Gig Economy-Challenges to HR in 2019

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Change is normal. Today the technological disruption is looming over the horizon and challenging business operating model and the ways of working in general. The demand for skilled workers has increased and organizations are looking forward to hiring employees as freelancers or crowdsourcing them depending on the need of hour and releasing them of their work as soon as the outcome is achieved. Today many organizations are hiring consultant/experts based on the expertise, outcome and timelines, called the gig talent. A recent report says that by 2025, the gig economy is going to add $217 billion to GDP. Some of the mega trends are:

  • 47% of today’s jobs will be gone in coming 10 years
  • 47% million of the US workforce participate in gig or crowdsourcing
  • 20-40% jobs will go to gig talent in India by 2025

Today, with the rise of Uber, Lyft, amazon, freelancer.com, zomato, Ola and the likes of Swiggy more and more workers are globally doing part time work, side hustles, as they are often called, and are joining the “Gig economy” as it is more formally known.

Gigs are nothing but task done for different clients over stipulated period. There is no obligation to be part of same company/organization and continue to do the mundane work. You, as an individual choose the kind of work you want to do, the people you want to work for and off course, your working schedule.

With the spread of new business model, emergence of online businesses, unlimited access to internet, smart phone, e-commerce and start-ups, the gig economy or freelancing is growing at a rapid scale, globally as well as in India. Today, in VUCA world (volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity)  where millennial want more freedom, flexibility, learning opportunity, better work life balance and the work becoming a multi-time zone and multi-cultural thing so in the  speed of an expertise turning obsolete are some of the  prime factors, why many are ditching corporate jobs and opting to be a part of the Gig economy.

Gig Talent- A Real Story

One of my college friend named Ritesh Kumar Singh who’s long worked for corporate, spawning over 20 years and has a strong personal brand, got fed up with the monotony of 9-6 work life, and the opaque and suffocating corporate bureaucracy. He was looking for more flexibility, learning opportunities, work life balance, freedom and meaningful engagement – the work which he could enjoy and have full autonomy over what he does and when he does. A couple of months  back, he left his full time job of Chief Economist of a diversified corporate group and decided to relocate to a quieter place called Dehradun which is far away from the crowded and expensive Mumbai. Now he is a part of an ever-growing gig economy. Today, he is earning more than what he was earning before; he is enjoying his work more as it is meaningful and outcome-based. Moreover, his productivity has gone up manifold and he’s has better work-life balance. Today, he is not confined to one assignment or project but doing multiple assignments with more than one clients. It’s a bit riskier as he’s not assured of a fixed salary credited to his bank account at the end of the month but he now has flexibility, freedom and better work-life balance to compensate for the loss of income surety.

His story is not the only one, there are many like him who’ve already chosen similar paths and many more who have proved themselves and often have strong personal bands are contemplating joining the gig economy phenomenon.

Millennial and the gig talent model

New skills such as artificial intelligence, IOT, AR, VR, machine learning, big data, IT support, block chain and design thinking among others are some of the skills that are supporting the gig talents. Today, many millennials are getting into future skills and working as a gig talent for multiple clients with greater flexibility and freedom. Studies show millennials participation in the gig economy continues to rise and many organizations are tapping into this alternate workforce. In United States of America only, by 2020, over 42 million workers will be on gig and out of those 42% people will be millennial.

Below gleaned are some of the operating model being practiced globally by the gig talent:

Plug & Play Time bound specialist General/functional management Domain Specialist
Filling the gap or vacancy temporarily in the organization. like temporary workers, consultant etc. This type of talent required during the breakdown or contingency. Like plant shutdown, airline emergency, doctors These are experience SME’s having deep knowledge or expertise in the respective field. like Change management experts, Scrum manger, Data Scientist etc Special/specific skill is required to solve the problem. Like Design thinking, IOT/ Block Chain expert, specialized software engineer

 Gig Talent: Challenges to HRM

Today many start-ups and the increasing gig talent pool are posing challenges to the HR function as all the talented people having deep expertise in their respective work areas are not available on a permanent basis i.e. willing to work as regular employees. HR managers are failing to bring in talented employees with deep expertise in blockchain, IOT, Design Thinking, AR, AI or ML because, either they are very few in number or they are not interested in permanent employment.

Thus, the major challenge before the hiring managers is how to tap the gig talent pool and integrate the short-term gig hires into strategic workforce planning. Today, the HR function requires multiple big shifts in terms of manpower planning by factoring 20-40% of head counts as a gig talent. Many organizations in India realize the need and have now started engaging project based/ outcome based consultant/experts. Be more agile and factor in the gig talent in HR strategy while planning for recruiting talent. This enables HR to display better outcome and also to engage with gig talent having deep expertise. This allows HR to display deep expertise in real time and to be presented anywhere in the world – any culture or any time zone.

Today the HR function is facing a challenge in terms of providing the right talent at right time to the business as all the deep expertise talent are not available for full time employment. HR needs to bring agility in their manpower planning and hiring strategy. Now, gig talent is driving the agility in HR function. Some of the insights are:

  • If we want to develop open source LMS and need software engineer expertise in Drupal language. Do not hire on full time, hire it for project and expertise
  • Today, gig talent are available everywhere, anytime irrespective of geography, time zone, language or culture so leverage it more
  • Gig talent bring in deep expertise with greater speed or delivery on time
  • Gig talent is about hiring people with deep expertise with outcome and not lower cost. In many cases, gig talent are expensive affair but bring in greater value
  • Engagement of gig talent will increase in the organizations based on the business need and context such as hiring of change management experts in managing digital transformation  or in merger and acquisition
  • Gig talent is also more productive as it takes care of head counts especially in slack time as they are not available for full time employments to the company

 Gig Talent: Adoption to HR

Going forward, the gig talent will be key to every organization’s talent strategy and strategic workforce planning. By 2025 20-30% of workforce in India will be gig talent. Adoption to the gig talent in HR will be a big challenge due to availability issues of such talent, quality of freelancers, culture fit and scope of assignment, outcome expectation of organizations. HR professionals are still not ready to think how gig talent can fit in and understand an organization’s culture and be productive.

Today, many organizations in India are engaging experts in leadership development, future skills training, content development, design of portal, talent acquisition and many more. These are not permanent and regular jobs and are often filled by gig talent.

Gig talent has some limitations such as loss of confidentiality, conflict of interest, labour regulation, culture misfit, IPR issue or loosing of deep learning. Despite all, the gig talent is going to be new HR trend and need to be adopted to fill the slack in organization and bring in agility for better productivity and growth.

To improvise Gig talent management, the HR needs to be more agile. Below given are some of the suggestions for better adoption:

  • Incorporate gig talent in strategic manpower planning.
  • Bring change in the mind set of HR/Business leaders on new operating model of talent engagement and its benefits.
  • Integrate and adopt gig talent pool in HR technology platform.
  • Look gig talent as a potential pool of successors to key full time employees.
  • Change the mind-set of leaders on how gig talent can bring in more innovation,  new practices  and deep expertise to work.
  • Build a framework to retain knowledge of the work done by gig workers.
  • Enable manager by providing new pool of talent as when required.

Gig talent implies greater flexibility, availability of scarce expertise and it’s on demand deployment. HR must lead the way and be ahead of time in the industry, culture, market and business.

All the views of author are personal and nothing is related to current organisation.


Author- Manoj K Prasad is currently working as Vice President-Change Transformation and Learning at RIL and prior to this he was working with ITC, HCL technology heading digital transformation and HR Change. Manoj K is accomplished HR professional with 21+ years of global credentials  in managing end to end complex Transformation & Organization change program across globe during digitalization program, IT, HR & business transformation & M & A. Manoj led various IT and Business transformational program with Fortune 500 Companies based out of USA, Europe, Japan, Middle East Asia, Singapore and other APAC Countries.   He is certified practitioner on Organization Change Management from Prosci- USA, Six Sigma Black Belt from Motorola USA. Manoj is key note speaker to various HR forums, IIM’s, IIT and other management schools on digital transformation and organization Change.

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