The rise of automation and artificial intelligence is gradually taking up routine, mundane daily tasks from employees, giving room for the modern workplace to offer more meaningful skills-based jobs. In terms of talent acquisition, corporations nowadays tend to value flexibility when adjusting to fluctuations in business needs. This leads to the rise of an on-demand, freelance workforce that many now call “gig workers”.
High-profile businesses making use of this trend include Airbnb and Uber, which are largely credited with the expansion of the gig economy by connecting workers to part-time jobs or leased assets. Enabled by technology advances, the constantly evolving gig economy is bringing great changes to traditional human resources (HR).
Research shows that up to 162 million people, or 20 to 30 per cent of the working-age population in Europe and the United States, have been engaged in some form of independent work. Today, working a “gig” no longer means a lack of a “real” 9-to-5 job. Instead of being bound by traditional employment practises, gig workers cherish flexibility and pursuit of their passion, tending to engage in independent work by choice. In fact, part-time or freelance work appeals to people with different levels of skills from various demographics, from students and university graduates to people who are transitioning to the next stages of their lives, such as new parents, homemakers and retirees.
Though the gig economy is currently more prevalent in the US, Europe and India, it is expected to bring transformational changes to traditional HR practises around the world, where the gig economy and traditional economy will thrive together. Here are some steps corporations should consider when adapting modern employment practises in a digital world:
1) Overturn traditional job descriptions into skills-based categorisations: Currently, most organisations which leverage the gig economy to scale-up their business are small- to medium-sized enterprises. Larger corporations, on the other hand, have been slow to adapt to this trend, as they are still figuring out how their recruitment strategy and compliance practises can accommodate short-term contractors within their existing structure, especially in terms of how gig workers can fit their corporate culture and working style.
However, with the rise of Robotic Process Automation (RPA), data analytics and other more routine tasks are often automated to achieve higher efficiency and accuracy, allowing staff to engage in more skills-based, value-added tasks. Hence, instead of holding up to the traditional categorisation of job descriptions, corporations can creatively divide work into skills-based tasks, so as to simplify processes of briefings, handover processes and management.
2) Revamp employee policy assessments and evaluations: It is vital for corporations to evaluate whether existing internal policies and candidate assessment processes are geared towards permanent employees. As companies look towards engaging gig workers, it is essential for talent acquisition teams to revamp their approach to assessment processes and job requirements, as well as staff benefits and policies. This is equally necessary for jobs which require gig workers to work on-site and off-site. An effective evaluation process is required to ensure consistent and quality work, where customised assessment procedures will need to be developed with active participation of the relevant line manager.
3) Effectively communicate employer brand: While communicating an authentic corporate brand is needed for traditional talent acquisition processes, it is even more important in a gig economy, where the foundation is built upon trust. Given some sceptics perceive the impact of the gig economy on the workforce will undermine a corporation’s dedication to fair treatment of employees, it is even more essential for corporations to communicate their brand in a manner that is true and personal to permanent employees, potential candidates or contractual staff. By focusing on the company culture and its people, companies will bring a positive experience to existing and potential employees alike.
To avoid disconnection, corporations must also bring brands to life, ensuring that the corporation is relatable by giving it a distinct voice and personality. This is something that many companies are already doing on digital platforms, such as user-centric mobile-friendly career sites, mobile-enabled application and assessment tools, as well as usage of video content and employee video blogs. Such practises will help enhance employer brand and communicate brand culture in the long run. All in all, a corporation as a whole will need to think and feel more human, in order to embrace flexibility and address the ever changing societal evolution.
Caleb Baker is the managing director of APAC & Emerging Markets at Alexander Mann Solutions