Gigging: A changing relationship between employee and employer

 In Digital Transformation

Two very big disruptors are coming over the horizon which are going to require new thinking both at a government and a workplace level.

  1. The first is automation, artificial intelligence, robots and all the opportunities they bring.  Transforming the jobs we humans do and very much changing the working landscape (discussed more fully in my previous blog post).
  2. The second disruptor is the ‘gigging’ economy which creates a different relationship between employee and employer.It’s the ‘gigging’ part I’m going to talk about in this blog post.

 

What is the Gig Economy?

For those unfamiliar with the ‘gig economy’, it is the model where the person or organisation posts a ‘gig’ and another person bids to do that job. Crucially that piece of ‘work’ is delivered through a gig rather than an employment contract.

The most cited example of the growing ‘Gigging’ work model is Uber, where the taxi driver and the passenger trade through an intermediary site.  But there is a lot more gigging going on which you may not even have registered was ‘gigging’.

  • Deliveroo, City Sprint, and more in the delivery and transport space.
  • An industry of Virtual Assistant on sites like ‘TimeEtc’ who do ad-hoc pieces of work by the hour,
  • Platforms like ‘Task Rabbit’ to address home improvements, gardening, and odd jobs.
  • Translation services, proof-reading, design, and content provision are all using gigging models.
  • Design and content work appear to be especially well represented, lending themselves easily to gigs. Take a look at Fiverr or UpWork  to see just how much work is happening this way.
  • And last and not least Airbnb of course uses the gigging model.

Gigging is big business and growing.

The challenges

Gigging satisfies the employee desire for greater work/life balance and that’s what is appealing. However, there are some serious social challenges to the gigging model.

As gigging isn’t a contract of employment, the workers aren’t ‘employed’ (though recent court cases question whether the intermediary such as Uber or Deliveroo is an employer). The significant point is that if they are not ‘employed’, then the workers aren’t entitled to holiday pay, sick pay, pensions, redundancy rights or even the national minimum wage.. which creates a very different workplace relationship.

This new working relationship is something that governments are going to need to find a space for.

People are after more flexible working models to match increasingly different home life set-ups as we see more equally set dual-income households.  Gigging offers flexibility where the service provider controls the working pattern and the location can be anywhere with a Wi-Fi connection. Appealing for many including parents where school demands just doesn’t fit with a 9-5 work pattern.

Advice for Consultants

Let’s use my sector of Business Transformation consultancy as a gigging case study. The consultancy market is a knowledge-based sector and one that is used to operating to ‘gigs’ – at least in the day rate basis. Consultants too are craving a flexible work model as opposed to the 9-5 bums-on-seats approach so could the consulting professional follow the gigging precedent seen in other sectors?

When I researched gigging platforms, I couldn’t find one suited to consultancy services. The best I found was UpWork, but even that was more targeted towards technical roles. Common sense says however that such a platform will come (definitely an opportunity there) and if consultants want to move towards this model here are few words of advice:

1. Productise your offering

Consultants will need to package up their offering into a clear set of easily understood services that provide a solution the market demands. Easier said than done in the knowledge worker space especially when there is no common language to share understanding and search for services. (BTW I’d predict that ability to categorise well will be a critical differentiator on whichever platform prevails.)

2. Personal branding & reputation are essential 

Consultants will need to find a way to stand out from the crowd. Personal branding is now critical, as is the ability to showcase skills and manage social media. Gigging consultants need to articulate who they are and what they can offer clients. And to understands what channels to use to reach their target audience. Self-promotion becomes imperative.

3. Keep your skills relevant 

To stay relevant, consultants need to keep their skills up-to-date. Remember this is now a global talent pool, so be careful not to get overwhelmed and try to be skilled in everything, focus on your customer groups and the skills they value. Once you know what your niche is work hard to stay up to date.

I’d predict a stream of training courses that teach consultants how to operate online will evolve. Handling reviews (which is the main currency of this model), managing channels, building your personal brand, productising your offering and interacting in line with platform social norms are all skills to master.

Advice for organisations

1. Gigging strengthens employer brand

Companies and brands are trying hard to stand out in the market and attract the greatest talent. Organisations should see gigging as an opportunity to differentiate themselves at a time of fierce competition.  After all an organisation who can make gigging work at an operational and morale level is offering a very attractive work life balance.

2. Recognise the skill set of the future

A new skill to value is virtual team building. Virtual team building isn’t easy. Nurturing strong networks of trusted ‘giggers’ is going to be key, so organisations should prize the people who can do that. Make sure your HR practices and assessment processes are set-up to identify and nurture the people who are good at virtual team building and managing online relationships.

3. Expect it to be rocky at first

I experimented with a few sites and definitely experienced challenges most especially around delivery to deadline and language differences. Point to note: being ‘politely British’ is misguided in a global talent pool of skills that may not share English as a first language, you need to be exact, clear and keep checking understandings.

Organisations need to expect failures, misunderstandings, and mistakes and allow time for that. Don’t put any business-critical activities on a tight timeline through a gigging model until you’ve grown your gigging network into a fully functioning virtual team. There is value in this model, but it may take a while to find where that real value resides. And you may need to invent your own way of making it work.

A last word on gigging

Although there are challenges to address, the gig economy does provide hugely attractive opportunities for a greater work/life balance which is becoming increasingly important in society today. I really hope we find a way where people can achieve both the security they need, alongside the work life balance they crave.

 

 

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About the author:  I help organisations understand what they need to do to transform employees to new digital working practices. If you would like my help or to collaborate on something then please get in touch.  I’d also love you to join my mailing list which I use to notify people about new thinking, blog posts, events or courses that I may run on Digital People Change. You can sign up through my website homepage. 

 


Photo credits – thank you 

Photo 1 by Crew on Unsplash

Photo 2 by Bench Accounting on Unsplash

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