Being the age I am and playing in the space that I do has given me unique perspectives on the way people work and the true power the worker holds. From the beginning of my career I’ve been contracting to ASX companies and looking at their workforce planning and management. In a calendar year I would generally take 2-3 months holiday – something my older colleagues and even peers couldn’t digest. For me, this represented a hole in our working culture and a platform for change.

My generation, Gen Y and more recently, “the Millennials”, are the largest growing workforce demographic, as we continue to be told. Set to be 75% of global workers in a decade. This means companies’ traditional structures will quickly become saturated by people who think just like I do; people who value freedom and flexibility, and who look outside the bounds of the 9-5 work week. Whether we want to accept it or not, we are being pushed towards a working life that fails to distinguish our personal lives from that of our work. With work at our fingertips and in our pockets, we can never really switch “off”. Maybe we don’t want to? The unsightly hour email checking that we’re all guilty of, couldn’t be a more obvious sign of the shifting world that exists.

Our work then, is quickly becoming something that cannot be numerated by set hours. What becomes obvious, is the need for performance measured by the completion of projects, tasks and outcomes. The nature of work is now both sporadic and dynamic and calls upon greater flexibility and agility of organisation’s in order to just stay afloat. To my surprise however, this is a realisation that most CEO’s and HR execs are behind on, with little understanding of the consequences of not re-thinking the way they operate.

Despite the steady rise of the contingent/independent/freelance worker in the corporate world, exploring the power of the extended and flexible workforce is a road few are travelling down. I’m not telling you anything new here. However, in my work I notice companies lacking the ability to source these people, even from within their current talent pools, for new initiatives. Surprising to some, it’s an organisation’s own structure that prohibits them from truly capitalising on the people power within their reach. Too often, companies spend time and money looking outwards to traditional sources when acquiring the talent needed to tackle a project. Many then, as we are seeing in the resourcing industry, are left with the un-needed human capital afterwards. If the initial engagement is approached more dynamically, an organisation should always have the skillsets and expertise they need for any given project.

The different thinking I support CEO’s and executives with reaches beyond just increasing productivity or cost effectiveness – it is really a lifestyle shift for workers and a change of gear for organisations to one that promotes innovation and growth. Networks and teams of capable workers that can be accessed and paid on a needs-basis, are weapons that will push an organisation’s revenue far beyond that of it’s competitors – the explosion of companies like Uber who have mastered the demand-supply equation epitomise this. In the ever-evolving marketplace, the opportunity to gain the competitive edge may not lie within your HR walls, but it is certainly within reach – you just have to know where to look.

Chris Milligan is changing the way the world works and supporting the new workforce. He is the voice of the independent worker and helps organisations improve the way they engage people.

Twitter: @ContingentChris