The flexible core
The traditional model of employment contracts from the last century has long been outdated in practice. It was assumed that your organization consists of 80 to 90% of a permanent core of employees and that this is supplemented by a flexible shell with 10 to 20% temporary contracts and temporary workers for “peak and sick”.
In 2020, organizations have become “Fuzzy Firms”. In his book with the same title, Prof. Arjan van den Born already described in 2013 how the core of an organization itself has become increasingly flexible. The edges of the organization are “fuzzy”: unclear, vague and undefined, because there is collaboration on a project basis with external parties in all kinds of temporary constellations. Nowadays we also speak of network organisations and ecosystems.
Universities, pharma and chemical companies have far-reaching flexibility in their research and science teams with temporary appointments for a number of years.
You can already see examples of this in many sectors. Interim managers have been helping companies and government organizations through turbulent times since the end of the last century. Universities, pharma and chemical companies have far-reaching flexibility in their research and science teams with temporary appointments for a number of years. In IT, the percentage of people with a fixed versus flexible contract has meanwhile been levelled. And for many change projects, organizations hire external experts, from freelancers to the large consultancy firms.
Labour market trends accelerate flexibilisation
The number of self-employed people in the Netherlands has passed 1 million for a while out of a total workforce of more than 9 million. In Belgium the percentage of self-employed persons is slightly lower than in the Netherlands, in the neighbouring German regions considerably lower.
The labour market has been changing considerably for a number of years. A number of trends are accelerating the shifts in the labour market:
- The corona pandemic has shown that remote work can become the new standard
- Remote work makes talents from all over the world accessible to organisations
- Technology makes remote collaboration much more efficient
- The digital transformation makes work disappear and other work appear
- Online work platforms make outsourcing small jobs to experts accessible to everyone
These trends all fuel the further flexibilisation of the labour market. This flexibility can take shape within a permanent job, but also increasingly lead to more flexible employment contracts for temporary projects.
Work on the move
The permanent job for life in which the career ladder is climbed is rapidly disappearing. Yet many organizations are not yet aware of the opportunities and risks that this new reality of work entails. As a result, they lack talent, which means that innovation lags behind in those organisations.
“Work changes, the world changes and organisations change. Manoeuvrability and adaptability are crucial here.”
A number of frontrunners to this movement in the financial sector have united in the Werkbeweging. There Elly Ploumen and Sander van Ekeren of Achmea for example say: “We must accept contingent work as something that is here to stay and not try to restore work to its old state. Work changes, the world changes and organizations change. Manoeuvrability and adaptability are crucial here.”
You have to break through internal silos
These words are a great first step in a culture change compared to workers in an organization. In practice, many organizations are still internally divided into silos for organizing work. Recruiters and recruitment systems have only looked outside the organization for recruiting for permanent jobs. Career advisors are involved in internal mobility and the purchasing department uses purchasing systems to recruit contingent workers.
Total Talent Management is a strategic instrument for organisations to recruit, select, engage, develop and deploy all available talent that is required to perform the work in a holistic manner.
To be ready for modern workers, a lot has to be done in organizations themselves. Those internal silos must be broken in order to be open to any talent that adds value to your organization. We call this Total Talent Management (TTM): a strategic instrument for organizations to recruit, select, engage, develop and deploy all available talent that is required to perform the work in a holistic manner. Holistic means that it is about finding and binding the right competencies, not about the contract form.
Due to complex regulations, most HR professionals and lawyers dive away for the integrated deployment of contingent workers.
For example, we were involved in the TTM implementation at the VRT, the Flemish Radio and Television broadcaster. We broke through the silos there, made HR responsible for all forms of talent and built an mobility and development model where everyone has equal opportunities. For all types of talent you can go to one jobsite, with recruitment marketing for all candidates via the social media channels of the organisation. Companies all have their own ostrich policy regarding flexibility. Due to complex regulations, most HR professionals and lawyers dive away for the integrated deployment of contingent workers.
A diversity and inclusion policy is not only about gender, age and nationality, but also about contract types. An unequal treatment of external talent, such as temporary workers and freelancers, creates misunderstanding within many organizations. By turning this around, you create opportunities to attract the best talent with a mindset and culture where everyone is equally valued and trusted. A modern employer employs anyone who contributes with their knowledge and experience to the strategy and future of the organization.
About the authors
Marleen Deleu has more than 30 years of experience in advising organizations to optimize the hiring of external talents and bring them to a strategic level in the organization. Marleen is also co-owner and editor of NextConomy, the online knowledge platform about new forms of work and organizing work.
Mark van Assema has been an HR project leader for over 20 years and connects parties for a successful change in the field of talent management. The organizations he works for want to work with innovative technology on integral Talent Management. Mark is the founder and community manager at #HRTech Review.