The modern workforce is no longer co-located in an office, in a town, city, region, or country. People now work from anywhere, not just in the office or an office but from any location. People now work with others who they may never meet in person.  By 2020, it’s projected (PwC) that there will be 50% more locations used by companies than there are today. Organizational leadership must be able to adapt to this new reality. "The workplace of 2025 will be wherever you want it," (

20% of the Fortune 100 workforce were contractors in 2011, and this statistic is projected to grow to 50% by 2020. Teams increasingly include outsiders – interns, part-time staff, temps, ‘permatemps’, consultants, advisors, agencies, outsourcers. This trend is increasing with the growth of contingent workforce and the rise of the freelance economy. Soon half the people involved on projects in organizations are likely to be contingent workers and not just employees.

The modern workforce is a diverse mosaic of people from different backgrounds, cultures, generations, ethnicity, and are not all FTEs. They may include interns, part-time workers, consultants, vendors, partners, analysts, agencies, outsourcers, temps, and even robots.  As the makeup of work teams continues to evolve, management teams need to understand that how they acquire engage, manage and develop these ever changing teams also has to adapt.

Tech Savvy, Mobile and Social

The modern workforce is tech savvy. One-third of all data will live in or pass through the cloud. Information will flow faster and in all directions.  People download new apps and create new content, connect with each other in different ways, all without training – learning as they go. Over time, the ability to interact with machines, sensors and robots will blur the boundaries between human and artificial intelligence, as technology becomes ever more integrated within the workforce and workplace. 

30% of US workers now use 3 devices or more (Forrester), a true reflection of the mobile modern workforce. With the explosion of mobile devices that are projected to reach 10 billion by 2016, it is common for people to have multiple devices. It means work teams are always connected; always on; potentially available (work-life balance issues); can work from anywhere, anytime.  This facilitates rapid decision making – teams are connected to customers and connected to each other.  24×7 accessibility is a must have – to power, to the internet, to data, to apps, to people.

The modern workforce is adopting social tools because they need better ways to communicate, interact and engage than just using email or the phone. 72% of companies used social networking, blogs, and/or video sharing (McKinsey). Social tools do not in themselves improve productivity; unfocused conversations aren’t in themselves productive. The important thing is that you need to move beyond just enabling conversations to getting work done –  interactions and conversations must be contained in the right group, with the right people, embedded in the workflows. The focus is on enabling social in the framework of structuring work and getting it done faster.  Applications and workflows need to incorporate social interactions so that people can understand the broader context of work and are able to engage more quickly and get work done faster.

Work is increasingly non-routine

And finally, the modern workforce is fluid. Teams and projects are transient; exist for short periods of time; then disband and move on. Routine work built around routine transactions or production lines has continued to decline, work built around complex interactions has continued to grow. In the last decade, 3 million U.S. jobs focused on routine transactions and/or production line work were LOST.

Going forward, anything in work that can be automated, will be. People will get jobs doing things that computers or machines can’t do: creative work, complex tasks. More than 5 million U.S. jobs were ADDED that required complex interactions. The result of this is that you need new ways for teams to organize work on the fly, the way they see fit. People need to be able to get on board quickly, be able to access the apps, data and people they need to get work done quickly and efficiently.  As a result, you need to be thinking of new ways to engage team members who are outside your company.

The emergence of the modern workforce has far reaching consequences for how organizations have to change and adapt.  It is not surprising to learn that so many organizations are struggling with HR systems that are out of date, fragmented, and unable to support the way people are working today.  There is a need for new systems that can support the modern workforce by transforming the way organizations acquire, engage, manage and develop their people. The time has come for change and that time is now.

Paul Burrin is Chief Marketing Officer at Fairsail