An Introduction to the Gig Economy: Part 2 – Where are we now?

…continued from Part 1: How did we get here?

The last post described the different generations of the past 100 years and how the millennials are changing the way we think about work. The world is moving into a talent economy or on-demand gig economy, pushed partly by technology and its demands but also by Generation Y and the millennials’ attitudes toward life and work.

Back in 2014, Dollars & Sense magazine published, “The Rise of the Gig Economy.” The article explained, “Growing numbers of Americans no longer hold a regular ‘job’ with a long-term connection to a particular business. Instead, they work ‘gigs’ where they are employed on a particular task or for a defined time, with little more connection to their employer than a consumer has with a particular brand of chips.”

The New York Post wrote, “Welcome to the ‘gig’ economy. You don’t have a career, but you have a job where you can work for a stint.”

Gigs are common in several industries including music and film. The film industry has, in fact, been operating on a gig or on-demand talent economy since the end of the studio system. When a movie is produced, a team of experts is pulled in to form cast and crew. They are committed to the project and work long hours to get it completed in the shortest amount of time. They are well compensated and do little else but work for the duration. At the end, they all move on — some go directly to work on another film; others take a break and do nothing for awhile; still others move on to different (non film-related) work. This is a gig economy, and it might become the norm in other industries as millennials take the reins.

FilmCrew2

Until recently, if a company saw a need in the marketplace for a new product, they turned to their in-house research & development department. The new product was added to the workload and the department changed priorities as needed, reassigned staff and added new hires if absolutely necessary. These new hires were probably right out of university and had to be trained, not only about the product but, as permanent employees expected to stay on, also in the workings of the business and the industry. The existing staff would probably also need training or at least need to do research to get up to speed. Existing employees, already entrenched in their day-to-day habits, resented the extra work and change to their routines. Older workers gave up completely and took early retirement. New hires felt overwhelmed and undertrained, especially since the project was suddenly understaffed due to attrition. The process could be slow and stressful.

In an on-demand talent economy, the development of a new product looks completely different. When a new product is needed, the company will assign a team lead who takes on the ‘producer’ role. The team lead will spend time sorting out the details and making recommendations to management on the best course of action. Once given the go-ahead, the lead will build a team from the ground up — pulling in the best people available. This might include internal staff, but more than likely will be made up of contractors or temporary employees and even sub-contracted firms. Most, if not all, will already be familiar with the marketplace and/or type of product being developed. They will have specific expertise or experience and need little to no training in their team roles. Since the entire team will likely be kept outside of the corporate structure, they won’t need to be trained to be an ‘employee.’

This dream team will put their hearts and souls into the project for a finite period of time. They will be enthusiastic and committed. At the end of the product development, they will move on (often gladly) — possibly to a new gig within the same firm but more than likely they will go to work elsewhere or take a well-deserved vacation. When the project is finished, those salaries end. The company isn’t obligated to continue paying the team indefinitely.

surfer

While this feels like a futuristic view of work, many say it is already becoming the norm. An article published by the Boston Globe reports, “According to a 2014 study commissioned by the Freelancers Union, 53 million Americans are independent workers, about 34 percent of the total workforce. A study from Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40 percent of US workers will fall into this category.”

Continued in Part 3: What role will talent management play?

Resources & References
Dollars & Sense Blog Post
New York Post: This New Gig Economy isn’t Helping Anyone
Boston Globe: The Gig Economy is Coming. You Probably Won’t Like it

Photos from Wikimedia Commons and Freeimages.com

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