Recent AI developments are sparking changes in the world of work – from hiring practices to organizational structures. Workers themselves are also taking new approaches to their careers. Many have shifted to freelance, skill-based employment as more businesses become “mutable” organizations – hiring workers based on desired outcomes, rather than to fill set roles. Business writer Marylou Costa offers an interesting overview of the new mutable organization trend, which she sees as part of a larger shift toward smaller in-house teams augmented by AI and a freelance human workforce.
- “Mutable” organizations are on the rise.
- In the future, more people will work freelance, and companies will pursue specialized, skill-based hires.
“Mutable” organizations are on the rise.
The latest organizational downsizing trend is different from those that have come before. It’s not so much a response to an economic downturn as a reflection of how technological developments – particularly AI – will give rise to a new kind of organization: the “mutable” organization. In the not-too-distant future, companies’ in-house workforce will likely be much leaner, consisting of a small group of in-house managers who oversee teams of highly skilled freelance workers.
“What we see more often these days is a core team setting the direction of a project and engaging much more specialized skills in an agile way.” (Richard Skellett)
A mutable organization – a term coined by Richard Skellett, founder of Globalution – does not think of workers as an overhead cost but as outcome-based assets that offer a direct return on investment. In other words, companies will only invest in employees that will produce profitable work. This approach allows organizations to exist in a constant state of reinvention. Skellett believes that this model will apply to all types of businesses once AI becomes more fully a part of the world of work.
In the future, more people will work freelance, and companies will pursue specialized, skill-based hires.
As companies become more automated, it is likely that humans won’t be as involved in the routine tasks of running the business. This does not mean that a human workforce isn’t needed, however. People will just fulfill different roles than they do today and will take more of a “portfolio” – that is, flexible and skill-based – approach to their careers.
Platforms like Catalant, Freelancer.com and YunoJuno are already seeing increasing numbers of workers looking for gigs – and thus, more control over their work lives – and greater demand from companies seeking flexible staffing options. Catalant reports that employer activity on its platform grew more than 40% in 2021 and that thousands of the freelancers enrolled with them work regularly for blue-chip companies. Some are earning over $500,000 a year. Freelancer.com began partnering with government agencies to find specialists for specific projects in 2015 and has continued to do so in the years since.
“As a result, many people may have the chance to do more rewarding work.”
In this evolving landscape, individuals need to not only upskill – building new abilities within their current areas of expertise – but also engage in “lateral skilling”: branching out into new fields or roles. To excel as a freelancer, you will need to think of your career as a collection of skills to which you are constantly adding. Simply showing up for 40 hours a week won’t be enough to keep a job. Future employers want to see what their employees can do in terms of output, profitability and productivity.
About the Author
Marylou Costa is a business writer covering the future of work, work culture, sustainability, innovation, technology, start-ups, marketing and more.