Redefining corporate culture to gear up for the gig economy

The share of gig workers in the corporate employee base is rapidly growing

The digital acceleration due to the pandemic has increased corporate acceptance of gig workers

Gig workers provide corporate leaders easy access to subject matter experts on project-to-project basis

The rising contribution of gig workers is changing leadership styles and workforce planning across industries

Formalizing state and corporate policies concerning gig workers is the need of the hour

They create software codes, write impactful stories, design viral campaigns, and make compelling sales pitches. What is their story? Are they under-employed? Are they between jobs? Or are they unfit for regular salaried work? Could be any of these and yet none of these.

Meet the gigsters of the business world.

Broadly, gig workers are freelance workers hired on a project-to-project basis, much like the on-demand hiring in the e-commerce and retail industry. These engagements can be short, i.e. lasting a few days, or longer, i.e. stretching to several years, depending on the nature of the job.

By no means a new concept, the brigade of gig workers is certainly growing. The pandemic has further opened up vistas of virtual collaboration, piggybacking on which, many from the traditional office model are also jumping onto the bandwagon.

The primary force behind the rise of gig workers was probably the economic downturn of 2007, paired of course, with the burgeoning use of the internet. However, the bigger push behind the rise of the gig economy, particularly in the corporate world, stems from the need to attract and hire the best of talent with niche skills to solve unique problems.

Flattening the hierarchy

The rapidly growing population of gig workers is subsequently changing the way company leaders look at workforce planning and leadership styles. The ability to hire subject matter experts for services that may not be required regularly is a huge advantage for managers. It also allows leaders to scale up or scale down the workforce with agility, depending on business needs.

Large corporations across the globe are going for gig workers. According to reports, multinational companies like E&Y, Samsung, Unilever, and P&G, among others, are actively engaging with relevant agencies to scout and hire a freelancing workforce. E&Y has gone a step further and put together the GigNow platform to hire gig workers.

For company leaders, this means increasingly adopting an open and non-hierarchical style of management. Simply put, the changing dynamics present a unique opportunity to employers and leaders to rewrite the traditional employee-employer roles. Hierarchies are already becoming more porous as organizational boundaries are increasingly being challenged by the remote working set-up adopted by all of us during the pandemic.

Managers are now more and more being evaluated on their ability to change with the altering scenario, ensure hyper-transparency, and align talent needs with organizational needs, without exercising top-down control. Leadership will markedly become a matter of influencing diffused decision making.

Making gig work

The big question is, how do we engage gig workers in the company culture seamlessly in the absence of set models or rules to guide us? This greenfield can be used to our advantage. Employers can take the initiative in creating a fair, performance-driven model for freelance workers and workplace design practices that are flexible and inclusive.

While we can’t predict exactly where this trend is headed, here are a few measures for organizations and leaders to consider:

  • Define goals:

    Consider setting the right expectation for the project at hand, formalize the roles and responsibilities, list down the points of contact and dependencies, and clearly define the objectives of a job with measurable results.
  • Performance metrics:

    Gig work will be required in some functions more than others. Performance metrics will have to be flexible enough to address this lack of uniformity. Data can be used to weigh performances, the effectiveness of processes adopted, and the efficiency of different teams and departments.
  • Predict and act:

    In addition to analysis of utilization data, it will also be important to adopt a predictive analytics strategy to anticipate issues well in advance, and adjust workforce dynamics accordingly.
  • Data privacy & IP:

    One of the key issues that could potentially arise while engaging with gig workers is the protection of data and Intellectual Property (IP). Organizations need to clearly define the rules of data privacy and IP rights for the new gig work economy.
  • Office space:

    Keep in consideration that the future of work may not need as much physical office space going forward, as before. Leverage utilization data to identify the peak hours when buildings are in use or which spaces are specifically being used more to optimize real estate, energy requirements, and housing of amenities.
  • Ensure adaptability:

    Design workplaces that are capable of responding to change and can be easily rejigged as per requirements. As workforces become less restricted by geography or proximity, flexible and multi-user workspaces will be the need.
  • Support mobility:

    Provide access to collaboration technologies to help gig workers to stay connected and allow them to work from anywhere. Technology such as way-finding tools, for example, can help gig workers navigate an office space better if need be.

Above all, leaders must go beyond metrics to genuinely understand the motivations and priorities of freelance workers, for the above measures to work successfully. The gig economy is making robust→→ strides and it will continue to grow further as organizations increasingly focus on skills-based hiring. Welcome, every gig worker out there, to the intangible office space.

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