Tapping into the Liquid Talent Revolution to Drive Hypergrowth

By Lana McGilvray

2023 rolled in with a bang. Fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD)-heavy headlines are repeatedly underscoring "big tech layoffs at scale" and "market uncertainty" while prompting dramatic questions like, "Will AI replace people?" And while those concerns still loom large, there's no denying that the workplace structure and the skills needed to succeed have shifted in short order.

The market forces at play right now are much more reflective of a swift but gradual business and cultural evolution. The relationship between modern organizations and talent has changed, creating incredible growth opportunities for businesses and talented professionals.

A liberating fact – most of today's organizations and people aren't as bound to one another as they were in a less dynamic past. In a traditional workforce, the skills of a team are specific to the expertise or technical abilities already in place, but new business opportunities require adaptable teams to fit the needs of a myriad of initiatives.

The most successful organizational leaders of today understand this and have embraced what might now be fairly referred to as a liquid talent revolution to drive hypergrowth. "What is the liquid talent revolution and why should I care?" you may ask. I wondered the same, until my wonderful colleague and friend Ashley Miles, founder and CEO of Franklyn West, schooled me. Here's the background you need.

Liquid talent is not a new term. The phrase "liquid workforce" suggests a powerful way to organize and shape teams in such a way that they can rapidly adapt and change depending on the nature of the work at hand. Traditionally, business leaders train their own employees or hire new ones to fit the bill. But by utilizing the liquid workforce, leaders can now assess what is needed, manage full-time employees creatively, and hire the right freelancers with the specialization required to get the job done. Co-creation is at the heart of the liquid talent model. It's about managing a talent-based workforce that consists of full-time and independent workers.

For Ashley Miles, this approach has helped her win time and time again. Long before this business model was labeled, she had been applying the liquid talent model to foster true team collaboration while growing companies and new offerings quickly. For Franklyn West, it has become a cornerstone foundation for her business.

"I wouldn't have survived without an in-depth understanding of liquid talent," said Miles. "Nor would any of the companies I've led in the past, or the F500 and top data, media, and tech leaders we advise today. It's become critical."

One thing Miles warns against though is fallacies about teams: "Organizational leaders cannot think of collab teams as FTEs and head-shop resources. That is a one-way road to failure. The only way I've seen collab models work is in the way we deliver it, which is to ensure access to external talent that is as experienced, or more, than the talent our clients may bring in-house over time as new functions develop for hypergrowth maturity."

The benefits of a liquid workforce, according to Forbes, include "more flexibility, instant support for specific projects, on-demand access to expertise and reduced overhead and lower costs." Companies are finding out that temporary or specialized workers can help them stay relevant in the rapidly evolving digital landscape ahead.

The surge in remote working has allowed more people to quit their previous roles in favor of independent work, meaning there's a growing, global talent pool to choose from. Working with freelancers will decrease business costs and increase revenue by putting the company ahead of its competitors. Established, full-time employees will also benefit from an increased co-creation ecosystem.

"Liquid managers" are able to guide their teams along by fully embracing innovation, their employee's unique skill sets, and new technologies, all while staying open to new ideas. This will see a team's creativity and performance skyrocket, resulting in expedited growth.

After laying off 13 percent of its workforce, Fortune has reported that Meta's CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the organization was "too slow-moving and bloated" and called 2023 the "Year of Efficiency." Meta is asking managers and directors to transition to "individual contributor jobs," suggesting the liquid workforce won't just be an experiment within mid-tier markets, but among larger players as well.

"It is not only a great way to drive business growth and keep companies relevant with their customers, but it's also a way to drive employee engagement, upskilling and enthusiasm within the company," said Miles. "Pairing inside perspectives with outside perspectives helps solve business challenges. And partnering with these outside experts is a collaborative, energizing, and creative way to get business done." Companies that expect to compete with today's fast-paced digital businesses must take advantage of, and invest in, the growing liquid workforce.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Lana McGilvray is founder and CEO of Purpose Worldwide.