Gigging was an act of GFC necessity that now refuses to leave. How do you work with this new culture?

No one is sure exactly where it came from, but the phrase “gig economy” first entered the lexicon during the global financial crisis. For individuals, gigging meant working several part time jobs in a stressed market where full time employment opportunities were scarce. For companies, it was about cost control.

In the years since, the gig economy has only gained in strength. As the saying goes: “Our parents have careers, this current generation has jobs and our children gigs.” Where giggers were once responding to market conditions, they are now creating the conditions, disrupting the traditional workforce as we know it.

In our latest online seminar exploring the Future of Work, we looked at what the gig economy means for motivating and retaining your workforce.

The contingent workforce

Powered by the digital revolution, the gig economy is characterised by the rising trend towards individuals seeking temporary positions and contingent work. While companies like Uber, Deliveroo and Airtasker have built entire business models on contingent work, more and more blue-chip and mid-market organizations, as well as governments, are also adopting the model. Indeed, 50% of respondents to EY’s Contingent Workforce Study reported seeing an increase in their contingent workforce over the past five years.

The trend is especially pronounced in the US and EU-15, where 20-30% of the working population engage in independent work. In Asia, the gig economy has been slower to start but is gaining momentum. The desire for autonomy is particularly strong among Chinese millennials as well as so-called “supertemps”, top managers and professionals who actively choose temporary roles.


Engagement in the age of the gig economy

As the gig economy gathers force, engagement is changing and companies are struggling to come to grips with their contingent workers. Organizations need to secure commitment in new and different ways if they’re going to succeed in the future. We see four key ways to do this.

1. Enhance transparency

We know employees are frustrated when there’s lack of clarity around performance, pay and advancement. As websites like Glassdoor impose more transparency on companies externally, organizations need to work internally to build trust with their workforce through appropriate and timely information sharing.

2. Build agility

By its nature, the gig economy is all about change. Companies need to build agility in their workforce through empowering employees to solve problems and make decisions in ambiguous situations, prioritising continuous training to cope with change and running regular pulse checks to identify and respond to issues quickly.

3. Promote collaboration

In a globalized workforce, collaboration is essential and when it doesn’t work it quickly becomes a source of frustration. Organizations should set formal expectations for new employees, emerging leaders and executives to gain knowledge and experience working in cross-unit, cross-border teams.

4. Increase respect and recognition

Respect and recognition is about understanding the individual and it’s no different for contingent workers. Companies need to recognise their contingent workers as individuals, empower them to make decisions to do their job better, check in regularly with them to stay aligned and reward them fairly and competitively.


Flexible rewards for a flexible workforce

As this last point suggests, an important part of creating the right environment to engage your workforce is reward. In our recent research, including with the World’s Most Admired Companies, we saw a clear theme emerge: as the workforce becomes more individual and flexible, reward must do the same.

1. Know what’s important to your workforce

Getting pay right is subjective and it means different things to different people. This means the first step in creating a flexible reward scheme is understanding the scope of your workforce’s needs, always with the understanding that fairness is essential.

2. Build a suite of rewards

Reward flexibility relies on having a range of different options that can be adapted to the needs of each individual. While fair base pay is essential for attraction, getting your benefits and variable pay right is about retaining and motivating. Here the options are many, from paid parental leave and wellness options through to more creative offerings, like pawternity leave to care for your new puppy.

3. Educate your managers

A flexible reward offering will only do its job if managers know how to use it. To harness the full power of your rewards program, engage and educate your managers so they are empowered to make it work for each individual member of their team.

You can find the recordings of all our Future of Work online seminars here. Learn what the Future of Work means for your people strategy, why strategic workforce planning plays a crucial part in it and how to attract, retain and lead your workforce of the future.

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About Contributor

Stephen Choo is a Director with Korn Ferry Hay Group, based in the firm’s Singapore office. He works closely with senior executives of leading organisations throughout the region in developing highly effective employee engagement strategies to achieving high organisational performance. Stephen’s expertise lies in the design, analysis, and implementation of strategic diagnostic survey instruments to assist organisations in achieving a high performing culture. They include employee engagement surveys, organisational culture mapping, customer satisfaction assessment, change management evaluation, and talent attraction and retention industry study.

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