Diversity: Revisited

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Your workplace needs more diversity. No, we’re not talking about the diversity you’ve been striving towards for the past few decades. If you’re like most corporations, you’ve been working hard to provide a space where people from all ethnicities, backgrounds, sexual orientations, and ages feel welcome. But in the end, you treat them more or less alike: you offer them jobs.

If you’re competing for top talent over the next decade, you’re going to have to take diversity to the next level: you’ll have to diversify the work you offer and the way it gets done.

There will always be workers who prefer the security and predictability of a full-time job. But forcing people into the 40-hour box may not leverage the full breadth and depth of talent available to your team.

In the past, it has been the company that determined how work was performed. Smart companies are now structuring work around the people they have, rather than expecting people to conform to a schedule that’s easiest to supervise.

Cecile Alper-Leroux, in Human Resources Today, writes: “Organizations will want to redefine work to be more fluid and flexible to meet the requirements of more people including generalists, specialists, gig workers, retirees, remote, and virtual workers. This could mean introducing cyclical or intermittent work, which is not the same as seasonal work, or lifecycle-based assignments and compensation.”

Notice the phrasing: redefine work to be more fluid and flexible to meet the requirements of more people. This is a sea change in the way managers manage: letting the workers choose the way they want to work. A Workplace survey found that 51% of employees would change jobs to have a more flexible work schedule, and 35% would move to a new gig if it allowed them to work remotely. 

Autonomy is one of the key factors in engagement, and most large companies just can’t seem to make it work within their complex structures. Gene Marks, writing for Entrepreneur Magazine, says: “People who work at bigger firms are different kinds of people. I know these people. I meet them all the time. They are good people, and smart. They do good jobs, and they like their companies, mostly. But when I meet these people and compare them to the same employees who work at much smaller companies I notice a big thing that’s missing: control.”

The first generation of Gig Economy workers found their work through platforms like Uber, Lyft, Upwork, and Task Rabbit. But the new generation of freelancers is embracing their status as a path to greater autonomy and more flexible and meaningful work. They don’t want jobs. They want to be paid top dollar for work that interests them and allows them to have the freedom to move on to more interesting and more lucrative projects when the current project is done.

Freelancers are disrupting the workforce, bringing elite skill sets and an entrepreneurial mindset to the projects they’re hired for. A 2017 global study by Toptal found that 91% of organizations surveyed had employed freelancers and 79% planned to increase freelance participation.

The 21st-century workforce is becoming more diverse, in more ways than you think. If you’re only hiring employees full-time, consider redefining your open positions.