The American workplace has been undergoing a revolution over the past two decades. Between 1996 and 2016, U.S. jobs that were production-, transportation-, or office-based fell 11 percent; their managerial counterparts saw a 41 percent increase in jobs added during that same period. That meant the average office had fewer people actually doing the work and more people leading it.
This shift -- combined with the move toward freelance work, which now makes up 35 percent of the workforce -- has made the future workplace more dependent upon technology and expertise than ever before. Knowledge and tools have become commodities that are being "traded" on an on-demand basis, and smart businesses are trying to anticipate the types of employees they'll need tomorrow so they can get a leg up on the competition today.
Who are those smart companies hiring? Prospective employees who can tick off one or more of the following boxes have a higher chance of nabbing an interview -- and providing forward-looking value to the companies hiring them.
1. Companies need project experts.
In the past, businesses often waited to tackle far-reaching projects or expand into new areas until they had enough demand to justify hiring full-time staff. To drive revenue, introduce new products, or conduct research on unfamiliar verticals, companies now have to be willing to find people with domain-specific knowledge who can work on a project basis.
While some of these new products or research efforts do translate into full-time positions, contract work is the name of the game for most companies with an eye on the future. Freelance marketplaces often offer the clearest view into employees' abilities to handle the projects needed. One such firm, Catalant Technologies, matches business projects requiring certain subject matter expertise or skills to the boutique consultancies and individual consultants that best fit those needs. Catalant's system includes an algorithm to improve matches that gets smarter the more companies feed data into it.
Catalant -- backed by investors like GE Ventures and Mark Cuban -- recently expanded its on-demand talent platform to offer its system as a cataloging resource for companies' existing talent. This gives businesses a better view into their own capabilities, which is especially helpful for vast enterprises that can otherwise struggle with finding the right person to solve the right problem at the right time. "The more senior the executive, the more dire they know their problem is," explains co-CEO Patrick Petitti. His co-CEO, Rob Biederman, agrees: "Increasingly, we are hearing from our Fortune 50 clients that a new approach -- i.e., more flexible -- is not only a competitive advantage, but a strategic imperative."
Another platform, Reacha, offers digital business cards to create a real-time business network, enabling people and companies to be connected via cellphones. The app plugs itself as the Uber "for everything else," and its goal is to help both professionals and businesses meet needs instantaneously while building trust. It offers a different approach to the talent-finding game for short-term needs; future-oriented businesses will need to remain open to taking different approaches to fulfill different needs.
2. Companies need salespeople who can fuel revenue and loyalty.
Every business needs to bring in new business -- that's not new. What is new is the somewhat recent shift away from fully commission-based sales roles, which tended to blur the line of ownership: Does the company own the relationships with customers, or do the salespeople? These setups often resulted in revenue, but they didn't necessarily give companies loads of loyal customers who'd stick with them.
Instead, many businesses are investing further in inbound marketing, focusing on educating prospects and pulling them down the sales funnel with information about the company. Customers, after all, feel more loyalty toward companies that educate them rather than aggressively pursue them, and 32 percent of marketers themselves ranked outbound practices as the biggest wastes of time.
One company helping to educate those who educate others -- inbound specialists -- is Inbound.org. Launched by Moz and HubSpot founders, the site creates custom email digests and connects marketing and sales professionals with others through its community. It then links the sales and marketing experts who've joined with job opportunities offered by companies in need. By sparking discussion, the platform links more than 150,000 people to resources and businesses already leaning into the future of sales.
3. Companies need techies who can capitalize on opportunities.
Money flows into company R&D on a regular basis, with leaders knowing that their businesses' stability and long-term prospects rely on their ability to anticipate market needs. Once businesses have identified demand in the marketplace for a new service or product line, however, they need experts who can transform that need into an asset.
The software-as-a-service industry, for example, has increased exponentially in recent years and has expanded beyond Silicon Valley to include businesses of all stripes. For instance, a new Kansas City, Mo.-based startup, Awari, is a SaaS platform designed to pinpoint workplace bias. Another SaaS platform, Entelligo, is based in Amsterdam and is geared toward helping renewable energy salespeople do everything from energy audits to proposals. Developers who can perceive the need for niche technology and build it to serve those audiences automatically put their companies on the cutting edge.
Crew is one platform pairing designers and developers with businesses needing to build apps, create websites, or establish e-commerce options. The system's network implements a vetting process prior to introducing candidates to companies to maintain its 99 percent issue-free completion rate.
It's not realistic to think that the lightning-fast changes of the past two decades are going to slow down anytime soon -- if anything, they're going to speed up, and businesses need to be ready to meet the marketplace's changing needs. They can start by looking for people with the knowledge and skills to help them sprint where others will trip.