Technology and Organisational Resilience

Neeharika Satyavada

If there were to be only two key clear and certain learnings for businesses, more than two years into the pandemic, it is this. One, it is critical to prepare for and build organisational resilience, not just to survive and thrive in the face of technological disruptions, but even to weather other crises that are systematic and pervasive in their impact. Two, labour markets are rapidly changing, driven by technological advances and generational attitudinal changes. It is therefore, crucial to integrate your people strategy with your business strategy in a way that harnesses these changes to build a flexible and agile organisation that is responsive to dynamic talent trajectories.

As per research by Abhishek Bhatia, Doctoral student at LBS and Professors Deepa Mani and Shekhar Tomar, ISB, sectors and jobs with high suitability to machine learning were more immune to the effects of the pandemic, as they were more amenable to the substitution of labour, and reorganization of work, while being able to reduce costs owing to the data-driven nature of the work itself. Technology, therefore, becomes key to building organisational resilience. This can be easily evidenced in these emerging business trends.

  • The steady adoption of AI & ML across industries.
  • Changing business models facilitated by digital platforms.
  • Increasing demand for advanced digital skills across new and existing job roles. 

Research by Professors Ali E. Akgun & Halit Keskin, YTU, suggests that with increasing levels of technological turbulence, agility has a positive impact on product innovativeness, further driving an organisation’s resilience capacity and performance. This need for agile and resilient business models is driving the demand for newer capabilities and work models, reconfiguring the workplace and the workforce of the future. Leading to certain definitive trends emerging in the labour market today, from which there is no going back.

  • The workforce now comprises both men and machines.
  • It is becoming increasingly challenging to hire, manage, motivate and retain talent.
  • There is a significant shift to new models of work, accelerated and made mainstream by the pandemic-induced global lockdowns.

These shifts in the labour market have led to shifts in the competence acquisition strategies of firms. Specifically, there is considerable increase in associated efforts towards hiring advanced skilled workers with flexible work arrangements, including temporary, contractual, contingent, and freelancers, opening up opportunities like never before for independent knowledge workers, who can offer a range of job-critical digital skills, on-demand, remotely.

According to this HBR article, there are now approximately 150 million people working as independent contractors in North America and Western Europe, mostly in knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations - the largest and fastest-growing segments. As per the projections by Statista, by 2027, this segment is expected to reach 50.9 % of the total workforce in the United States.

“For many years, people viewed contract, freelance, and gig employment as ‘alternative work,’ options considered supplementary to full-time jobs. Today, this segment of the workforce has gone mainstream, and it needs to be managed strategically.” - Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Report 2019.

Therefore, factoring in the gig worker to create a flexible, collaborative, and intelligent workforce aligned to business goals, is critical not just to planning effectively for the future of work, but also to leveraging available technologies to gain competitive advantage and drive business growth. In a nutshell, here is why tapping into this burgeoning segment of the workforce is vital to building an organisation’s resilience capacity.

— Build a Resilient and Responsive Organisation

Designing the organisation structure to function with agile teams and dynamic talent allocation strategies will speed up decision making, increasing flexibility and responsiveness, making for a resilient organisation.

— Outsource and Optimise

Outsourcing certain specialised tasks and project-based jobs to freelancers will help optimise workflows and cut the built-in costs of regular employees. According to Gartner, 32% of organisations are now replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.

— Bring Outside-in Expertise

Adding a non-static component to your workforce will enable you to access outside expertise, bring in fresh perspectives and allow for innovative and creative solutions, helping you resist group think from setting into your teams.

— Standardise Outcomes in a Competitive Market

As gigs are typically outcome-based, there is scope to standardise for quality. This leads to increased competition in the market, resulting in cost efficiencies for the organisation in the procurement of services.

— Scale-up Operations

Easy access to workers with diverse skill sets, expertise, and experience helps increase productivity and efficient scale at speed.

— Create Contingency Support

Efficiently manage demand, workloads and skill gaps by hiring independent workers through flexible contracts. This will not only help the organisation stay agile and responsive to volatile market conditions, but it will also reduce the need for resorting to layoffs in challenging times.

— Develop a Productive and Empowered Workforce

An independent worker by choice is intrinsically driven, and the nature of the work itself mandates a certain degree of self-reliance. Therefore, empowering this demographic with flexibility will create a happier, satisfied, and productive workforce. With easy access to a diverse talent pool minus the constraints of geography, the potential to build high-performing teams is infinite. 

Lastly, the gig economy has immense potential to create economic opportunity and aid in inclusive growth, as it reduces the information asymmetry and other barriers to entry that afflict the traditionally marginalised sections of society. “This shift is likely to stick, and it’s good for democratizing access to opportunity,” says LinkedIn Chief Economist Karin Kimbrough. “Companies in major cities can hire talent from underrepresented groups that may not have the means or desire to move to a big city. And in smaller cities, companies will now have access to talent that may have a different set of skills than they had before.” However, it remains to be seen how these work models that incorporate the gig workforce evolve over the long run, given the multiple challenges that come with hybrid work models and arrangements.