Gig Economy is not a passing fad – it is in fact – the state of the employment market today. According to Intuit, 34 percent of the US workforce and this will grow to about 43% by the year 2020. In India, Business Today says that out of every four workers, one is a freelancer.
Gig Economy refers to the increasing propensity of businesses to hire short-term workers and freelancers (independent workers/consultants), and the tendency of people moving towards these short-term gigs/assignments. The internet has played a leading role in building remote working capability, which has helped the rise of the gig economy.
Impact of the Gig Economy in a Corporate Workplace:
While the internet and the rapid changes in the economic conditions are factors, they are not the only ‘contributors’ to the rise of the gig economy. Several reasons lie behind workers choosing to be part of this ‘contingent economy’ and companies hiring such workers.
Advantages for Workers
- Opportunity for increased earning given they can work with several companies/multiple projects at the same time
- Working on a variety of projects helps to enhance skills, learn new ones, and gain exposure to a number of opportunities and knowledge base
- By working with several companies, there is a lot more financial security and lowered risk of losing the ‘only’ job
- Today, in some realms, contingent workers are able to work more than full-time employees
- Better work-life balance and the ability to choose work hours and companies to work with
Advantages for Corporations:
- Able to hire subject matter experts on a need basis
- At peak work times of the year, they are able to scale their workforce as per their requirement to get increased work output
- No costs related to employee benefits, bonus, food, and leave
- Ability to maintain a low headcount
- Huge savings on space and equipment
- Regular payments would reinforce a client’s impression in the market and help to attract the best freelance talent. Negotiable rates of compensation may offer a higher ROI in terms of the workforce budget
Leveraging the Gig Economy:
The HR department within companies must create an environment conducive to optimum work output in order to gain the maximum from their ‘contingent workers’ and as a result, meet their business objectives.
- The culture of a company is driven and made stronger by its workforce. With a large number of workers being temporary/contingent, retaining the essence of the company could prove challenging. However, corporations can leverage the strengths of their gig workers by displaying some commitment to their welfare and development. This, in turn, would ensure that they remain engaged and committed to the company’s objectives and even act as ‘ambassadors’ for these companies.
- By providing technology and shared agile office space, companies can get their contingent workers to operate from a location of their choice, and yet have the flexibility of using the office space as they desire when a contingent worker would be ‘off’. Such arrangements support the working flexibility and displays concern for their ‘on and off’ workers.
- There are times in the year when there is a spike of work – for a variety of reasons. Rather than hurriedly hiring FTEs, companies could hire contingent workers to tide over the deluge of work. In fact, companies would be able to hire workers specializing in the areas of the particular projects and would have the necessary skill sets to complete the tasks. Of course, this means that companies must have the required space and facilities to ensure that they are able to meet the needs of the ‘temporary’ team.
- While an influx of contingent workers might be great for completing tasks, the FTEs could feel threatened, while hating the idea of sharing space with the temporary personnel. In order to ensure collaborative efforts, a company must ensure that members of both teams are properly introduced, roles clearly defined, and provide perquisites that will bring the teams together. A number of companies invest in team huddle rooms and break out areas equipped with games and beverage machines. Such initiatives and efforts help to create an environment of cohesiveness, collaboration, and unity amongst all types and levels of the workforce.
- Pre-set methods and channels of communication are important in freelance work assignments. These channels enable freelance professionals to gain inputs and fine-tune deliverables in line with exacting client requirements.
Since there is no formal recruitment process, the HR department would need to ensure that whatever process they follow, should result in the company gaining a top talent pool. A resource pool that is aligned with the cultures and values of the organization, and with time as some of the better ‘gig workers’ become regular contributors, they could be part of the induction module as provided to full-time employees. The induction program in any company is a detailed roadmap of the company, its employees, culture and values, and serves as an insight into the varying aspects of the business, and hence ‘regular freelancing personnel’ could contribute optimally as they get to understand the company better.
Utilizing the Freelancing Workforce:
Today the gig economy is changing the landscape of the work scene. Freelancers seem like the ideal solution for one-time tasks, short-term projects, work that is not part of the regular workflow, and assignments that do not require the physical presence of the person. As long as the HR department is able to classify which jobs can be managed by freelancers, it would prove beneficial for a company to get the optimum mix of full-time employees and gig workers.
Some of the areas that ideally could be managed by freelancers / outsourced consultants are:
- Content Writing, Copywriting and Proofreading
- Web Development and Design
- Online Teaching / Tutoring
- Creative Designing
- Graphics Designing
- Sales and Marketing
- SEO and SEM
- PR and Branding
- Administrative Support / Virtual Assistance
- Game Development
- Web Research
- Social Media / Digital Management
- Logo Designing and Building PowerPoint Presentations
These jobs are usually project based, and rather than hiring full-time employees, it would behoove HR professionals to build a database of professionals and SMEs for these particular work areas.
With care and precision, corporations can work to create a smooth working relationship with talented freelance professionals. This should help them to gain insights and additional perspective into the behaviour and capabilities of informal workforces. These work relationships also free corporate clients from the limits on talent imposed by in-house work teams that may struggle with deadlines and quality of deliverables. A fruitful relationship can emerge from these collaborations and yield rich outcomes for all concerned. There is no doubt that the gig economy is here to stay and will continue to grow as time progresses.