Article: Here’s how HR can prepare for the Gig Economy

Employee Relations

Here’s how HR can prepare for the Gig Economy

The way that individuals want to work and the way that companies want to engage talent is changing fast. Here’s what companies need to know.
Here’s how HR can prepare for the Gig Economy

The gig economy is quickly becoming the norm with more countries starting to rely more on contingent workers as the most practical need-based solution. According to a recent study by KellyOCG, the APAC region is way ahead of the global trend on gig workers.  Being the leading region for global economic growth there is a high demand for talent, especially talent with niche skills and this need may not always be satisfied by permanent/full time talent. The demand for gig workers in the APAC region is thriving. Over 80% of Talent Managers have reportedly hired or made use of the gig workforce or free agent talent (KellyOCG Research, 2018) and this is the highest rate out of all regions globally.

Is India giddy for the gig?

When it comes to the HR space in India, the segments leading in the usage of gig workers are Banking and Finance, Life Sciences and the IT sector. That said, it is still a nebulous concept, although gaining ground fast, it is still in its early stages. The top reason that organizations in India are turning to a contingent workforce is the ability to scale the workforce according to the business cycle and needs.

Interestingly, the research shows that there are only a small number of organizations that are ‘ahead of the curve’ in the way they currently use gig workers. Applying KellyOCG’s proprietary Workforce Optimization and Maturity Index methodology, it was found that only 13% of organizations surveyed could be classified as ‘Innovators’. Leaders dabbling in and making the most of cutting edge advancements enjoy cost savings and significant competitive advantages.

Common misconceptions

The way that individuals want to work and the way that companies want to engage talent is changing fast.  One of the most common misconceptions is that gig workers are forced to work this way, while research clearly points at the fact that the vast majority of gig workers were working the way they were out of choice.  Another delusion is that gig workers are generally low on skills. This cannot be further from the truth since many companies engage gig workers to meet specialized skill gaps.  In fact, 1 in 2 organizations choose to hire contingent workers to fill a skill requirement that is not typically available in the permanent workforce.

How to prepare for the gig workforce?

As the world inches closer to a primarily contemporary, temporary workforce, organizations need to enable the evolution in ways that do not impact business detrimentally.

  • Leadership buy-in: Any significant organizational shift starts with leadership involvement and encouragement. In order to effectively and efficiently leverage gig talent as a key aspect of the workforce and use it to push the organization towards greater innovation and seamless incorporation, leadership and organizational support is crucial.
  • Streamlined strategy: Strategy is the structure that ties together the gig economy mindset together with day-to-day processes. In order to shift towards becoming innovative and achieve desired business results, free agent talent must be included in the early stages of workforce planning. This not only ensures alignment from the business perspective but also brings in the human aspect of belonging and thus improves engagement.
  • Operational prowess: To set talent managers and their free agent hires up for success, clear operational processes must be in place. Those tactics are born from a forward-thinking mindset and strategic planning, creating pathways for seamless integration into a company’s culture and team and ultimately resulting in a high return on their free agent investment.
  • Tailored HR processes: As with most shifts, the HR needs to play the role of a strategic business partner over and above their operational responsibilities.  A great way to start is to request an audit of all operational policies and processes as they relate to acquiring, managing, and engaging with free agent talent. Post that stage, leaders can be challenged to think broadly by adopting a holistic approach to talent. Ensuring that gig talent is included in the broader workforce strategy and encouraging leaders to align talent strategy to business strategy will be critical as the contingent workforce starts evolving.

Adapting to agility

Leadership teams need to understand that traditional organiszational hierarchical structures are not the best way to operate in the future of work. Organizations need to have a holistic view of their total talent strategy that includes a mix of permanent and contingent workers. All of these resources need to have shared team goals that are supported by agile networks with specialist expertise that can respond quickly to the needs of customers as well as that of internal teams.

Organizational rigidity is giving way to more fluid structures that are connected to the broader social ecosystem while transforming workers’ relationships with each other and with their employers. With flatter organizations and increasingly networked, team-based structures, there is a greater need for strong interpersonal skills to be effective and productive in today’s world of work. 

Business uncertainty and disruption is one of the key issues driving the demand for gig worker and while the majority of gig workers choose to work as a gig worker because they want to, there needs to be an essential balance struck between flexibility, business needs and security. This calls for both organizations and individuals to reduce the temptation to resist change and continue the collective effort towards acquiring more relevant skills while preserving the focus on business goals and vision.

(This article is based on an interview with Peter Hamilton and is compiled by Prarthana Ghosh)

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Topics: Employee Relations, Life @ Work, #GigEconomy

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