While “Gig Economy” is still an emerging term, the technology and social trends that underpin it are largely mature, particularly as the generation referred to as Millennials reach the prime of their careers.
Born in the last quarter of the 20th century, many Millennials were in their early careers – perhaps in their first post-college jobs – when the global financial meltdown hit in 2007-08, This crisis Impacted salaries and real-term earnings, as well as the availability of jobs, for the better part of a decade.
This generation has grown up using the internet and mobile phones – many have had smartphones since their early teens. Therefore, it is not surprising that when faced with the prospect of being unemployed, many Millennials looked to online resources in order to find interim work.
These reluctantly self-employed “e-trepreneurs” joined those freelance or contract workers already deliberately using the internet which provides career control. Together they have fuelled the rapid rise of the Gig Economy: a substantial self-employed workforce that uses online job boards, freelancer market places and temporary recruitment agencies to move from one project to another, getting paid for the work they do along the way. Gig Economy is work on demand delivered by workers on demand.
At the same time, new websites have sprung up to serve this new workforce – with ‘online workplaces’ like Upwork and Field Nation helping to align talented individuals with the companies that need them. And where a one-off collaboration goes well, the same individual can be re-booked again for future contracts, subject to their availability in times of high demand.
Working in this way aligns with some of the core characteristics of the millennial generation, such as tech savviness, independent thinking and a strong desire for a positive work-life balance. Also, it offers opportunities for the companies that hire them to gain access to a flexible and highly talented workforce.
Employers are not required to provide vacation or sick pay, pension contributions and health care benefits. Moreover, this work force does not expect to get anything for free – the employer gets what it pays for, and only pay for what you get.
Many Millennials do not consider such benefits to be a priority, preferring the high level of flexibility and freedom their self-employment allow. Further, the Millennials believe that the financial collapse created a doubt about the value of full time employment.
The Gig Economy may also be the best way to attract creative individuals, who may feel stifled in a permanent office-based role. For employers in creative industries, this is a way to get the job done, without having to maintain an in-house team of permanent talent.
Recruiting these individuals requires a change of thinking, but not necessarily a seismic shift, as recruiters have long been using job boards and social networks to advertise vacancies and headhunt the best candidates. Employer options now include: 1) listing your job and accepting bids, 2) proactively inviting contractors to apply for a job, or 3) simply searching for a suitable individual and inviting them to work for you.
While employers may lose some of their control compared with a permanent workforce, they also receive much more flexibility and the ability to adapt to changing market conditions. For these reasons, the Gig Economy has proved popular not only with freelancers and contractors, but also with the companies that gain from accessing their talents as and when they are needed.
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