Introducing the Universal Workforce Model: Necessity, Reality or Pipedream?

The BTN was recently delighted to partner again with Allegis Global Solutions (AGS), the global leader in workforce solutions, for an exclusive virtual roundtable event. The session brought together senior business and HR leaders with the chance to hear fresh perspectives and ways to approach the increasing pressures companies face as they adjust to a changing workforce, whilst engaging with some of the best minds in the industry through an interactive discussion. 

The topics that were discussed included the structural and stakeholder problems that preclude strategic workforce management, ways to harmonize siloed resources and operationalize workforce agility by rethinking and deconstructing the work needed to achieve an outcome, how to apply technology to enable data-led decision-making and finally, why now is the time to act and drive transformational change for your business. Our speakers were able to break down the critical need to rethink and redesign how work gets done, whilst sharing key considerations for how HR can help shape a company’s success through agile, fluid workforce and workplace strategy. 

The conversation was led by the incredible John Boudreau (Senior Research Scientist & Professor Emeritus at the University of Southern California), Simon Bradberry (Vice President at Allegis Global Solutions, EMEA) and Bruce Morton (Head of Strategy at Allegis Global Solutions), which was an open and interactive conversation bringing about the following takeaways: 

There are 4 strategic problems seen globally in the workforce environment

Bruce introduced the universal workforce model as having someone ask your leader what they need to get done can be seen as a new operating model. Identifying what people can do rather than what degree they have is vital. It is fundamental that organisations keep their leader aligned to ensure that they can understand that they have a choice around what happens in the workforce. Many organisations look at the different ways they can recreate the work so that it’s a better fit for humans. How can we take those jobs off them to allow them to do the jobs that they trained for? Nurses, for example, spend a lot of time taking patients' temperature when this is something receptionists can do. Organisations need to ensure they are able to create those efficiencies and upskill their employees.

As global forces continue to change our world of work and how work gets done, leaders are rethinking their talent strategies. However, many organisations are struggling in identifying the problems that occur globally. Allegis Global Solutions has specifically identified 4 strategic problems that occur time and time again. 

  1. Fragmented sourcing: This is a siloed approach to accessing the workforce to get work done as it restricts options necessarily. Availability of data offers new opportunities. 
  2. Talent Acquisition: Also referred to as the impossible ask. This is a strategically important function - typically suffocated by IT limitations - suffers fluctuations in resources and demand and can easily become isolated. 
  3. The RPO Paradox: Companies outsource to get expertise, technical innovation and flexibility and then typically insist on owning the entire process, which then restricts the success of the model 
  4. The extended workforce paradox: Procurement typically ‘owns’ the management of the non-permanent workforce to ensure cost discipline, but many organisations have seen an increase in overall costs. So the question is why? 

The idea of the universal workforce model is that organisations need to aim to take away that siloed approach and combine permanent employees, staff augmentation and consultants together to create a workforce business partner. The Universal Workforce Model can be defined using 3 main features; Task-Versus role-based planning (process), Workforce business partners (people) and an intelligent workforce platform (technology). 


Why can't managers do it all? 

In recent years, digitalisation, agile initiatives and remote work have dramatically transformed the job of managers. Managers now have to think about making their teams successful rather than being served by them. This results in there simply being more responsibilities placed on managers. Bruce stressed the importance of business leaders being as attentive to talent as they can possibly be. Leaders can be overwhelmed, however, the connection between work and people is fundamental in all organisations. If there is too much overlap in an organisation, it can result in a complete division, which demonstrates the need for HR to step up. It is vital that organisations can deconstruct the role of leaders in the best possible way in the hope that a solution will come out of it.

There was a conversation within the group whereby it was pitched that perhaps organisations needed to have a manager leading the work and another leading the workers. Yes, it can be seen that technology may have taken away some jobs, but it can help with other tasks meaning the employee actually becomes upskilled. This can help businesses in offering new products that are changing, which can open up other sectors. “It’s all about organisations rethinking their entire brand and service offer”. For example, in the US, across the retail banking sector, when ATMs came in, the number of sellers went up, not down. This was because the role expanded and was able to add more value. Another example is pharmacists becoming an advisor for healthcare. If you’re going to be a consultant, the competitive space changes, so the way you think about strategy changes. 

The limited imaginations can be seen as the hardest part to overcome as organisations reconstruct roles, this is because they are thinking in context. For example, if a nurse is taking the temperature of a patient, is there anything else they can do on the side of that as a way to upskill? The curiosity is about how to overcome that mindset of groups. 

How do you reconstruct those opportunities and reinvent them? At times, the practical reality of getting things done internally is hard as everyone wants to get involved in tasks and not jobs. If the principle was better, how do you do it in a way that is positive for workers and the environment? The biggest advice given is to get an agreement with the C-Suite and think about one step at a time. One of the best things a leader can do is to create a platform and offer a service that allows leaders to post projects where employees can take on specific tasks and learn more. 

What happens from this is that as a result of opportunity, leaders are empowered and employees are empowered to think differently. If HR can come up with this idea, then the C-Suite can observe the result. To be able to think about a growth mindset and reconstructing employees in that area is key. 


Maintain the quality of tasks for our employees

For many organisations, getting work done whilst maintaining the quality of tasks is key for the success of an organisation and employees' productivity. So the question is, how do you maintain that quality of tasks? 

It is important that organisations are selective and pick the opportunities that will be successful, if this can be done through the prevention of wasting money on external people then it will provide long term advantages. It is also about career growth and development, in which networking is a key point of this. Many industries and platforms are throwing money away when they already have the people that want to grow and progress within their careers. John Boudreau emphasised that a lot of work is now project work. Leaders need to ensure they start to deconstruct the areas that need the progression most and require a large rethink. One of the leaders spoke around how many companies can be task-based. However, it needs to be carefully thought through and positioned in the right way so that if the unions (in certain situations) do not like it, but the voice of the employees do, then it’s great. 

For the organisations that have started with project-based work, they found that AI is automatically reaching out to people which has helped with internal talent mobility and driving diversity. Many are not using the programme to leverage for the same purpose. Managers may have the tendency to say it’s their talent when really, they need to take a step back and change their mindset to entire companies talent, not just that within their direct teams. 

To conclude the discussion, it has been noted that task management is seen as the best approach. “You’re building a long term trust, if you are able to build up that consistency of trust, it will lead to better investment with that customer”. 

For further insight into the Universal Workforce Model, have a look at the following resources:

  • Download the preview from AGS’ upcoming 2022 e-book The Universal Workforce Model: An Outcome-First Guide to Getting Work Done
  • Listen to the Subject to Talent podcast, where Bruce Morton and Simon Bradberry dig into the Universal Workforce Model and discuss what is causing the reimagining of work and why now is the time to explore new, innovative approaches to getting work done.

Click HERE to check out their latest podcast around the Universal Workforce Model! 


About Allegis Global Solutions

The world of work has changed. As the leading provider of workforce solutions, Allegis Global Solutions (AGS) guides companies through a transformative journey to redesign the way work gets done. We know what it takes to attract the best talent while simultaneously building and executing strategies that align workforce capabilities with the agility required to stay ahead of what’s next. With decades of experience, continuous investment in innovation, and a robust portfolio of workforce analytics and insights capabilities, we’re equipped to help companies better navigate uncertainty and complexity by empowering their ability to run, grow and transform in a way that dramatically improves business outcomes while enhancing the work experience for all.