials. “People will start thinking of freelancers and crowds as a resource and an affordable way to do business,” Rader predicts.