“The rate at which an organization learns may become the only sustainable source of competitive advantage.” — Peter Drucker
Maybe Mr. Peter Drucker was ahead of his time when he envisaged this thought, and confined it only to learning. But even with a widened scope of competitive advantage as transitional skills, and the advent of the Gig and Neo Gig economy, the approach yet remains absolutely relevant. A gig by definition means something which is temporary in nature while Neo gig being a more recent phenomenon. It refers to people who are on fixed term contracts with the organization for a year or more but may work flexi hours and cannot engage with multiple organizations at the same time. The roles may not be pivotal to the organizational value chain or business model but are required for maintaining continuity and smooth operations.
The traditional workforce we knew, had typical characteristics. Most were time driven (9-5pm syndrome), complacent with the role, comfortable in being led by another, loyal to the company with a general sense of security through regular monthly salary and provident fund. But this process gradually began to evolve and with the Gen XS and millennials, it underwent a complete paradigm shift. The future of work trends report June 2020, by Gartner suggests 32% of organizations are replacing full-time employees with contingent workers as a cost-saving measure.
While start-ups were more open to the idea initially, soon the training agencies, consulting firms and Tech companies latched on to the idea of doing away with the bench resources and designed fixed term contracts. The idea of not increasing the fixed staff cost and keeping the process agile in terms of the tenure and future engagements interested the organizations. This blurred the strong correlation between work and workplace. Thus, the concept appealed to the millennials. The multi-generational workforce hence began co-existing and adhering to the new ways of working. The limited scope projects added to the charm where you are not tied down by one boss, one environment, or one organization. Redrafting talent strategy was hence a logical step that necessitated action from the senior management as well as the HR teams.
Along came the other challenges like how to keep these temp, contractual or neo gig resources engaged. Ring fencing the critical resources requires a blended approach. The organizations found it worthwhile for the dime saved through gratuity, insurance, office space cost, office assets to be diverted to upskilling. The additional skills imparted to the gig resources benefitted both ends of the spectrum through reskilling and also out-skilling. The newly acquired skills made them agile (to move across projects) also helped the contractual staff get placed outside the current organization (out skilling). Thus, extending the learning culture to the temp and skilled workforce offered them an opportunity to bridge the skill gap in the market. The content design is work in progress on a sketchy canvas. L&D professionals are yet identifying what may be beneficial for closing the gap between priority and performance while being scalable.
Also, moments of adversity offer golden opportunities to create indelible mental maps of what separates an exemplary organization from a good one. It is important to share the insights honed from our business expertise to help people reach their professional potential and maximise their ability to drive meaningful impact in the business world. This can be achieved in a cost effective manner by leading internal learning interventions. We can use seasoned professionals and industry experts on payroll to run trainings and extend their learnings through the years of on ground experience. They can provide practical guidelines on how to deal with customers, manoeuvre through challenging deals, winning negotiations, drafting of contracts.
Additionally, in the current digital age, non-standard employment spans across functions and geographies. Adoption of digital platforms made it possible and convenient to connect with the augmented workforce. The co-existence of hybrid workforce helped in breaking down the legacy of inherited hard bound mind set in the organizations. The effective team collaboration helped in seamless execution. It especially appealed to the neo gig workforce, who are required to contribute and deliver on the long term projects alongside full time employees. The team cohesiveness and camaraderie ensured the temporary talent to feel valued and part of the team.
As we flex our way through resources, policies and processes, we can seize the opportunity to bolster our ways of working to transform into the new ways of working. The alternative workforce can be an asset while managing shifting skill needs of the organization. This skilled cohort of motivated and influential employees can foster growth and sustenance without adding pressure on the P&L. The emergence of totally new drivers of change with people at its core will pave the way for facilitating the flexibility in matching workforce fluctuations to demand.