Imagine you’re sitting in your corner office looking over strategy and product development for the next 12 to 18 months. Surrounding you are your CXO team, as well as, a host of executive level project managers. The remainder of your staff and management is made up of on-demand workers collaborating on a project by project basis on discrete time tables with fixed budgets. This is the future of work. Does this sound fantastical, too futuristic or downright crazy?

This type of organization already exists … and it’s responsible for producing a variety of projects grossing billions of dollars on a 12 to 18 month schedule and they’ve been doing it for decades. “Whaaaat?” you say “ I’ve never heard of it.” Have you been to the movie theater in a while?  Hollywood has used this organizational solution for decades to put out “product” that routinely costs hundreds of millions of dollars and yet can generate billions of dollars in revenue.  This “Hollywood model” of the Future of Work is slowly but surely becoming attainable to organizations of any size. The ability to hire not just lower level freelancers, but to contract with seasoned executives/experts at all levels of production to create a pop-up team to create, manage and produce a product from start to finish. The benefits are myriad but at the very least can result in reduced labor cost, quicker time to market, and the ability to react more nimbly to both market opportunities and market threats.

Here is basically how it works so you can get a idea of how this new organizational structure could benefit your company:  The big Hollywood studios are made up of a core executive team, as well as, what amounts to business managers who help evaluate projects and decide which projects will benefit the studios the most and have the highest potential ROI. Cutting through all the crap about how a script makes it to production… Once the executive team signs off on the project and funding for the project is put in place then the real work begins.

A director is hired (i.e. the project manager) to fill the studios mandate while balancing the target markets expectation and appetite for the new product. The director then hires a production company with its own team of management and access to an on-demand workforce made up of everything from electricians and carpenters to editors to software designers, special-effects experts and of course camera and audio operators. This team can number in the hundreds and once you add in actors and extras, an entire team all focused on delivering a single piece of content can reach into the thousands. The studio rarely gets involved in the day-to-day operations unless there is an issue. The studio simply reviews content at specific milestones and monitors KPI’s all the while supporting the project with funding and pre-marketing efforts.

So what’s in it for the Hollywood studios? Studios save a great deal of money by not having full-time directors, producers, production teams, post production teams and even actors on staff 365 days a year. The cost of this would make the final product, the movie, so expensive that no one could afford to go to it. This Future or Work or liquid workforce solution; where entire teams come together for the duration of the project, deliver a great product and then disband for the next project is the most efficient and cost-effective way to deliver prime content for the studio and reduce costs.

Now take this model and apply it to your own organization. All of those people that you have sitting in cubicles day in and day out, all of the support people, all of the maintenance, all of the real estate costs associated the housing all of these individuals what if you could make that all go away or minimize it drastically?  Your core team decides and defines products or product updates on a rotating basis for the next 6, 12 or even 18 months and then you hire on a project by project basis the experts you need to complete those projects. The final product belongs to the company of course, and you know exactly what your labor costs are going to be because it’s negotiated and guaranteed in advance.

How to Implement this New Future of Work Organization

A change of attitude, and the foresight to allow your HR team to do what they were meant to do, recruit talent not play with an ATS system. In Hollywood, recruiters are called “casting directors” and it is their job to find the best talent available within budget. They might work with agents from time to time but they actively recruit on their own. Looking for just the right talent and then working out the deal. They don’t sit around pumping job descriptions out in to the ether and then monitor the 1,000’s of useless resumes ( AKA headshots) they get back. They’re proactive not reactionary. They’re the ones that shape the leadership of the teams and then allow that leadership teams to hire the experts they need to get the project done.

If this seems like too radical a change, never fear, there are new tools that are coming online that will allow you to hire an expert team on a project by project basis to give your company the deliverable/products that it needs at a fraction of the price of a host of full-time hires with all of their benefits and facilities costs. Things like Upwork, Uber and Fivver give you hint of what’s next in the on-demand workforce. However, instead of focusing on the unskilled or semi-skilled workforce, new talent platforms are developing which will allow you to hire the experts you need, when you need them at the right price, anywhere in the world.

Why the Resume is Outdated

You may ask, “how can I hire the right people, people I can trust to get the job done?”  How many people actually trust a resume these days? Do you? If so then why do your recruiters and ATS systems scour the Internet for additional candidate information in their social media and other profiles? Because the resume is BS and you are looking for other ways to vet the candidate, to get a better idea of their competency and value to the organization. That’s before you waste everyone’s time on a interview.

Just as in Hollywood, leaders that can create and manage successful projects get a reputation, a “ranking” if you will and thus can command a greater salary the next time around. Time is quickly drawing near when individual’s contributions to the company can be traced back to the bottom line and individuals will demand ratings and rankings of their skills that will be visible outside of the organization and publicly available. These ratings and rankings will replace the outdated resume.  I like to think of this as the “Moneyball” approach to corporate recruiting and the rise of big data, an increasingly liquid workforce coupled with a desire to cut labor costs and stay more nimble will accelerate this trend.

So what if this new Future of Work isn’t right for you? You may not have a choice in adopting this new organizational structure as there is a profound, growing realignment in individual’s perception of “work” and changing attitudes towards what a “career” means to many people. Perhaps this is further evidenced by why so many people want to identify as an “entrepreneur” these days.

The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and Inc Magazine cite the rise of the On-Demand or Liquid Workforce as the trend in the Future of Work as others estimate that between 2020 and 2030 up to 50% of the US workforce will opt for on-demand work as opposed to full-time employment with a single employer.  But that could be good news for your organization as well, how many times in your organization has the hiring or recruiting process failed you. Failed to provide an individual that meets all of your expectations and can provide the deliverables you thought they could? Hiring them is expensive and firing them has costs too.

According to EREmedia, with an on-demand workforce, if the particular team member is unable, unwilling or just not a good fit then that team member can be replaced quickly and without the consequences associated with firing a full-time hire.

“This is a common problem among most organizations, which report that 30-50% of their full-time hires do not meet expectations and thus it was a waste of an entire recruiting cycle “

Should We All Go Hollywood?

The pace of change across all businesses is accelerating and one of the last major segments yet to be disrupted is recruiting. Lets face it the recruiting industry hasn’t really changed since the 1950’s.  Sure there has been 10s of millions of dollars invested in new ATS systems and recruiting platforms, but these are all designed to make the recruiters lives easier so they can process and track as many as 3,000 useless resumes for every job posting. The focus has been simply to leverage new technology to extend an antiquated process. Ask anyone that has applied for a job in the last several years what the user experience was like. If recruiting was a standalone business it would have been bankrupt years ago.

Corporate leaders owe it to their stakeholders to follow in the footsteps of trend setting companies like Adobe and Cisco and take advantage of the on-demand workforce to reduce costs, increase productivity and boost worker morale.  The confluence of a new perception of what “work” and “career” is, coupled with big data and new talent platforms mean that organizations in the near future will be able to take advantage of the Hollywood organizational structure and reap the benefits of the liquid workforce.

So lets recap:

  1. Hollywood has been using the Liquid Workforce to great success for years
  2. The workforce is changing beneath your feet
  3. Existing recruiting doesn’t work very well
  4. Your company needs to become more nimble and increase the pace of product release and/or updates
  5. Technology has evolved to the point where individual expertise can be ranked and rated.

….maybe its time your organization went Hollywood after all!