The 8 Ways Companies Get Work Done, and How to Align Them

By Ravin Jesuthasan
October 22, 2019

Today, every organization has many different options for getting work done. And our ability to “liberate” work from the organization and distribute it to its most optimal provider — anywhere in the world — is creating a new set of requirements for leaders.

To succeed in this new world of work, leaders need to focus on two things. They need to have a better understanding of the eight different sources of labor available to them and better align the interests of these sources of work to create a unifying culture.

The eight sources of work that leaders may engage with are:

EMPLOYEES: Still the primary source of work for most organizations.

INDEPENDENT CONTRACTORS: A common work option since the Third Industrial Revolution, independent contractors play a vital role in augmenting the employee population.

GIG WORKERS: A rapidly growing source of labor, gig workers typically take on short-term assignments and projects.

OUTSOURCERS: Another hallmark of the Third Industrial Revolution, the outsourcing of entire processes is typically done for efficiency reasons.

ALLIANCES WITH STARTUPS AND OTHER COMPANIES: These are an increasingly important means for sharing risk and accessing new capabilities.

VOLUNTEERS: Typically they are used for crowdsourcing innovation or promoting brands on social media.

SMART AUTOMATION: This is often used to refer to artificial intelligence and robotic process automation, which can substitute highly repetitive, rules-based work, augment existing employee capabilities, and also create demand for new human skills.

ROBOTICS: Affects work in much the same way as artificial intelligence, but in the physical sphere.

When does it make sense to continue using an employee versus tapping into gig workers? How do we optimally deploy robotic process automation? Critical to success will be understanding the cost, productivity and risk implications of each while orchestrating this ecosystem of work options so that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

As organizations engage with this diverse set of work options, creating alignment of purpose and mission becomes increasingly challenging.

How do you achieve that? The answer lies in curating the optimal set of experiences for each type of talent. This means understanding the greater purpose of each work provider and creating alignment to the mission and purpose of your organization.

A company using several gig workers, for example, may transcend the typically transactional relationship with this talent pool by providing access to learning and development opportunities and access to “employee” experiences like a company picnic. And a company wanting to focus its culture on ensuring the safety and relevance of its talent, may have robotics perform the most dangerous tasks and reskill employees from performing manual labor to operating new equipment.

In the past, culture extended to the walls of the organization and was a function of the shared experiences of a relatively homogenous group of employees. Today it is defined by a compelling narrative that aligns the diverse interest of a highly heterogeneous group of work providers. Focus on each parties’ talent experience and your business will thrive.

Copyright 2019 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Management

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