Adaptability is arguably one of the most important aspects of success in today's business world. Companies that are able to roll with the punches, be flexible enough to meet and exceed the needs of customers, whatever their requirements, and make use of the latest technologies and ideas have the best chance of standing out in a crowded marketplace.
However, being more adaptable is not straightforward. It takes a concerted effort to change the way a company operates, while staff need to be bought into the mindset of change in order to achieve a lasting and positive shift in behavior. Businesses must therefore focus on new models of operation in order to secure the benefits of enhanced flexibility and, with that in mind, allow us to introduce 'the liquid workforce'.
What is a liquid workforce?
A liquid workforce is one that is able to rapidly adapt and change to meet the requirements of the business. It is typified by a focus on project-based workloads and brings together the skills of multiple parties and use of the latest technologies to create a complementary whole.
Accenture explains in its Learning Academy that a liquid workforce is one that blends digital and human capital to facilitate more efficient project management. It is a process of continual adaptation, where companies draw upon specialist workers and assistive technology to meet its needs in a more fluid fashion.
This means accessing a labor force that goes beyond the traditional nine-to-five, permanent members of staff and sees businesses also making use of contractors and consultants, systems and tools that are specific to the delivery of that project.
How does a liquid workforce operate?
Randstad stated in its 2025 Workplace Report that a "fully liquid enterprise" is one that is more agile and able to instigate new innovation more easily. This is due to the fact that the workforce itself is made up of only those individuals needed for specific work to be completed.
As a result, a truly liquid business would be one where only the C-suite could be classed as permanent members of staff. The remainder of the business would be made up of contracted professionals, brought in specifically to work on certain projects, then moving on to additional projects with the company or pastures new when their responsibilities have been fulfilled.
With this in mind, many leading companies are now making use of the cloud and other cutting-edge technologies that enable higher levels of collaborative working, but without the constraints of distance or the need for physical presence. When a business is able to share its resources in real-time among contributors anywhere in the world, then productivity in operations and their ability to progress in projects can only be enhanced.
A process that has already begun
Many of you reading this may view the concept of a wholly-liquid business as something for the future, but in reality, this is a structure that is already happening today.
According to Deloitte's 2018 Global Human Capital Trends report, 72% of business leaders believe cutting-edge technologies, like artificial intelligence, robotics and automation, will have a significant impact on company workforces in the coming years. Meanwhile, 70% believe collaborative platforms will become essential tools for communication in the very near future.
Moreover, businesses at present are not making the best use of the growing proportion of workers to be found in the 'gig economy'. Indeed, just 16% of respondents stated they have a "well-defined strategy" for managing contractors, freelancers and the like. This is a statistic that will have to change, and is likely to do so as more organizations appreciate and adopt the premise of the liquid workforce.
To help you make better informed HR decisions, click here to view more industry trends.