The extended company is becoming the standard

New technologies have had a profound impact on work methods and companies are now expanding their boundaries and becoming multi-faceted ‘extended’ companies that develop a wide variety of contractual bonds with the people working for them.

We are living in extraordinary times, possible the most extraordinary that companies have ever experienced. The company as we know it that has existed until now, with a hierarchy of executives, with defined boundaries and standardized processes as part of a division of labor, is a relatively recent type of organization since it only came about at the end of the 19th century. This setup is becoming obsolete in our increasingly complex and globalized world, especially with the rapid development of new technologies.

Companies have entered into the era of the ‘makers’, based on the accelerated sharing of knowledge through networks and digital platforms There are less stand-alone products, with lower and more accessible production costs, being marketed and more product-related services being created. We need to find new types of market positioning and competition is now based on extended communities of talent.

Becoming an ‘extended company’

To remain leaders in their fields, large corporations have decided to open up, by developing partnerships to create Fab labs.  They are prospecting their own business segment to remain competitive and focus on the near future. To win the war of innovation, they are using startups and innovative centers. These corporations have also understood that they need to use all the resources at their disposal to develop their creativity and have extended their search for talent to all types available in their ecosystem. They employ a wide variety of experts, freelancers and self-employed workers. The goal is to use the best and become more innovative while maintaining performance.

The new challenge: incentives for people with multiple careers and job hoppers

This trend will not stop and we are currently seeing an increase in employees with multiple careers and shorter contracts: today one out of two young employees are on fixed-term contracts. This has a direct impact on attracting, recruiting and retaining talent. Candidates and employees in today’s world are looking for immediate gain and also expect a company to develop their employability. Though many want to combine revenue with their passion, most opt for multiple jobs or careers for financial reasons, according to a study conducted by the ‘Salon des micro-entreprises’ in 2016. Having multiple careers is not a restrictive choice; over 70% of people with multiple jobs chose to have a wide variety of professional careers. INSEE states that, in France, there are an estimated 2 million of these slashers, a term referring to the slash (/) sign. Many specialists believe that this trend may become the standard, which is the case in the US.

Companies also have to face a generation of job hoppers. The new generation, also known as millennials or the ‘job-hopper’ generation, make up 40% of the active working population in France. These millennials are more demanding than the previous generation. They were born into new technology and, as job-hoppers, want a quick return on their investment: promotions, pay increases, greater responsibility. They also want a work environment and schedule tailored to new lifestyles and which will maintain a balance between the personal and the professional. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, GenY or digital natives, are not afraid to quit their jobs if the company is not in line with their values or does not meet their expectations. They want jobs that have meaning and they are critical of their prospective companies’ impact on the environment and its corporate social responsibility. These companies have to create an atmosphere of trust, equality and integrity to attract such people.

The extended workforce

These new demands are having a profound effect on companies, that now have to become more flexible and incorporate the idea of an ‘extended workforce’ if they want to attract new talent. The leading companies of tomorrow will have to attract this type of talent to maintain performance and meet the demands of the ever-changing markets that require rapid adaptability through continuous self-examination and reassessment.

This is why HR departments will have to redefine their activities and take into account all types of employees. Jobs such as Chief Talent Officer have already emerged. The extended workforce appears to be the way of the future, but some obstacles still remain, particularly in terms of supervision and standards implemented. Changes in work methods lead to new flexibility, but also present risks. Digital platforms are part of the answer, allowing us to build a fragile balance between security and freedom and create these new businesses that use an extended workforce.

Companies are using solutions based on artificial intelligence to develop collaborative tools that take into account the personal wishes and expectations of the employees. We now use the term ‘employee experience’ to indicate that employees will be treated as customers. The platforms make it easier to collect employees’ opinions, allow them to obtain feedback from managers, share information, such as special skills not recognized in their company. Participative management is being used more and more often because it encourages the sharing of ideas with greater transparency and efficiency.

Managers and HR professionals have new tools available that can better anticipate requirements in terms of skills and more easily detect employees willing to advance their careers and thus meet needs based on a company’s growth or diversification of activities. They can thus handle work assignments in the short term using optimized time and attendance tools so they had manage hybrid teams or lead teams of freelancers.

Companies currently need to meet the expectations of candidates and employees in the short term, while building a strong employer brand in the long term that will convey values in line with the desires of the new generations in today’s digital economy and Information Society.