A gathering of forward-thinking executives recently challenged their paradigms at the Work Without Limits™ Executive Summit in San Francisco, California. This invitation-only summit was hosted by Upwork, the world’s largest freelancing website. The summit brought together procurement and HR visionaries, the Fortune 500 C-suite, and policy experts to understand how progressive organizations are embracing the new way of getting work done.

During the two-day summit, business leaders and top experts spoke candidly about current and emerging workforce trends. They discussed issues around the workforce skills gap, learning experiences from leveraging freelance talent, and the millennial work culture.

Shedding Industrial-Age thinking

Throughout the summit, one thing was clear: Companies who want to remain competitive must change how they get work done. Over 100 years ago, the Industrial Age brought people off farms and into centralized work locations. Today, that outdated system can’t provide the efficiency, agility, or innovation companies need.

To remain competitive, companies must adopt a flexible workforce. Freelancers, remote workers, distributed work teams…they’re all the future of work.

Generally, small companies can adopt a flexible workforce more easily. That’s partly because they’re usually accustomed to operating with more agility. And they’re used to filling talent gaps with help from freelancers and agencies. On the other hand, large enterprises have the most flexible workforce needs, but they’re often slower to adopt this new way of working. In part, that’s because it’s challenging for large enterprises to change well-established processes and systems.

For example, how can you help employees collaborate with contractors they’ve never met? How do you create amazing work, on schedule, using distributed work teams? How do you maintain worker classification compliance at scale? The summit’s speakers addressed common enterprise-level obstacles and provided strategies for a smoother transition.

New tech for a new way of working

Adopting a flexible workforce also involves using new technologies. In particular, it calls for technologies designed to manage the specific administrative needs of engaging independent contractors. University of Oxford professor Vili Lehdonvirta explained how online freelancing platforms have transformed how talent is sourced and how vital these technologies are. Lehdonvirta went on to share how companies can use online freelancing platforms as part of their company’s business growth strategy.

[See related: How Businesses Use the Platform Economy to Get Work Done]

Will you survive the 4IR?

Technology and globalization are changing the workforce faster than ever. The pace is so fast that Upwork CEO Stephane Kasriel predicts within a few years, a third of the workforce skills needed will be brand new. The extreme shortage of big data and digital experts is evidence of this now. Kasriel also expects traditional models of hiring won’t be able to provide the agility businesses need to get work done.

Many experts agree we’re in the early stages of what’s referred to as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). As this disruptive revolution unfolds, companies can survive by embracing new ways to find and work with the best talent available. Those who wait until later may find themselves left in the past with the telegraph and VCR.

Get more done with freelancers: Create an awesome job post today.

Read more articles like this one on the Hiring Headquarters.