It is no news that modern technology is rapidly replacing earlier modes of work. Labor markets today are radically different from the structured and regulated processes of finding formal work opportunities. In the era of the “gig” or “on-demand” economy, understanding, attracting, hiring, engaging, and retaining gig workers is a journey undertaken by organizations. And overcoming roadblocks, navigating risks, breaking down myths, negotiating working arrangements, earning flexible compensation, and exploring uncharted territories is the task of gig workers. Let’s take a look at how far industries have come and what the future holds for the gig talent pool.
A tech-enabled emergence of the ‘human cloud’
The advancements in technology, especially artificial intelligence, robotics, and data analytics, have reduced the distance between people and the goods and services they need or desire; and the same applies to the job market as well. Today, people can work independently on a contractual basis, and organizations can have a handy contingent workforce – the ‘human cloud’ - and their services can be availed as and when the need arises.
Technological advancements have also altered the way people look at work, taking it from the traditional office-based and time-bound ritual to a realm of improved work-life balance to zero commuting time, and enhanced productivity. Human cloud platforms, which connect organizations looking for gig workers with those looking for gigs, have made it possible for two people to collaborate without having met a day in their lives. And organizations are beginning to see tapping into the gig economy as an integral part of their workforce strategy. Take, for instance, the San Francisco-based Instapage, an organization that saved $2.3 million by outsourcing work from Upwork.
Technology: Both the incubator and the accelerator
Remember, it was technology that birthed the ‘gig economy’ in the first place, and so, technology alone will nurture it to maturity. In fact, according to Peter Miscovich, the Managing Director of JLL Consulting, New York, almost half of the workforce by the year 2020 will be made up of ‘gig workers,’ and this proportion will increase to 80 percent by the year 2030.
Most importantly, technology is expected to create new jobs that do not exist today, much like certain roles (such as virtual assistants) were unheard of a few years ago. Moreover, artificial intelligence is predicted to benefit not only developed economies but also countries like India, with massive human capital. A report, Rewire for Growth, predicts that AI can lift India’s annual Gross Value Added (GVA) by 1.3 percent, thereby increasing the nation’s income by 15 percent in 2035.
Flipping the work equation: The present and the future
The future for most organizations has a larger and mobile workforce in store, as is evident from the trends today. With time, we will inevitably see more individuals moving into the gig economy due to the benefits on offer. Take, for example, the start-up UrbanClap. Currently having thousands of professionals working under them in areas of beauty, wellness, home repair, and maintenance; the company has provided not only greater work flexibility to its workers but has also allowed them to earn more as compared to working in a salon where most of their earnings went towards maintenance or profits.
Similarly, these changes are expected to be felt in the insurance industry, as well. This will open new doors for both the organizations and gig workers; wherein insurance companies will have the opportunity of providing new coverage for their workers, early retirees can be employed on a gig basis to pass on their expertise to younger staff. Moreover, to retain workers, companies may be willing to allow them to move around in the organization and explore their skills in all the departments – claims, underwriting, and premium setting.
Since the gig economy is here to stay, we must answer who benefits from it and how? Well, in short, everyone has something or the other positive to take away from the gig economy, though in varying degrees. Most definitely, employees participating in the gig economy enjoy the direct benefits of work flexibility and the ability to choose projects that interest them the most. Moreover, as far as matters of work predictability are concerned, most people who have taken a leap of faith into the world of gig work testify that having diverse sources of income is comparatively more secure than having to depend on a single employer.
The organization, on the other hand, can cut down on their costs. With the gig economy, they need not worry about shelling out fixed salaries every month, the cost of hiring and training workers, and even the risk of making a significant investment in someone who may prove to be a wrong fit in the long-term. Moreover, a single person may not be the best fit for every task, and by hiring the right fit for every project, they can even ensure consistency in the quality of their work.
And, unsurprisingly, the inclusive nature of the gig economy means that doors have been opened favorably for traditional employees as well. Due to a dramatically changing labor market, more employees are demanding flexibility in their work, and employers are considering these demands by allowing them to work remotely depending upon the type of work.
Technology has removed the monopoly employers enjoyed over work schedules and helped all stakeholders have greater control over the work they do. As we progress in the future, one can expect an increased role of gig workers in the business landscape, and an increased use of technology to facilitate the same.