It’s important to remember that economic lifecycles ebb and flow and rarely reach a final destination. Nor can we see into the future. The Gig Economy is a phenomena that has already changed dramatically in the time that it has become more recognised and prevalent and it will continue to evolve – that is its strength. What is happening represents a seismic shift in the way we work, but what is really important about it is how it impacts our thinking about the way we work.

We have talked about the gig mindset in terms of an employee perspective and a company perspective; the type of thinking it takes to make it work in senior level roles and what it means for company structure. Key to that is an openness and preparation for how the Gig Economy will continue to change the way we work.

There are a lot of assertions made about where the gig economy will take our working culture in the future. Change is often daunting but the truth is that there has been a rapid evolution of skillsets already in certain industries where work can be disaggregated in a supply chain. The Gig Economy has a mindset of its own, and while your own company strategies refine the nuances of that within your brand, it is not a lack of company culture that it engenders, but a more fluid one, a different approach, perhaps a broader understanding of your company’s place in a wider ecosystem where employees expect impermanence rather than long-term stability

Marketing is the perfect space for a gig evolution

Marketing is already accustomed to changing flavours of in-sourcing, outsourcing, disaggregated supply chains and the impact of technology all of which have accelerated the evolution of the skillsets required in the future CMO. Already out of date is the model of one lead strategic agency with a world of creatives, who are generally beyond the reach of you (the client), to do the leg work. You would have been reliant on this large specialist resource to find the right creatives for your brief without being party to the inner workings of the process which often includes freelancers. In reality, the creative industry is already used to a gig style of working and adapting to new tasks, projects and working environments.

Now we are seeing the (marketing) client engage directly with smaller agencies, individuals and platform owners (Google, Facebook etc) and that is a trend that’s set to continue. You are no longer at the beck and call of other agencies; you bring in different skills at different times, whether that be copywriting, social media expertise, brand design, web or SEO. Precisely because of this specialist sourcing – this is where the gig CMO role can be crucial.

Where historically the CMO had a peer relationship with that big agency, you now need someone who understands the whole gamut of marketing elements – when you need them, how you need them, and most importantly, how to aggregate those skills and individuals to deliver a targeted marketing strategy. In short, the experienced eye of someone who can see the bigger picture, create the business strategy and pull together the disparate disciplines into a coherent and integrated approach to the market.This is where the model has fallen down for many; in not understanding how to manage this new style of workforce.

It’s important to understand that ‘autonomy’ for the gig worker does not equate to ‘working in isolation’. And because you are no longer outsourcing to one big agency, you need big brain skills to effectively coordinate both your needs and the needs of the people you recruit permanently and temporarily to deliver your business goals.

Will AI destroy the need for a human workforce?

No, at least not in our lifetime. As all things digital get evermore intelligent it’s a natural thing to imagine a dystopian world where computers have taken over, but that way of thinking is a little reductive. Where technology is magnificent, is that it helps us to gather data, monitor and implement ideas against a plethora of factors that would have been entirely unknown 20 years ago. Faster and faster.

Technology is a marvellous tool, whether it’s part of your recruitment or your marketing, but it’s no substitute for human interpretation and decision-making. And implementation of the technology still has a long way to go, exposing flaws in practice. Have you ever bought something online, only to discover the website advertising exactly the same item to you five minutes later (and for the next week)? The technology is doing exactly what it should be doing – monitoring your behaviour – but the process (where AI and human intervention come together) hasn’t yet caught up. You’ve just been to Kuala Lumpur so you’re not looking for deals to go again any time soon!

So your marketing strategy extends not only into the material that you market and the tools you use, but to the people and their way of working as well.

Up-skilling in the Gig Economy

For individual gig worker, the question of remaining relevant and current in the marketplace is key – as being able to provide sought-after skills increases employability. Meanwhile, for companies, the question of how to up-skill your staff has always been costly and time consuming, particularly in this increasingly fast paced world of marketing.

Less and less organisations can afford ongoing training programmes for their people. Given this trend it would be easy to wonder how individuals in the gig economy remain at the top of their game with their transient working lifestyles, but in actual fact, this way of working is key to their competitive edge, and is an inherent part of the sharing economy culture.

People who have chosen to work in the gig way know their livelihoods depend on them staying relevant and skilled, so they are motivated to purposely keep themselves up to date and seek out opportunities to upskill.

The second important point is that by dint of working with different people, with different ideas, in different companies and with different technologies all the time, they really do learn on the job. Faith Popcorn, CEO and founder of Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserve explained it to fastcompany.com as “a tech-enabled, nomadic existence in which there’s a constant mix of business and pleasure.”

So in addition to their ideas, the practical skills that they bring to your company are invaluable. They are more likely to know the pitfalls and benefits of new concepts because they may well have just been implementing them and learning them elsewhere. Being part of this ecosystem of recruitment makes for a more beneficial and cost effective learning process for you and your company.

The result is that trends in the Gig Economy are heading towards a world with a more cost effective flow of high level skills, a more strategic and targeted way of working, and results delivered at lower cost, lower risk and better value.

Key points

  • As AI and robotics become increasingly prevalent, how are you going to create meaningful human endeavour within your organisation? Consider the human skills needed to make your business flourish.
  • How do you continue to bring new skills into your organisation? Gig workers are self motivated to keep their skills up to date and ahead of the curve.
  • Benefit from the ecosystem of high level skills within the shared economy to bring new ideas to your organisation.

READ CHAPTER 8: Risk and the entrepreneurial age

©gigCMO First published  April 2018

No more Mad Men: Chapter 2 – The Gig Economy

No more Mad Men: Chapter 2 – The Gig Economy

In the context of the way businesses use office space and its role in the development of the Gig Economy we can see a series of trends converge to create a considerably changed, and still evolving attitude towards the need to house employees.

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