Workforce Technology and the Freelance Nation

How does workforce technology help companies to manage all workers?

workforce technology managementAccording to an oft-quoted statistic from a 2010 study by Intuit, 40% of the US workforce will be freelancers by 2020. It remains to be seen if this prediction will come true, but there’s no arguing that the idea of a freelance nation is beginning to take hold.

We’ve been talking about the rise of the independent contractor as a major workforce influence for quite some time, and for many organizations this trend has yet to come to fruition. But the human capital management space has produced workforce technology that is working hard to enable organizations to manage this flexible labor pool in new ways.

Workforce Technology to the Rescue

I’ve had several conversations recently that have me thinking about how workforce technology can support the freelance nation. Workforce management solutions will be increasingly required to handle these multiple worker types, including full-time, part-time, contingent and contract. Critical challenges include:

  • Being able to track the availability of freelance workers
  • Accurately record freelancers’ time spent on particular tasks and projects
  • The ability to bill that time back to clients, if required, and ensure proper payment to the individual

Companies like Kronos, Replicon and WorkForce Software, which all specialize in workforce management technology, are looking at ways in which their core competency – knowing who should go where when, planning the most efficient schedule, and accurately recording and reporting on time – can play out in this new freelance economy. If this trend continues to grow, there will be no question about the strategic importance of workforce management. It will indeed be at the core of how organizations remain competitive by better managing their internal and external human resources.

Developing Freelance Workers

Another critical element that will enable organizations to take advantage of freelance workers is tracking learning and development. How does an organization track and foster the development of individuals that only work for them for short periods of time? And how do individuals take advantage of development opportunities without the benefit of a training department they can call upon? What workforce technology is available to help us answer those questions? Companies like are hoping to address this issue by offering access to a wide variety of content at accessible price points for individuals, as well as for corporations, and allowing users to track their certifications on sites like LinkedIn.

Making learning and certification portable will be critical to facilitate the free-agent culture. In many artistic endeavors, such as filmmaking, publishing, and theater, it has long been the norm that networks of freelancers come together for specific projects and then disband, and people are used to sharing a portfolio of their capabilities in order to get a job. This notion needs to enter the digital age for a wider variety of industries if indeed we are headed toward a workforce that largely does not work for one individual company.

There are many considerations organizations need to take into account as the employee/freelance population evolves, but it’s exciting to think of how workforce technology can enable a new way of looking at who your workforce really is. Having the tools that make it easier to network groups and individuals together to accomplish their goals will be a powerful differentiator in years to come. And human capital systems will be at the core of making it a reality.

Mollie Lombardi, VP and Principal Analyst, Workforce Management, Brandon Hall Group

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