While we’re all very good at considering the microcosm that is our own economic and political sphere, what the Gig Economy is presenting us with is a wider, more fluid and flexible world of working where the key is in being an attractive employer for this new kind of worker.

We have established that we are no longer talking about a world of big glass corner offices and conventional rewards. When we talk about being attractive it has to come in real value for the individual – achievement, purpose and quality of life, and that requires businesses to embrace a whole new mindset that starts in their HR department.

We have mentioned an ‘ecosystem’, but we need to understand that concept intrinsically, not merely academically. Its veins have to run through all aspects of the business rather than a buzzword to trot out at corporate meetings or a box checking exercise.

At the heart of it all, your business needs to make itself attractive to the market workforce in a way the workforce has previously become accustomed to making itself attractive to prospective employers. How are you reimagining your business for the Gig Economy?

Attracting talent

The confluence of the fast pace of technological innovation, increasing customer demands and evolving expectations of the work environment means that the whole model of how we work is adapting. It is predicted that by 2020 40% of the employees in your company will be on some form of temporary contract – a fact inconceivable 20 years ago. Your decision to either take that trend by the horns and make it work for you, or to be dragged along in its wake will impact how your business is seen and how it functions moving forward.

Firstly, we’re no longer talking about employees, we’re talking about ‘talent’. Can you look at your business and see why it is or is not attractive to the kind of talent you want to attract? The role of HR is changing and key to its future is looking at your Employee Value Proposition (EVP) and upping your pulling power. Within this you will need to consider how attractive your office culture is to both those who are permanent and those who are transient. Indeed, how do you create an office culture at all?

Historically, the weight of employment has been on the employee looking for a job, but that weight is being placed back on the employer to compete for the people they want in the jobs they have available. The make-up of the workforce is going to look increasingly different – there will be requirements for jobs that haven’t even been invented yet and skills you don’t yet know you will need. How do you start looking for that when you don’t even know what you’re looking for? How do you prepare to access that before there is a mad rush to get it? How do you make sure there is an organic flow of talent into your business, making your company a desirable place to work whilst also encouraging a healthy flow both ways?

As gigging becomes evermore common, it is not going to be enough to look at your contractors and think that a lucrative pay cheque is enough to attract them. These people are not your second class citizens, they are key drivers in your business – a lifeline of skills and ideas that ebb and flow. Consider the rewards, what these people are looking for and how to help them find you in a market of increasing opportunity.

Step outside yourself to see the new competitors

Airbnb, Uber, LendingClub – these are the companies that have embraced the sharing economy and have blown traditional competitors out of the water. The chances are that your greatest competitors don’t even exist yet, and the key to longevity (as we know) is adaptability. Remember what happened to Kodak? The photography oligarch wilfully ignored the rise in digital photography and ended up filing for bankruptcy in 2012 while their rivals at Fuji invested in new technology and diversification into new businesses. It has taken nearly five years but Kodak has since re-invented itself in printing and packaging solutions. But what a different turn the company has had to take in a new ecosystem as a different kind of brand.

There are two prongs to this need for flexibility – the first is in listening to your customers. The second is making sure you have the skills to understand what they want and deliver it to them, recognising that your greatest tools are the team around you, and to get the best you need to recognise the way they want to work. Can you step outside yourself and see what is happening in the market? Perhaps that’s where your experienced gigCMO can first begin to add value – by seeing your business from a different perspective without being blindsided by past or even current successes.

Diversity is different

Diversity was one of the defining challenges of the 20th century workforce, but we’re no longer talking about it in the context of sex or race, we’re talking about it in terms of demographic, skillsets and ways of working.

Businesses are seeing a new type of diversity forming the make-up of their workforces as they analyse the requirements of particular roles; this diversity is a fusion of gig working integrated alongside other types of working. We’re not talking about boxes for people to fit in at different stages of their careers and lives, we’re talking about the company that reimagines roles and opportunities to meet the talent requirement of business, and the work/life requirements of the individual.

The demographic is also changing. In an ageing society we can no longer realistically rely on retiring at the age of 60 and frankly many of us don’t want to. We enjoy our work, we get a lot out of it. Contrary to popular opinion it isn’t just about the money (although for many the concept of retirement is simply unaffordable no matter how successful we are).

This ‘older’ workforce has a valuable place in business. They do not take away from those new to the market, but are poised to add long term value to their careers as well as the businesses they serve when positioned effectively by employers. Gig workers such as a gigCMO have the time, experience and understanding to nurture younger talent for the long term value of a brand – a vital part of this ecosystem of shared skillsets and constant learning that is 100% necessary in a world of eternal change.

Consider how you are going to support your coveted gig worker who also happens to have a family or lives in another country? How are you going to integrate an incoming workforce of young and dynamic but less experienced creatives alongside ageing but pricelessly talented pros? Remote working, flexible working and tailored solutions are no longer optional extras, they are a significant section of your workforce and the difference between the outdated and the future proofed, the fat and complacent vs the lithe and agile organisation.

The gig mindset – have you got it?

All of this is part and parcel of embracing the gig mindset – a potent fusion of accountability and affordability at all stages. It is about making the employee minutes and office square footage work for their place in the budget. A more flexible workforce supported by remote access technology helps answer society’s increasing issues of economic and environmental sustainability, but it requires companies to really think about the path they choose to take forward.

Key points

  • What motivates your team and your employees?
  • What are your goals for your business and for your career as a leader of an organisation?
  • If talent doesn’t want to be retained, how are you going to attract it to your organisation?
  • What is your approach to the new meaning of diversity within your organisation?

©gigCMO First published  April 2018