Can Workforce Fluidity Help Organizations Overcome Big Challenges in 2022?


Pete Hamilton

Vice President and Managing Director, APAC

Ongoing pandemic restrictions and shrinking talent pools mean that businesses around the world need to embrace fluidity to succeed.

Workforce fluidity means letting go of your assumptions about workforce strategy and being open to new ways of getting things done. As the new normal becomes there is no such thing as normal, it’s the only way to ensure you’re prepared for what’s next.  

Though we’ve seen a general easing of Covid-19 rules across much of the globe, there are still restrictions in many regions, and the Omicron variant has sparked further changes that have left individuals and organizations unsure how to plan for the future. For those trying to engage new workers or source cross-border talent, it can be tough to keep up with the rapidly changing situation.

The PwC 24th Annual Global CEO Survey found that 28% of leaders saw a lack of key skills as a business threat and availability of talent is a serious and growing concern; 4.5 million Americans left their jobs in November 2021 – the highest number since data tracking began in 2000. Hiring concerns are impacting every corner of the world, with Persol Kelly's Workforce of the Future Report finding that 85% of leaders faced challenges building their workforce, with those in Singapore, Australia, China, and Indonesia confirming their primary consideration for workforce strategy was talent retention.

Clearly, access to talent is front of mind for leaders and critical for recovery post-pandemic. But how can businesses ensure they have access to the people and skills they need in uncertain times? A greater focus on workforce fluidity could provide them with the flexibility they need to access and retain great talent, despite big challenges.

What is Workforce Fluidity?

Workforce fluidity means taking a flexible, responsive, and dynamic approach to workforce strategy, which allows businesses to pivot quickly to overcome new obstacles, embrace opportunity, or manage uncertainty. This encompasses everything from embracing gig and contingent workers and creating greater job fluidity inside an organization to flexible scheduling and remote work.

Ultimately, it’s about removing barriers to ensure work gets done and people can connect with work in a way that makes sense for them.

Your Talent Mix Might Look Different This Year (And That’s a Good Thing…)

The idea that permanent workers are the only ‘real workers’ is fading fast, and that’s a very good thing. A fluid and agile workforce relies on temporary and independent workers to scale up and down quickly, enabling organizations to respond to change fast. It’s crucial in ensuring business continuity during times of stress.

And it appears this is a change that is already gathering pace in businesses everywhere. The KellyOCG Global Workforce Agility Report 2021 found that more than half of businesses had employed more contingent workers than usual in the previous 12 months. When we look at responses from leaders from the most successful organizations globally – those we call the Vanguards – this number rises to 62%.

The Future is Remote (Or Hybrid)

Can’t bring talent to you physically? Perhaps you should be engaging it virtually. Fluidity extends to how organizations connect people to the work they do and, in regions where many companies have historically relied on cross-border talent, this is one way to quickly overcome shortages.

The Future of Work 2022 report from Sympa found that 27.6% of HR professionals believe that hiring fully remote talent is becoming a serious option for their business, while 34.1% remained unsure about enabling fully remote roles. 55% of organizations surveyed in the Persol Kelly's Workforce of the Future Report were open to hiring and managing remote talent abroad, with India showing the most openness and readiness to this way of working.

Remote and hybrid work have been on the rise since the start of the pandemic and are unlikely to disappear anytime soon. Those organizations who want to embrace fluidity may have to get more comfortable with long-term virtual work – whether that’s fully remote or a hybrid arrangement – to ensure they can access the workers they need.

Amplifying Job Fluidity

What’s in a job title? It seems restrictive job descriptions and tightly-defined roles could reduce learning and new experiences, with negative effects for both organizations and individuals. Linear career paths are getting less desirable as workers demand work experiences that allow them to stretch their interests and learn new skills. By feeding this curiosity, businesses can not only deliver great employee experiences but also actively upskill and reskill their workforce to bridge skills gaps. 52% of global Vanguards in the KellyOCG Global Workforce Agility Report 2021 said they were more focused on upskilling/reskilling permanent talent than they were at the start of the pandemic.

Personalize Work for Everyone

Organizations have to ensure they are somewhere that people want to be, and one important way of achieving this is by adding flexibility to their offering. The EY Work Reimagined 2021 survey found that 54% of employees would consider leaving their job post-pandemic if they are not offered some form of flexibility in where and when they work.

There are also now five different generations in the workplace, all with different ideas, needs, and priorities when it comes to work. By allowing employees to curate their own work experience, providing some fluidity on how and when work is done, and allowing people to bring their whole selves to work, businesses can create a culture where all types of workers feel able to thrive.

You can’t simply turn on workforce fluidity. It’s not one action or one decision. It’s about continually analyzing every part of your workforce strategy, from talent mix and workforce planning to attraction, engagement, and retention to increased flexibility and choice. It’s a constant (and often time-consuming) process that never stands still, but it’s something you can’t afford to ignore. How will you get more fluid in 2022?   


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