A while back terms like ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ (4IR) and ‘gig economy’ were foreign to us. Today, these are overused terms. The practicalities of this ‘future’ are with us already and require us to respond appropriately to survive in business.
For centuries, people have been performing temporary and freelance work. This is nothing new, but today, through better tech-enabled solutions, individuals and organisations can take advantage of different ways of working. The gig economy is therefore very attractive even for highly skilled professionals and for organisations to avail themselves of skills that would normally take too long to recruit permanently and may not be needed for the longer term.
Having worked in the gig economy for the last three years, I have experienced first-hand the many challenges and positives about this new work world, and also have many more unanswered questions of how this will ultimately shape. For individuals working in the gig economy, there are many considerations, including the precarious balancing act between marginality, affiliation and the need for autonomy, which becomes a tension ‘out’ of a formal organisation. Gig workers have to consider much wider stakeholder groups than smaller internal organisational networks.
Massive amounts of intellectual property are created by gig workers, and ownership blurs. Gig workers have to take complete responsibility for their learning and self-development, which tends to be on a ‘just in time’ basis. The independent ‘solopreneur’ or ‘self-proprietor’ that sells their labour or professional network of expertise runs the risk of being commoditised and marginalised as a naturally relational human.
On the flip side, the very context of ‘organisation’ is being challenged. The essence of organisation (beyond the legal frameworks) are the people that make up organisations. Changing the ‘employment’ nature or lack thereof calls into questions what organisations are. The result is that a cultural revolution has started to take place in organisations as they start to redefine themselves, the way they are (their culture), and the very definition of what a team may become. (For example, a team could be a combination of permanent employees and gig workers or purely gig workers that cluster around a fit for purpose project and then dissolve and move onto the next gig.) The very definition of ‘retention’ has to change and maybe a returning gig worker to the same organisation is what retention success will look like, even if it’s a few years down the line!
In order to take charge of your (CA)reer in this new working world, what are you doing to upskill yourself on all the possibilities that exist, to align your purpose and values with your work, beyond the traditional model of being an employee in organisation?
Considerations for the gig economy
- How will your skill set need to evolve if you remain ‘in’ an organisation? (Think CFO vs change agent.)
- How will you build relationships in organisations if you are an external gig worker?
- How will you take ownership of your lifelong learning as a gig worker?
- What practical steps does your organisation need to take to embrace gig workers and support their success?
How are you developing and shifting your organisational culture as these new ways of working become the norm?