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Gig economy: fleeting fad or vision of the future?

As businesses seek to manage costs and improve agility, the contingent workforce appears likely to endure. Find out how your company can seize the opportunity.

In June 2016, we embarked on a Contingent Workforce Study to unearth key insights into the nature of the freelance or contingent workforce (the “gig economy”).

The contingent workforce has always existed, with some industries taking advantage of it more than others, for backfilling, accessing specialized skills and meeting short-term or project-based labor shortages.

“Are they seeking greater flexibility, more control over their work lives and the ability to work remotely? Or is it simply a case of contingent work being the only option available?“

However, the traditional full-time workforce model has remained firmly in place. Recently, this has begun to shift.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution has disrupted not only business models that had proved successful for as long as a century, but also the workforce model upon which these business models relied.

More than a passing fad, the increased use of the contingent workforce represents an opportunity to disrupt traditional sourcing and management and is here to stay.

Determine your purpose

For businesses to truly seize this opportunity, they first need to understand their strategic intent when it comes to using a contingent workforce.

  • As an organization taking on more contingent workers, are you solely looking to reduce costs?
  • Are you looking to attract a new set of skilled workers to help you transform your business strategy so that it’s fit for a digital world?
  • Do you need to scale operations quickly to meet the demands of new product innovation or changing customer demands?
  • Are you looking to shake up your existing workforce to drive cultural change?

To make new models work for your business, it’s vital to understand the flip side — what motivates these contingent workers, or “giggers,” and how you can attract the best and onboard them efficiently.

Are they seeking greater flexibility, more control over their work lives and the ability to work remotely? Or is it simply a case of contingent work being the only option available?

Rethink the way you work

Once organizations determine their strategic intent, and couple that with the understanding of what makes giggers tick, they will need to add the right management constructs, governance structures, workforce engagement models and value propositions, risk management frameworks and compliance processes to support both the business objectives and the workers who will help to execute it.

This requires stepping off a traditional employer-plus model and rethinking the total approach to work and different types of workers.

Strike the right balance

Finally, in the context of automation and other aspects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution:

  • How is your organization balancing new opportunities to maximize efficiency, performance and profitability with social obligations toward workers, whether full-time or contingent?
  • How are you verifying that you meet the requirements of a dynamic global regulatory environment?

In our survey, we explore what motivates both the supply and demand sides of the gig economy and how organizations can harness them based on 215 decision-makers across private and public sector organizations and more than 1,000 contingent workers surveyed.

Read more: The gig economy — transforming the workforce

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