The Gig Economy at Enterprise Scale

As the Great Recession gained steam in 2007/2008, many who were suddenly unemployed and underemployed turned to “gigs” to keep the bills paid (Side Hustles as I prefer to call them – I have several myself!). The stockbroker moonlighting as a business coach and the attorney offering estate planning services “on the side,” are but two iterations of the extra income streams fueled by the Gig Economy. Seeking to cut back on benefits costs and other fringe, larger businesses tapped into the gig frenzy by hiring contract employees to cover tasks like shipping, back office accounting, and customer support. Here’s the crazy thing… As the economy rebounded after the recession, a lot of gig entrepreneurs not only kept their gigs, but many businesses turned to gig workers to permanently fill their workforce needs. In the US market alone, it’s estimated that 1/3 of workers have primary or secondary side hustles.

Fast forward to April 2020, the era of Covid-19, and we find employers reaching out to gig employees at unprecedented scale to keep goods and services flowing. Retailers like Dollar General are hiring thousands of contract workers to stock the shelves at night. Uber continues to expand its network of drivers to keep up with the rising demand for home-delivered groceries and cooked meals. Gig workers with commercial drivers’ licenses are in high demand, as well, hired by the major shipping firms to get medical supplies to the hospitals and clinics that need them right now. Beyond Covid-19, I anticipate that gig employees will occupy a growing share of corporate payroll.

Gigs Impacting Business

If you’re an employer, it’s important to note that the gig mindset will continue to impact every facet of the corporate structure. For starters, more and more of the younger generations in the workforce prefer positions with companies that foster an agile culture and gig mindset rather than traditional 9 to 5, brick & mortar alternatives. So, what are gig-minded employees looking for from the corporations that hire them? New and different projects and flexibility. Many seek time to focus on passion projects and skills development. This can be a win-win for employers. Offering flexible work schedules and settings to gig-minded employees, often leads to a reduced focus on total compensation packages. This keeps everyone happy. Developing a project-based work structure is also beneficial. Giving gig workers the opportunity to move from project to project – especially if the movement allows for a variety of work tasks – heightens skills development and keeps job satisfaction elevated. If your gig workers decided to move on, there are ten more willing to take the contract slot.

Gigs Supporting Big Business

Employers leading businesses that offer terrific products and services to consumers are always looking for support in sales, accounting, website design, customer service, and all the other back office tasks that keep the flow of core products and services moving. Does it make sense for employers to hire only full-time, benefits-rich employees for these tasks, or, instead, diversify the workforce with gig workers? You know the answer.

What’s Next?

It’s a strange, new world out there. Covid-19 is certainly exacerbating the pace of chance in our businesses. Moving forward, more and more of your workers will be drawn from the Gig Economy to lower costs and ensure that revenue streams rise. There’s no going back to the pre-Recession, pre-Covid economy. With this fact in mind, it’s a good time for employers to take a look at the traditional hiring models and discern where gig workers can competently fill traditional roles. If you’re not doing this already, you’re behind your competitors.