The Gig Economy – An Opportunity for Professionals to Make Music
The word ‘Gig’ was coined in the 1920s by Jazz artists in America. It is prudent to assume that those melodious musicians may have never imagined that a century later, the corporate world in far-away India would be abuzz with the term, albeit in reference to the economy.
It is no secret that the unfortunate COVID-19 pandemic has structurally impacted many a global market. And India is no different. While the intensity may vary across industries and sectors, the fact of the matter is that our economy has faced tremendous pressures and has shrunk with the rude blow of the crisis. In the quarter ending June’20, the de-growth as high as 29.3% as compared to the same period of last year.
The contraction has resulted in the implementation of harsh measures in many organizations – ranging from salary cuts at one end to lay-offs at the other. While in the case of the former, one can get by with lifestyle adjustments, it is the latter that is overly concerning in a developing country like ours, where there is no social security mechanism. The situation gets more worrisome for impacted professionals as job opportunities are few and the number of candidates increases, as evidenced by the growing number of green ‘Open To Work’ circles on LinkedIn, a platform of choice for professionals.
“For many professionals who find themselves without the comforting blanket of regular full-time employment, the rise of the ‘gig economy’ is a much-needed safety net, indeed.”
The framework that enables organizations to hire independent workers for short-term projects, is beneficial for both parties. For organizations, it provides the advantage of hiring subject matter experts to either bring in transformation or to augment capacity in the times of peak production, enabling them to optimize their wage and indirect costs. For professionals, on the other hand, it allows the freedom to work on diverse projects in varied environments and regulate their personal and work objectives, more efficiently.
Given this scenario, one would have expected the hiring of gig workers to really get expedited in these challenging times. While there is huge optimism in corporate board rooms, when it comes to white-collar workers at middle and senior level management levels, the upwards trend is not very sharp. The reason for the same is, not surprisingly, the challenge in making this ‘hand-shake’ happen between recruiting organizations and job seekers. This happens on account of fundamental inadequacies at both ends, as shared below.
People Processes of Organizations
By and large, except in the Consulting space, job roles are designed from the perspective of long-term employment and the corporate pyramid, with built-in enablers such as promotion cycles, internal job movements, and so on. Given this base, critical HR practices such as Job Description designing, recruitment, managing payroll, etc. are often not updated to deal with the requirements of handling gig worker engagements. Ambiguous and evolving laws add to the confusion with differing interpretations by different groups.
Psychology of Job Seekers
In our nation, as far as career choices go, we have only moved beyond the preference for the ‘stable’ public sector to the private sector in the last 20 years. Even in this transition, there was a lot of concertation between family members; the elder ones typically pushing for the security that has always been a pull factor for the public sector, and the younger generation wanting higher returns offered by the private sector. In this move, jobs got associated with being full-time and regular with clear, defined boundaries and hierarchies. For many professionals to make a substantial mindset shift once again in their lifetime, is challenging to say the least. In a highly, socially connected society like ours, it is not just a question of convincing oneself, one must convince one’s entire social circle.
According to data released by CMIE (Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy), over 6 million white-collar professionals lost their jobs in the period between May and August 2020, fuelled by the pandemic. The Mint-Bain India CEO survey published in September 2020 conducted to gauge CEO priorities at this time, indicated that 73% of them consider ‘Increased flexible working models’ as a high priority item. HR leaders across the board have been vocal about gig working becoming more dominant in our work environments to support this corner office agenda.
However, to mitigate this challenge of getting corporates and professionals to engage fruitfully in gig assignments requires both the parties to cover some ground and move towards each other. The question to ask then, to borrow a line from the world of music (owing allegiance to the word ‘gig’), is that – “Given the new normal, are both corporates and professionals ready to play along?”