In an increasingly digital world, an agile workforce is not just an advantage. Speed and flexibility are rapidly becoming essential to survival. With legacy workforce models struggling to keep up with on-demand labor trends, the time has clearly come for a new approach.

We live in an age of constant innovation. From the rise of AI to the ever-expanding influence of the digital world, the impact of the technological revolution is seen and felt everywhere. Naturally, this cornucopia of change benefits companies, giving them access to an exciting new generation of tools and resources. But at the same time, it is transforming the world around them, forcing them to adapt to new realities and discard old models.

These technology trends are not merely skin deep. They are driving key trends in the workforce, exerting evolutionary pressures that affect businesses on a fundamental level. Our new digital environment favors speed and innovation. And businesses need to be flexible and agile in order to respond effectively to the digital challenges they face.

Old, hierarchical workforce models simply cannot meet these criteria. The value of highly structured, formalized, role-based approaches is fading fast in the digital era, and on-demand labor is rushing in to fill the void.

Understanding the Workforce of the Future

To win the war for talent, we must first understand what tomorrow´s talented professionals actually want. Over the past 20 years, societal attitudes toward work have changed dramatically. Once upon a time, working for a company long-term was the logical thing to do. Now, many professionals are making a conscious decision to strike out on their own, favoring personal flexibility and adaptability over lifelong employment. This is corroborated by trends we see in workforce statistics.

During the 1980s, approximately 80% of all employees worked for the same employer for upwards of 15 years. Nowadays, 60% of the workforce switches employers after only four. This is a sea change, pure and simple. What was once derided as job-hopping has become the new normal.

These statistics shed valuable light on the workforce of the future. All throughout the world, there are clear upward trends toward freelance employment and a more flexible outlook on talent. Already, 35% of the US workforce consists of professional freelancers. Essentially, what this tells us is that 55 million American workers have transitioned to self-employment.

In the Netherlands, up to 20% of available talent is self-employed. This figure will only increase in the years to come, as workforce trends continue to evolve. Online work management solutions and on-demand labor platforms will thrive under these conditions, as will the companies that are able to use them to their advantage.

The Potential of the Talent Marketplace

Online talent management solutions are booming. Platforms like LinkedIn Pro, Upwork Enterprise, Gigster and Hourly Nerd provide new, exciting means for talented professionals to showcase their skills and connect with potential employers. At the same time, they give companies access to immensely useful work management tools and resources. By playing to prevailing labor trends, these workforce marketplaces are actually helping to disrupt the very nature of work itself, paving the way for a departure from outdated hierarchical models. This presents excellent opportunities for both sides of the labor exchange.

On side of the employers, these talent marketplaces will allow traditionally-oriented organizations to increase their flexibility without having to invest in platform development. Instead of being forced to run through long testing and development cycles, they can simply plug into existing infrastructure and start playing tomorrow’s game today.

On the talent side, these on-demand labor platforms and workforce marketplaces facilitate the trend toward flexibility and freedom. By removing barriers and allowing new types of interactions, they are empowering professionals to develop skills and showcase them in novel ways, putting them firmly in control of their own destinies.

Even society as a whole stands to benefit from these trends in the workforce. As talent marketplaces weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life, consumers will enjoy faster service and enhanced customer experiences. Realizing this potential is a fantastic strategy for beloved brands, as it will allow them to further increase their impact and reach. But for many established players, it will require radical changes to their vision.

Facing Key Challenges in On-Demand Labor

Change is the currency of the future, and companies must learn to embrace it. To be successful, the employers of tomorrow must focus on attracting specific skill sets and building a flexible workforce that can handle the volatility of an increasingly dynamic global marketplace.

Further complicating matters, job security is no longer the potent motivator it once was. Modern professionals prefer flexibility, freedom and substantive challenges over long-term contracts.

Attracting that talent will not be a trivial task for many major corporations, especially those whose corporate culture is built around a large workforce. For these organizations, rotating to the new is not a matter of technology. Talent marketplaces and on-demand labor solutions will only become more numerous and sophisticated as time goes by. Rather, the main issue these businesses face is one of mindset. The workforce marketplace is not just a platform for sourcing skills. It’s a completely new approach to work itself, built on agility. It can only be truly successful if the organizations that wield it become agile themselves.

Most of all, tapping into the power of the future workforce means having an open mind and a strong vision. For startups, this is not an issue. They can capitalize on today’s workforce trends immediately, incorporating the advantages of workforce marketplaces into their business models from day one. In traditional organizations, however, the ability to absorb trends on short notice is severely reduced by their size, existing business profile and established methods.

These challenges can be surmounted, of course, but this is not just another assignment. Overcoming the inertia of existing models and integrating new workforce trends into the core of your company will take passion and commitment. To achieve that, you need a true believer, somebody who with the vision necessary to guide such a transition. With the right ambassador, any business can benefit from these opportunities, no matter its age.

Embracing Workforce Transformation

As online work management, talent sourcing, collaboration tools and on-demand labor platforms grow and intertwine, they will form entirely new digital ecosystems that will disrupt existing models. These new ecosystems are the end state of the workforce marketplace trend: a digital realm where every aspect of work is intrinsically connected, from singular talent to cutting-edge tools.

These platforms will become the primary drivers for economic growth, providing near-instant access to specialized knowledge and experience when and where it is required. Conventional employment will become a thing of the past, enabling professionals to pursue their passions and expertise freely while allowing companies to reduce their reliance on regular staff.

It may take a decade or two, but the first signs are already visible. Many disruptive developments are still waiting in the wings. Will the concept of the 9 to 5 workday vanish entirely from our lexicon? Will generalists and managers become obsolete, replaced by next-gen artificial intelligence and advanced work management tools? Perhaps.

One thing is certain, though: your organization will only be able to attract the right people if it can get with the times. Embrace the workforce revolution. Dare to involve young talent in these transformations. After all, nobody understands the new generation of experts better than they do.