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Human Capital Management

Gig Economy

Flexible Gigs for the
Permanent Workforce

Andy Campbell,
HCM Strategy Director at Oracle @axcampbe

We used to differentiate between working on projects and "business as usual”. Today, working on projects has become business as usual

Arguably the biggest reason employees today move between jobs so quickly is a desire for variety. The modern workforce is full of people, young and old, who want to constantly work on new and exciting projects, which may explain why so much talent is going freelance. In the US, for example, one in three workers (nearly 55 million people) is a freelancer.

Andy Campbell

Andy Campbell, HCM Strategy Director at Oracle

Businesses are addressing this trend in different ways. Most recently, PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) launched an online marketplace to match freelancers with internal projects so it can tap into this so-called ‘gig economy’. This approach will help PwC meet the freelancer’s wishes for tailored and flexible workloads while ensuring it can assign the right skills to the right projects at the right time.

I’m all for this tactic. The traditional view of a ‘job for life’ died years ago and it is likely the ‘portfolio career’ will become increasingly popular, if not the norm. And this extends beyond the realm of highly skilled professional services; even in traditionally lower paid industries like retail the practice of working with multiple employers at the same time is becoming more common.

 The traditional view of a ‘job for life’ died years ago and it is likely the ‘portfolio career’ will become increasingly popular. 

In light of these changes, I believe companies should also be applying the principles of the gig economy when it comes to managing their permanent employees. There is of course a time to use contract workers, but businesses should first look at the skills within their own organization as many employees possess skills that go beyond their daily role and are keen to put those into practice. In the case that employees don’t possess the necessary skills but are eager to learn, this presents an obvious opportunity for companies to invest in developing their staff and add valuable skills to their workforce.

Even workers in a full-time role want more variety. According to Oracle’s Simply Talent research, one third (34%) of employees say working on exciting projects is most important to making them feel engaged. This sentiment was supported by the 43% of employers surveyed, who said this practice was most crucial to engaging the people in their organization.

We also need to accept that people change their minds about their career ambitions. Nearly half (47%) of employees want the option to take on a new job role within their company but are unable to. Giving these employees a chance to contribute to projects outside their regular scope of work that also excite them personally goes a long way in making them feel more challenged and engaged. 

This is especially true of young workers. Collaborative, shorter term projects resonate particularly well with this generation of employees and companies that can deliver on this expectation will have greater success in retaining and developing their bright young staff.

 There is of course a time to use contract workers, but businesses should first look at the skills within their own organization. 

The ability to quickly assign resource as and when it is needed also gives companies an edge over competitors. This not only cuts down the time required to build a project team but also reduces the cost of recruiting outside talent.

HR teams are ideally placed to match up employee skills and desires to the company’s needs, and as such should take the lead in making this happen. Their contribution will be based on the employee data they collect, as well as on a more open and frequent dialogue between employees and their managers when it comes to discussing their futures.

While the ‘gig economy’ has risen out of growing enthusiasm for freelance working arrangements, companies looking to attract and retain talented individuals on a permanent basis should take heed of the change this reflects in how people want to work. Employee engagement is largely about empowering employees to forge their own career path, and by exposing their staff to new experiences often businesses will allow them to continue growing in the right direction.

Of course, if companies are to support this more flexible way of working they will need to make some significant changes to their internal policies, processes, and systems, but payoff will be well worth it.

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