With the rapid rise of technology and mobile networks, the way we work has dramatically changed. Many of us long time stalwarts in the tech sector would remember that at one point, most organizations had desktops everywhere. Only top management and a couple of key sales people had laptops. Eventually, that shifted to the point that we now see the majority of employees toting laptops.
Work now became available anywhere you had a network connection and power (if you needed to run the whole day). Today with the mobile and app revolution, work is becoming more piecemeal. The traditional job where you worked permanently with an employer has changed. Independent self-employed project workers were the first become such employees where you would contract yourself for a project at a time. With Uber, Grab, Freelancer.com and others today, the piece of work has gotten smaller but more numerous, hence the term gig. Of course the term gig was derived from the music industry where a “gig” was a performance, session or engagement. While generally most people associate gig economy with jobs like Uber or Grab or somewhat more entry level roles, Gigs today run the gamut of pay scales and skill sets.
You now have senior executives who travel to clients globally to provide their skills, knowledge and experience to the general workers who try to supplement (or is their entire income) their income by picking up ride-hailing fares in his or her community. One half of the economy is focused on the knowledge aspect – think of management consultants, trainers, data scientists or analytical experts while the other half is service focused – skilled tradespeople such as plumbers or electricians to ride-sharing and delivery. The common thread is the technology platforms that drive them. Without platforms like Grab, Uber, AirBnb, Freelancer.com and so on, the economy would be quite hard to thrive.
There are of course plenty of challenges and hurdles, both from the basic income perspective to the overall socio-economic agenda of the gig economy. Imaging a young person today in her early twenties and all she does is gigs everywhere. While traditional ownership of material assets like cars or homes are no longer prioritized today, there must be consideration paid to other overall aspects such as credit-worthiness of the individual, insurance, health-care and even retirement plans. It can be continuously argued on whose responsibility some of these elements belong to but for long-term gig economy to thrive, these issues need to be addressed. In fact, as I write this, some are being serviced. For example, there are simpler insurance plans, private retirement schemes now being provided by start-ups and traditional organizations alike. But it is still not enough.
Our young gig worker gets into an accident and breaks her leg. She may be out of action for a while – this means no income on the table and medical expenses. How is she feeding herself and paying rent or bills during this short period. Imagine a longer period. I have a friend who had cancer, taking him out of work for almost a year. Good thing he recovered but insurance took care of the expenses and because it was a critical illness, one of his policies paid him a small salary per month. This may be an extreme case but freelance ride-hailing driver with a car in a workshop, photographer with his equipment stolen, and so on. More focus needs to be on both educating the gig worker as well as options for insuring or providing safety nets for this non-traditional form of employment.
On the flip side, organizations today also need to adapt to this changing workforce and needs – from both hiring, and deploying these gig workers in their workforce. Again, technologies are already available today but is organizational culture, HR practices, policies and processes mature or ready? In fact, there are many cases where utilization of gig workers have provided organizations with both cost and performance benefits.
While we still have many unanswered questions and solutions of many issues raised above are still far off, the gig economy is already here and it is inevitable that it will come to be another form of employment or career choice for many organizations and individuals. At Brandt, we’re continuously open to to part-time, contract and associates being part of our family.
For more information where you can be part of this Gig economy, visit the following links:
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