By now, it’s widely understood that technology and a generational shift are fueling a revolution in the labor force. But what can companies do to “future-proof” their work environments?
Sophie Wade, founder of consulting firm Flexcel Networks, has built a career on providing entrepreneurs and corporations with specific strategies to ensure they’re not left behind. She’s compiled her findings in a new book, “Embracing Progress: Next Steps for the Future of Work,” out this week.
In her book, Wade identifies six pillars to help executives move their companies forward: 1) technology 2) culture and mindset 3) leadership and transparency 4) productivity and performance 5) policies and environment 6) career development and learning.
THE FREELANCE FACTOR
She says that a primary driver of the changing workforce is the growing freelance population in the US. The number of people who identify as freelancers grew from 53 million in 2014 to 55 million in 2016 — which represents about 35% of the US workforce.
Employers can’t treat freelancers and independent contractors as completely distinct and outside of the core company, according to Wade. Larger companies tend to handle freelancers separately (and not through human resources), which further accentuates their feeling of isolation from full-time employees, she says.
Wade points out that it’s vital to “support [freelancers] technologically so they can actually work in a seamless way.” Specifically citing Google Hangouts and Slack, she says video- and cloud-based communication have made it easier to keep in close touch with remote workers.
Companies both large and small have a problem assessing performance of both contractors and full-time staff, Wade says.
“Managers need to be able to really engage with and motivate all employees and include them in the community. Even though they don’t have as much face time with [freelancers], they still need to promote them and think about them on an equal basis with people they’re seeing in the office all the time,” she says.
Employers need to proactively offer support to their employees, as many don’t know whether they’re actually meeting the team’s expectations.
“Some employees they have no idea whether they’re good or bad at working from home and they can be distracted by 17 cups of tea. They also need support, more milestones and more communication to really help them,” she says.
Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.