The Open Workforce and the Quiet Revolution in Talent Management

Gillian Lees | November 11, 2014 |

It’s not often that business managers are compared with musicians playing in an orchestra. But this is how the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) are presenting a new Chartered Global Management Accountant (CGMA) report, New ways of Working: Managing the Open Workforce,” released at the 2014 World Congress of Accountants in Rome. Following a program of in-depth interviews and a survey of more than 1,100 senior executives from around the world, we have found that a quiet revolution is taking place in the way that talent and ideas are being developed. It is also clear that radical new systems and frameworks must be put in place to avoid future pitfalls—and reap the rewards of this transition.

So what do we mean by an “open workforce”? Our research shows that organizations are increasingly managing talent and resources made up of a complex mix of in-house teams, freelancers, contractors, and external business partners. More than a quarter of the organizations in the survey said external talent now comprises over 50% of their workforce. And there are strong signs that this momentum is set to accelerate over the next five years.

This is where the musical reference comes in. As organizations become more dependent on the open workforce, they will need to work in a similar way to an orchestra: a mixed collection of individuals with specific skills united into one harmonious unit. Organizations of the future will have to be open, agile, innovative, collaborative, automated, and digitized. Our CGMA research found that many companies are already struggling with this challenge, and it’s time for finance professionals to start calling the tune.

Firstly, organizations face the challenge of overseeing effective decision making that combines the need to empower managers and the need to develop appropriate controls. Business leaders must also be aware of new risks in terms of information leaks, a blurring of corporate values, and the possible reputational damage that might come about as a result of these issues.

The good news for the accountancy profession is that the majority of our survey respondents recognized that finance professionals will have a significant role to play in guiding the new frameworks and principles needed to govern more open structures. In fact, 89% said they would like to see a stronger partnership with the finance team in the decision-making process.

We hope our report will ignite a great deal of discussion about how to tackle this pressing issue. We would particularly like to hear from finance professionals who are already immersed in the open workforce revolution to find out what kind of challenges they are facing and how they plan to overcome them.

Helpfully, our report outlines steps to kick-start the process of building a “new ways of working” blueprint. In particular, it shows how finance professionals can take the lead when it comes to developing tools and frameworks, evaluating new trends and ideas, and working effectively with colleagues in other functions.

Equipped with this toolkit, we very much hope that finance functions will be able to fine-tune their financial repertoire and provide solutions that will be music to their employers’ ears.

What kind of challenges has your organization faced in managing an “open workforce,” and how do you plan to overcome them?


Gillian Lees

Head of Research and Development, CIMA

Gillian Lees is responsible for developing CIMA’s thought leadership and policy responses on governance and risk across all its key global markets.  She has written and presented widely on the subject, particularly in respect of how boards can oversee strategy and risk effectively by understanding their business model within the context of a changing external environment.  She is also CIMA’s Technical Lead on a wide range of CGMA projects and authored the flagship report for the 2014 World Congress of Accountants, New Ways of Working – managing the open workforce.     See more by Gillian Lees


Join the Conversation

To leave a comment below, login or register with


Thank you for your interest in our publications. These valuable works are the product of substantial time, effort and resources, which you acknowledge by accepting the following terms of use. You may not reproduce, store, transmit in any form or by any means, with the exception of non-commercial use (e.g., professional and personal reference and research work), translate, modify or create derivative works or adaptations based on such publications, or any part thereof, without the prior written permission of IFAC.

Our reproduction and translation policies, as well as our online permission request and inquiry system, are accessible on the Permissions Information web page.

For additional information, please read our website Terms of Use. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.