Posted: 10 Nov. 2020 10 min. read

AI in workforce management

Unlocking workforce productivity with the AI-enabled opportunity marketplace

Workforce management leaders face an extraordinary challenge as the global pandemic affects strategic workforce planning, resourcing, and talent utilization. Opportunity marketplaces uniquely unlock latent workforce productivity and potential by matching employee skills with business-critical work through the power of AI.

New challenges for workforce management

Workplaces and workforces alike have become more digital, dispersed, and remote as firms seek to comply with public health edicts and customer needs. Work-life and home life further entwine. The need for leaders to step up has seldom been greater. In this unprecedented economic environment, leaders who care about their people, talented and typical alike, will have to clearly signal and demonstrate their desire to go beyond day-to-day delivery.

Over the past decade, workforce management leaders have been focused on strategic planning to understand the skills they’ll need to invest in to perform future work. Organizations have created reskilling and upskilling programs to invest in their workforces, however, our study indicates that “virtual upskilling” and “digital retraining” don’t go far enough. Top management must create and champion new markets for opportunity. According to LinkedIn’s Global Talent Trends 2020, role changes within organizations have increased steadily by 10% over the past five years, with workplace learning a growing focus for building up skills aligned to future work needs.

However, in many cases, those programs are not living up to employee expectations and workforce planning needs. The 2020 Future of the Workforce Global Executive Study, conducted by MIT Sloan Management Review and Deloitte, found that only 34% of surveyed workers are satisfied with the level of skills development investment received from their organization and only 56% of respondents see a meaningful opportunity for themselves in the organization.

Now that the global pandemic has hit, organizations are confronted with the reality that retention matters, but they can’t offer promotions or salary increases and need alternative approaches to engage employees and build up skills aligned to organizational needs that have dramatically shifted from their strategic workforce planning assumptions.

The opportunity marketplace

The 2020 MIT SMR and Deloitte report Opportunity Marketplaces: Aligning Workforce Investment and Value Creation in the Digital Enterprise report and the follow-on analysis Creating Workforce Agility with Opportunity discuss how organizations affected by the crisis are using opportunity marketplaces to enable real-time workforce supply and demand management to increase organizational agility related to redeployment needs.

Opportunity marketplaces can be an invaluable tool for human capital leaders looking to optimize workforce agility, engagement, and retention. They go beyond traditional job boards and internal talent sites that match individuals to traditional roles and enable managers to post open roles, as well as a broader range of opportunities—project work or “gigs” as side jobs, career sprints, volunteer experiences, mentorship engagements, and more. This allows individuals to gain access to new experiences that align with their personalized learning and development goals, for managers to spin up project teams more quickly, and for organizations to achieve greater workforce agility and talent mobility, as well as a better understanding of workforce capability aligned to organizational needs. 

Activating a new talent operating model

Workforce management leaders can use this talent operating model to transform their organization’s ability to efficiently and effectively match labor with tasks and to accelerate talent redeployment for greater organizational agility as workforce needs shift—whether it’s in response to the next crisis, business strategy changes, or future of workforce strategy investments. To get started, organizations need to understand their skills supply and work demands as a prerequisite, think about infusing learning into work itself, and rethink traditional career pathways and structures.

Understanding skills supply and demand with AI  

One of the biggest advantages of AI in HR is the ability to enable organizations to take advantage of the opportunity marketplace at scale. Whereas smaller organizations might be able to use simple solutions to manually match individuals to relevant work, for organizations with thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of opportunities across business lines and geographies, understanding relevant, available, and needed skills and pairing them with one other pose a monumental challenge.

This is where AI comes into the equation. Organizations can use AI in workforce management to analyze their existing employees’ inventory of skills and use historical skills data to match employees with relevant open opportunities posted by managers—considering skills adjacency, prior experiences, and desired career pathways. Employees gain greater transparency into a wide pool of projects and experiences available within their organization that might otherwise be opaque to them with the value-add of individualized recommendations serving up relevant opportunities. For managers, this can have dramatic benefits in terms of time to role filled for redeployment or work completed in the case of gigs; and for the organization at large, greater workforce agility and invaluable data for strategic workforce planning related to future skills needs.

Infusing learning into work and recharting career pathways

LinkedIn’s Leading with Learning Report, released in May 2020, found that organizations are indeed leading with learning during the crisis, with 64% of L&D pros saying that reskilling their current workforce to fill skills gaps is more of a priority than ever before. A marketplace for talent optimization simultaneously enables employees to build up their skills through experiential, on-the-job learning, which Deloitte’s 2020 Global Technology Leadership study has shown is the No. 1 method of learning used by technology leaders to improve both technical and soft skills. This organizational networking across teams can be especially valuable, given that the MIT SMR and Deloitte research also found that 82% of respondents feel valued for being able to develop new relationships.

In addition to enabling experiential learning infused into the work itself, marketplaces can help provide a platform for organizations that want to rechart career pathways as part of their workforce management strategy. Deloitte’s research, “The Adaptable Organization,” has shown that given the choice of structured, flexible, transitory, and open career paths, high-performing organizations adopt flexible and open career approaches over a more traditional, structured career paths. These high-performing organizations are 2.5x more likely to disband temporary teams once their primary purpose has been served. For organizations embracing these more flexible and open career pathways, marketplaces are a valuable mechanism to enable the flow of strategic work to relevant employees along a flexible career pathway.

Unlock workforce productivity and potential

Ultimately, opportunity marketplaces are a growing workforce transformation trend. Workforce management leaders who understand their ability to match available talent with roles and projects where there is an immediate need for better workforce management and deployment stand to unlock greater workforce productivity and employee potential.


Steve Hatfield is a Principal with Deloitte Consulting and serves as the Global Leader for Future of Work for the Firm. He has over 20 years of experience advising Global Organizations on issues of Strategy, Innovation, Organization, People, Culture, and Change.  

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Steve Hatfield

Steve Hatfield

Principal | Global Future of Work Leader

Steve is a principal with Deloitte Consulting and serves as the global leader for Future of Work for the firm. He has more than 20 years of experience advising global organizations on issues of strategy, innovation, organization, people, culture, and change. Hatfield has advised business leaders on a multitude of initiatives including activating strategy, defining a preferred future, addressing workforce trends, implementing agile and resilient operating models, and transforming culture oriented to growth, innovation, and agility. Hatfield has significant experience in bringing to life the ongoing trends impacting the future of work, workforce, and workplace. He is a regular speaker and author on the future of work and is currently on the Deloitte leadership team shaping the research and marketplace dialogue on future workforce and workplace trends and issues. He has a master’s in social change and development from Johns Hopkins and an MBA from Wharton, and is based in Boston.