Workforce ecosystems and AI

Report by David Kiron, Elizabeth J. Altman, and Christoph Riedl: “Companies increasingly rely on an extended workforce (e.g., contractors, gig workers, professional service firms, complementor organizations, and technologies such as algorithmic management and artificial intelligence) to achieve strategic goals and objectives. When we ask leaders to describe how they define their workforce today, they mention a diverse array of participants, beyond just full- and part-time employees, all contributing in various ways. Many of these leaders observe that their extended workforce now comprises 30-50% of their entire workforce. For example, Novartis has approximately 100,000 employees and counts more than 50,000 other workers as external contributors. Businesses are also increasingly using crowdsourcing platforms to engage external participants in the development of products and services. Managers are thinking about their workforce in terms of who contributes to outcomes, not just by workers’ employment arrangements.

Our ongoing research on workforce ecosystems demonstrates that managing work across organizational boundaries with groups of interdependent actors in a variety of employment relationships creates new opportunities and risks for both workers and businesses. These are not subtle shifts. We define a workforce ecosystem as:

A structure that encompasses actors, from within the organization and beyond, working to create value for an organization. Within the ecosystem, actors work toward individual and collective goals with interdependencies and complementarities among the participants.

The emergence of workforce ecosystems has implications for management theory, organizational behavior, social welfare, and policymakers. In particular, issues surrounding work and worker flexibility, equity, and data governance and transparency pose substantial opportunities for policymaking.

At the same time, artificial intelligence (AI)—which we define broadly to include machine learning and algorithmic management—is playing an increasingly large role within the corporate context. The widespread use of AI is already displacing workers through automation, augmenting human performance at work, and creating new job categories…(More)”.