by Lauren Winans, Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant for Next Level Benefits
There was a time when the promise of a corner office was one of the chief motivations in the workplace. That time has passed. The new dream job is officeless. It involves a laptop and the freedom and flexibility to work from anywhere. And the gig economy has allowed many to seize that dream.
When people began leaving the workforce en masse in the wake of the COVID pandemic — a phenomenon that became known as the Great Resignation — the assumption was they were looking for a better organization for which they could work. Over two years later, it would appear that assumption was wrong.
According to recent surveys done by Fiverr and the International Labor Organization, people are not simply leaving one company to join another, but leaving the traditional workforce altogether. The Fiverr survey found that 54% of people who left their companies ended up working as freelancers or starting their own businesses.
The move to the gig economy has been discussed for years, even prior to the pandemic. However, the pandemic forced many employees out of the office and into nontraditional work schedules. It was like a test drive of the gig economy, and many have decided it worked for them better than what they were experiencing.
The millions of people who are leaving their jobs want to redefine the way that they work. A 9-to-5 job is no longer the dream, especially for the younger generation. More individuals are looking for work that offers flexibility. They no longer want to be stuck at an office desk for eight hours a day or longer. Traditional employment has lost its luster.
Gig work is the future of work
For businesses that are struggling to attract and retain talent for the long term, the ramifications of the shift to gig work cannot be ignored. Many of the employees who are leaving the traditional workforce have decided that it is too constraining or does not adequately reward them for their skills.
The gig economy offers workers a stream of new work opportunities. Those who choose to work on several gigs simultaneously now have multiple sources of income. In addition, gig workers can invest more time acquiring new skills than traditional workers because they can take low-intensity jobs while learning additional skills. Employers who are not willing to introduce similar benefits to their offerings will find it challenging to draw gig workers back to more traditional positions.
Employers who have begun to measure the impact of gig work are often finding that gig or contract workers actually make it easier for work to get done in their organizations. Contract employees end up happier because their time is spent working exclusively on the tasks for which they were hired. In addition, the gig economy allows companies to obtain workers who specialize in niche skills — such as IT, marketing, and HR — without the high costs of hiring those workers for a full time position. It takes a shift in mindset, but employers who integrate employees and gig workers alike within their workforce can reap the benefits of both.
Startups benefit from the growth of the gig economy
Engaging with gig workers can be especially rewarding for startups with lean budgets. Gig workers can provide expertise without costing the organization regular pay, benefits, taxes, and additional employment costs. The gig economy allows startups to get the knowledge and help they need without carrying excessive overhead costs of employment.
To take advantage of this, startups need to think through their sourcing and application process, ensuring it is optimized for gig workers. The process should be easy and succinct, marketing the desire to work with gig workers. Organizations that partner with firms that are facilitating the gig economy’s growth will attract talent and make it known that contract opportunities exist within the employer’s workforce.
How do gig workers impact workplace culture?
Maintaining a healthy workplace culture is a top concern for every business. When workforce dynamics change, there is always a risk that it may impact culture. When it comes to incorporating gig workers in the mix, however, organizations are finding that the impact is not negative.
It takes some internal effort, but creating onboarding processes for employees and gig workers can ensure a smooth transition. The goal is that these different populations are folded into the culture seamlessly, have the ability to work together without roadblocks, and make it easier for a company to tackle even more work than with a traditional workforce model.
Lauren Winans is the Chief Executive Officer and Principal HR Consultant for Next Level Benefits, an HR consulting practice offering clients access to HR professionals for short-term and long-term projects. With 20 years of human resources and employee benefits experience, Winans possesses a deep expertise of HR best practices and what resonates with employees.