As the gig economy flourishes, it continues to drive change in how work is completed and the ways in which workers and companies interact, and it has far-reaching implications for employers.

Australia’s workforce is changing and as it does, the picture that is often painted is one of uncertainty.

Full-time employment has changed over the past five years, shifting from from 51.35% to 49.97% from 2012 to 2017, whilst part-time employment has risen from 29.7% to 31.7%. It’s an important shift.

“As the freelance economy continues to flourish, it will drive change in the way work is completed and the way in which workers and companies interact. Companies that understand these changes and put new systems in place now will be best prepared to harness the benefits of on-demand work.”
(AiGroup • The Emergence of the Gig Economy • August 2016)

While many freelancers point to uncertainty as a key challenge, many wouldn’t give up the freedom they’ve gained vs their corporate counterparts: They can sculpt and control their careers, which outweighs the uncertainty.

The shift to a gig economy does not just impact the worker however, it also has far-reaching implications for employers too.

The Landscape is Changing

For the past twelve years, Quay has operated directly within the gig economy, as it lends itself perfectly to the transitory nature of project delivery.

We’ve seen the shift occurring in real-time and it has shaped both our insights and guiding principles that aim to keep everyone involved in a gig-style engagement aligned. Our view? What holds true for Quay generally holds true for our clients and the consulting workforce.

Here is what we have learned about Gig workers:

  • The majority of gig workers operate in that manner by choice. They are personally loyal before customer loyal, putting themselves and their requirements front and centre. As the supply of gig-style engagements increases, so does their choice. If the gig worker’s experience is sub-optimal in a client there is a genuine risk that they will leave for the next engagement mid-flight.
  • Gig workers care. Many of these resources chose the gig path because they are focused on delivering outcomes and not internal career development and politics that may exist in a permanent role. They have little tolerance for corporate politics and ineffective leadership. If the outcome being sought is unachievable, despite attempts to set up the engagement for success, the gig worker will be inclined to disengage as their personal brand is at stake.
  • Gig workers are specialists. To sell one’s wares the gig worker needs to offer a specialist skill set. With specialisation comes opinion and with opinion comes challenge. Gig workers perform best with less direction but clear outcomes to be achieved—and are more attracted to environments where they can bring ideas and experience to bear rather than a directive one.
  • Gig worker experience counts. The experience attributes of any engagement figure greatly with gig workers. Environments that are easy to work with, technology-friendly and flexible will attract and retain the best talent.
  • Not every Gig worker is right for every organisation. At Quay, we often use the expression “We don’t put square pegs in round holes”. What we mean by that is that the culture, maturity and structures of an organisation need to align with the working environment best suited for the gig worker for a successful engagement.

The Impact of ‘the gig’ on Organisations

The rise of the gig worker has significant implications for organisations. Here’s what we’ve learned about the organisations that engage skills on a gig-basis:

  • Traditional onboarding processes need to change. One issue we see regularly is a distinct lack of an onboarding process for gig workers. Whilst permanent staff processes are usually well developed the gig worker is often thrust into the ocean without a life vest. Managing and taking advantage of the gig economy requires that companies invest time and resources to navigate the complexities before they can take advantage of the flexibility, cost benefits and better talents that are made possible with gig workers.
  • Tacit knowledge is critical. The ability to understand and efficiently and effectively induct the worker into ‘’how’’ things get done around an organisation is extremely important to get the worker effective as quickly as possible.
  • You have to move fast with talent acquisition. The standard multiple interviews and slow decision processes used for permanent staff just won’t cut it – you may lose your best talent before you even start. Talent acquisition processes need to be nimble, fit-for-purpose and result in a contractual engagement issued before the gig worker looks elsewhere. Remember no work equals no pay for a gig worker so speed matters!
  • Talent selection must include a specific evaluation of the organisational fit of the worker, including specific reference to environment (structured to unstructured) culture (management by committee to directive) and maturity (ability to seamlessly integrate gig workers into the organisation).
  • Contract management skills are in increasing demand. Hiring gig workers mean that you need to be able to craft a fit for purpose engagement (statement of work) and manage the worker to it. This requires specific and measurable deliverables and active governance.
  • Technology helps. Most gig workers are tech-savvy and expect a reasonable level of technology interaction to collaborate and deliver. Timesheets, collaboration tools, access to the client knowledge base etc are all expected.

The ‘Fit’ Matters Most

It is imperative to identify the extent to which gig workers will form a component of your workforce, but equally how they will fit in your Workforce Engagement Management (WEM) approach. Fit-for-purpose processes and effective onboarding will ensure they are engaged and productive quickly. Ineffective processes in any of these areas put your organisation at risk of losing – or unintentionally throwing – the right person overboard.

For a conversation about onboarding your consultants or gig workers, please contact us here or call 02 9098 6300to find out more about how we can support your changing workforce.

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Quay Consulting is a professional services business specialising in the project landscape, transforming strategy into fit-for-purpose delivery. Meet our team ...