The layered workforce—what does it mean, and why do you need one?
In the past, the term “layered” has described the number of layers of management within an organizational structure. It speaks to the hierarchy put in place to support the highest level decision-makers with delegating to managers and leaders—causing a ripple effect on each level. And though this definition made sense to the world of work we once knew, the workforce is experiencing an historic shift, and there is no time like the present to upgrade this “layered” term.
Redefining the layers
In a modern work context—one that is less centered around physical places, more agile, and more resilient—the layered workforce refers to a work structure where organizations have a variety of employee types working together. This new organizational model strategically integrates full-time employees, flex talent, and contract workers to operate as a team and accomplish company-wide goals efficiently.
With only 14% of marketers saying they must have full-time work status, employees are confidently redefining their career paths and seeking out nontraditional opportunities at record rates. The number of unfilled jobs continues to grow, and flex work is firmly taking its place. According to Upwork’s “Freelancing in America” study, “The U.S. freelance workforce is growing faster than the overall U.S. workforce, outpacing overall U.S. workforce growth at a rate 3x faster since 2014.” The majority of the workforce will be freelancing by 2027, further proving that work as we once knew it will not be the formula for the future.
Redefining the workforce
Cindy Gallop, world-renowned brand innovator, states, “The opportunity is literally to change everything about work as we know it.” She couldn’t be more right. HR departments are tasked with hiring independent workers, integrating them within full-time teams, and creating a pool of talent for their various organizational needs. This marks a historical time in the workforce where decision-makers can redefine how work gets done, by whom, and on what terms.
Marketing leaders are learning the ropes to manage in-house teams and remote workers. From graphic designers to strategists, project managers to copywriters, there is no one-size-fits-all for the varied skill sets within our creative industry. Differences also take shape by the type of role, hours they work, and benefits available to each type of worker. Talent acquisition teams will play a key role in developing packages that attract and benefit talent within and across all layers.
In addition, as the workforce continues to diversify, we’ll need to rethink employee engagement and retention, as well as create a healthy road of departure for temporary, contracted employees. We have an opportunity to get it right this time and provide people with optimal work environments, flexibility, and benefits packages that address our human needs—to once and for all throw micromanagement out the window and trust the employees we hire.
Redefining company policies and practices
Cultivating a work environment that promotes equity, eradicates systemic injustices, and intentionally values diverse voices, requires a company ethos unafraid of change. HR decision makers will have to reassess archaic practices and policies which prevent their full-time employees from having the autonomy and flexibility much like their contracted counterparts. Non-compete policies, which once prevented employees from taking on side gigs outside of their 9-to-5, are no longer sustainable in our freelance/gig economy where 1 in 3 Americans have side hustles—many needing the money to stay afloat.
Overall, our ability to strategically integrate independent workers into short and long-term projects with full-time employees, paying attention to everyone’s diverse needs, will undoubtedly determine the success and progression of the layered workforce in action.
With industry workers still finding their feet after the height of our global pandemic, conscious employers will take a closer look at how their current policies and culture may have negatively affected their teams. Embracing a strategically layered workforce is an opportunity to reopen the door to women and marginalized communities who have been denied the autonomy, access, and flexibility needed to balance their personal and professional lives. It will also promote a happier, healthier, and more productive environment for all, where creativity and collaboration is fostered and celebrated.