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2020: the new world of work

Three innovations that are changing the global workforce.

Mark A. Lanfear

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Theres been a lot of talk over the last couple of years about what the workforce of tomorrow will look like. Futurists have focused, perhaps arbitrarily, on the year 2020, plastering across the Internet thoughts and ideas about how everyones concept of a normal day of work will be shattered in just a few short years. Actually many of these changes are happening already, and, by 2020, companies that fail to embrace some very fundamental ways in which the global

workforce is transforming will seem as old-fashioned as the rotary telephone. An evolution of the traditional employer employee relationship. Professionals banding together to work in highly technical hybrid groups. Collaboration across continents where virtual is the new bricks and mortar. These are three fundamental workstructure innovations that will seem as normal in the future as water cooler conversations were in the 20th century.

This whitepaper, the final of four in the Kelly Services series on the scientific workforce of 2020 and beyond, will explore how free agency, hybrid workgroups, and the virtual workplace are trends that are converging to define how the worlds businesses and organizations will utilize their most valuable resourcestalentin order to compete more effectively, both today and tomorrow.

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In fields like engineering, IT, and science, highly skilled and experienced employees are already showing signs that they are less willing to compromise on location and compensation when it comes to the work they do. This is free agency supercharged and it could dominate the worlds workforce by 2020.

This trend has actually been developing for close to a decade, but only now has it come to be seen by futurists as a viable work model for the majority of the worlds workforce. In the past, if companies saw free agency or consultant labor as just a gap-filling measure, today the most sophisticated organizations are seeing it as a forward-thinking strategy capable of delivering improvements and efficiencies which may add to their bottom lines. Why should companies investigate free agency as a serious topic? Theres some proof in the numbers. The Kelly 2011 Free

those who do not have full-time traditional employment with an organization. Internationally, the percentages are smaller, but growing. Kelly research shows that the free agent population is now at least 20 to 30% of the entire global workforce. As soon as 2013, there will be 1.19 billion free agents, or about 35% of the worldwide workforce, according to a study by global research firm IDC. There are many reasons for this growing trend in employment engagement, and many experts believe that global economic uncertainty, coupled with the desire for better worklife balance, is inspiring workers especially those in highly technical fields to trust themselves more than an

organization to know what is right for their career progression. These workers know that demand for their skills is high, but they also know that corporate paternalism is dead. Many will ultimately come to place more value on working on projects of interest to them with colleagues they respect, and on innovations that lead to resultswith less focus on climbing the corporate ladder. The challenge for companies will be to embrace through tangible infrastructure and corporate culture these new workforce models, and to appreciate how it will contribute to long-term organizational health. Hiring focused on the person and experiences

they possessnot just for the job or task at handwill become the lifeblood of the organization and perhaps one of the most powerful drivers. Free agents are critical components in this equation, and talent acquisition teams who fail to acknowledge this will see valuable talent go elsewhere. These factors reinforce what we have theorized for a long time as companies continue to grapple with the hypercompetitive nature of global business: an organizations ability to recruit, engage, and develop talent is a vital indication of its ability to remain competitive and relevant. Making free agents an integral part of a companys strategy will ensure that the organization is able to engage needed talent.

Agent Survey found that 44% of American workers across all industries, when asked, classify themselves as free agents

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The formation of hybrid work groups is a natural progression as the culture of free agency takes hold across the globe.

Concepts such as business colonies, synchronized workforces, and skill-set modulesall different forms of work groupscan be formed to accommodate any type of work or project. This represents a profound shift in basic employment structures, where both companies and individuals are coming together to seek out innovative ways of doing business that capitalize on mobile workforces and mobile opportunities. So what are business colonies, synchronized workforces, and skill-set modules? Business colonies have been defined specifically by futurist Thomas Frey of the DaVinci Institute as organizational structures designed around matching talent

with pending work projects. The operation will revolve around some combination of resident people based in a physical facility and a non-resident virtual workforce. Some business colonies will forgo the cost of the physical facility completely, opting instead to form around an entirely virtual communications structure. With these business colonies established, they are able to seek work on a project basis from large companies that are seeking their specific skills. In some instances, according to Frey, large corporations will launch their own business colonies as a way to expand capability without adding to headcount and could possibly even use these colonies for experimental assignments best

performed outside of the cultural bounds of existing workflow. Similar to business colonies, synchronized workforces and skill-set modules are loosely defined as pockets of talent that are considered a critical asset to an organization, but are not necessarily needed throughout the entire process of a project. Companies might employ these workforces with other pockets of talent in a different part of the country or on an entirely different continent. All work on different aspects of the same project, helping companies save not only money, but time in the wake of global competition that continues to demand that products are developed smarter and faster.

Ultimately, these hybrid work groups can all mean very different things to different organizations. But at the most basic level, these concepts are about engaging the right talent in the right place at the right timeregardless of a companys physical location. They are about banishing the cubicle and fixed schedule. And they are about embracing the evolution to a workplace model independent of traditional employment constraints. These concepts are about fulfilling the needs and expectations of both organizations and the people who work for them, because the best human capital is now among the most valuable resources in the world.

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With free agency and hybrid work groups in play, the virtual workplace could be a dominant model in the year 2020 and beyond. This could be especially true and influential in the science industry, where the days of the insular workplace are over, and a culture of virtual work is helping companies gain a competitive edge.

As knowledge sharing continues to gain traction, and as vital economic resources continue to constrict at scientifically focused companies both large and small, the expertise of others outside a particular organization, and the ability to work across continents within a virtual model, will become a more and more important factor for reaching business goals. As a result, virtual scientific networks are already cropping up all over the Internet. is one such network, which has gained popularity over the past year for its ability to easily connect scientists, allow them to answer questions from peers, share research papers, and find collaborators for

future projects. Essentially, it is a mash-up of Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn for the science world where scientists can share their photos and profiles, as well as their work with colleagues around the globe. Since ResearchGates inception in early 2011, membership has grown to more than 1.3 million users, and about one million publications have been shared so far in a notable example of the traditional scientific journals being bypassed as an avenue of publication. As the popularity of these virtual networks grows in the scientifically oriented, and many other technical industries, it will become even more apparent that nearly all work

of the future will have factors that may be virtual. That is, the global workforce and therefore business economy is now more borderless than in the past, and there is a growing acceptance that work can happen anywhere regardless of brick and mortar or company location. Its worth noting that the independent nature of todays working world is being fueled in no small part by innovative social communities and the collaborative nature of technologies (i.e., virtual networks) that continue to evolve, according to the 2012 independent work report by MBO Partners. This will make a companys understanding of these networks all the more critical, and their ability to take

advantage of them with regard to building a customized and flexible workforce model critical as well. With the proliferation of collaborative cloud computing tools and the types of social networks discussed above, it is inevitable that the professionals that scientific companies need will be tapping into these networks to find the projects and teams they would like to work with. Companies will have to be engaged and at the table, when the moment presents itself in order to locate expert talent as the proliferation of these work-related social communities allows free agents to find the best jobs, create teams and partnerships, and support professional development.

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Scientifically focused corporations working within the constraints of traditional employment may find it challenging to take on these innovative aspects of the workforce of the future.

In fact, utilizing free agency, alternative and hybrid work groups, and the power of virtual networks may still seem like a completely novel concept despite how fast workplaces across the globe are changing. But the very nature of the science industry itself, and how it continues to change to meet economic realities, might well be the driving force behind companies taking a more strategic approach to their workforce solutions in the future. Some of the most obvious changes have come about because of pure economics. Practically everyone is being challenged to do more with less.

Particularly within the science industry, increased challenges in the development of drugs and other products are influencing how companies conduct business and control costs at practically every step in a particular process. A scientific companys most important projects, it could be argued, are now often likely to be conducted on a micro, not macro, level. Companies as a result must take the necessary steps to adapt their work workforce solutions according to these challenges:

1. Identify strategic versus transactional processes within your company. What activities are core, but yet could still be interwoven into strategic workforce solutions? Which tasks and process, transactional, strategic, core or ancillary be done on a project basis? Assess your workforce, and figure out how specificallyskilled free agents could efficiently and effectively contribute to your operations by applying their specialized knowledge. 2. Do a cultural and sociability audit. Is your company on board with the workplace reality of the future? Extreme competition

for talent is dictating that companies must be able to meet workers expectations in radically different ways and be open to different types of hybrid work groups. Are you willing to nurture new ways of working in order to attract and retain the best employees? 3. Engage a strategic partner that can help your organization build a better workforce strategy. Going it alone can be daunting. Look for partners that already have the expertise and experience to secure the right talent at the right time for the right processes.

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It may not be a matter of if but when these aspects of the evolving world of work will reach the workplace and drive a shift that will change the workforce as we have known it. The concepts of free agency, hybrid work groups, and the virtual workplace are three of the major challenges companies must prepare for in order to increase their likelihood of continued success, to attract the best talent in the future, and to maintain a competitive edge within the vast and complex global workforce.

Want more information? This white paper is part of the Kelly Scientific Resources series The Scientific Workforce of 2020 and Beyond. Download this and other papers in the series at today.

References: 1. Free Agent Survey, Kelly Services, Inc. 2011 2. Worldwide Mobile Worker Population 2009-2013 Forecast. International Data Corporation. 3. Business colonies: A study of structure, organization, and the evolution of work. Davinci Institute. 4. Lin, Thomas. Cracking Open the Scientific Process. New York Times. January 16, 2012. 5. MBO Partners 2012 Independent Work Predictions. Report. December, 2011.

About the Author Mark Lanfear is a global practice leader for the Life Science vertical at Kelly Services, a leader in providing workforce solutions. Mark has overseen teams of scientific professionals around the world for almost two decades. He has held leadership roles in two of the top three scientific workforce solution companies and three of the worlds top 20 Biopharmaceutical corporations. He is a featured speaker at many of the Life Sciences industry conferences, as well as a university instructor. In addition, he is a published author in industry periodicals. About Kelly Kelly Services, Inc. (NASDAQ: KELYA, KELYB) is a leader in providing workforce solutions. Kelly offers a comprehensive array of outsourcing and consulting services as well as world-class staffing on a temporary, temporary-to-hire, and direct-hire basis. Serving clients around the globe, Kelly provides employment to more than 550,000 employees annually. Revenue in 2011 was $5.6 billion. Visit and connect with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, & Twitter. Download The Talent Project, a free iPad app by Kelly Services. Our science specialty places professionals to a broad spectrum of industries, including biotechnology, chemical, consumer products, biotechnology, chemical, consumer products, cosmetics, environmental, food sciences, medical/clinical, pharmaceutical, and petrochemical fields. For more information, please visit
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