Abe Greenspoon is the Program Lead for Canada’s Free Agents, a Government of Canada program launched in 2016 that proposes a new model for workforce mobilization. Abe has been in the public service of Canada for about 10 years.
The idea of creating a more autonomous, mobile workforce first came from a report released in 2012 from Deloitte. The report looked at how the government might reorganize itself to better respond to problems of the future and it proposed a concept of a cloud-based workforce based off of the IT cloud computing.
Essentially they have a group of workers in a database “available to do project-based work, move around the organization, solve problems, return to the cloud when they weren’t needed anymore, and then just continue on to different projects.”
So when a position opens up, Abe and his team advertise for it within public service and those who are interested can apply. Abe says that this new way of flexible work has created greater employee satisfaction and better career decision making along with many other benefits.
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The process to become a free agent is tough, not just anyone can become a free agent. In order to become one, you have to be willing to continuously learn and grow and you can’t get stuck in one technical field of work. They need to be willing to explore, they have to be curious, and they can’t be scared to fail. Free agents should be quick learners and they should easily be able to adapt because they move around to different roles in different offices quite frequently.
In order to make sure they are hiring the right people, Abe says they use a lot of unconventional hiring tactics including improv and puzzle-solving. It tends to take about three months for people to go through the process of applying, interviewing, and then getting the official offer.
Even though these free agents are technically gig workers, they still receive the benefits a full-time regular employee would typically receive like pensions and health insurance.
Abe believes that this way of working also helps create a sense of purpose for employees as well. He says, “the opportunity to choose your job, to have that autonomy to make those decisions, I think puts you in a better position to find your purpose. I just think, naturally, you’re going to try to look for those opportunities that suit you better, you’re going to think more, and self-reflect more about what environments you’ll thrive in, what environments you won’t thrive in, and to have that ability to choose; it leads to all sorts of other kinds of downstream benefits, I think, once you give people that ability. So, finding your purpose, I think, it’s something we realized over time is, it’s a potentially really interesting outcome to giving people this sort of autonomy for their jobs.”
While this is only being implemented in the public service space at the moment, there are many ways that leaders in the private sector could learn from this concept as well.
What You Will Learn In This Episode:
How the government of Canada is implementing a cloud-based workforce
What it takes to be a free agent
How they use games and improv in the hiring process
Abe’s view of Universal Basic Income
How they handle benefits for flexible workers
The benefits of giving employees flexibility and autonomy