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Growing With The Gig Economy: How to Navigate the Casualised Workforce

The social contract between employers and employees gets rewritten every generation. None more so than in the past 18 months, as millennials and Gen Zs embark on their careers in a pandemic-battered climate.   

This new generation of workers is empowered by the belief they can control how, where and for whom they work. Constantly on the hunt for new gigs, the modern-day worker moves from employer to employer. Crossing industries or sectors are not uncommon; flexibility and autonomy factor heavily in the consideration set.       

Gig work has been around for years – services such as childcare, housekeeping, driving, and the like have been provided on an as-needed basis. 

Its rise, spurred by technology and increased demand for app-based services, is changing long-term sentiments towards employment. 

According to ADP’s People at Work 2021: A Global Workforce View survey, one in three Australian workers indicated increased interest in contract or gig works in light of COVID-19. Of their reasons for increased interest, almost a quarter of workers (24 per cent) highlighted concerns about the job security offered by traditional employment as compared to gig work.

Increasingly, it is the flexibility that motivates workers, with many willing to trade some measure of job security for work freedom, since a permanent contract is no longer a guarantee of the stability it once was. 

There is much disruption today. Employment is evolving, along with the workforce’s priorities and needs. Business leaders must embrace a new reality, along with managing operational aspects, such as pay, benefits and compliance. 

Try Before You Buy 

Companies traditionally have a transactional relationship with freelancers – a temporary, external resource and solution to fill an immediate gap. Career progression or development opportunities are rarely discussed.

This dynamic boxes freelancers into stereotypes and often creates blind spots in talent retention. Take a different perspective: in the same way, the Internet created new markets for commercial transactions, the gig workforce could offer new possibilities. There is human capital that exists in this growing informal economy. 

New perspectives and business growth are not mutually exclusive. Could we challenge the status quo by having organisations cleave serving a greater purpose within communities to business goals?

Could new perspectives take the form of transparency in skills with the view for futureproofing? Joseph Fuller, professor at Harvard Business School, said in an HBR IdeaCast episode that “many employees are […] willing to be trained in new skills. But they don’t always know what they need to learn or how to access and pay for it”. Could this pool of gig workers teach us something?  

Finding the right fit 

By analysing workplace dynamics, HR practitioners and senior leaders can help identify which freelancers would be the best additions to the company. This could be based on their performance indicators and how well they fit with company culture.

To gain these critical insights, employers must lean on data analytics and cloud technology. With more teams working outside traditional organisational structures, business leaders need meaningful insight. The future of human capital management (HCM) will centre on analytics and benchmarking.

More than meaningful dashboards of metrics and indicators, we need to go beyond and benchmark against industry or regional peers in crucial areas, such as compensation, overtime and pay equity.      

With better visibility and a wider range of views into their workforce, employers can strategise effectively for better talent attraction and retention – and potentially unlock great candidates in their freelancer workforce.

Navigating new regulations & looking to the future

Earlier this year, the Victorian government took steps to ensure the protection of the rights of gig workers, supporting 20 recommendations put forth by the Inquiry into the Victorian On-demand Workforce.

This includes setting up standards to provide fairer work conditions, business transparency, easy access to advice around work status, rights and entitlements, and settlement disputes.   

Digital transformation and, with it, the gig economy have accelerated, especially so throughout the pandemic. The landscape is fragmented, but there is the progress made by governments and the private sector.

The way work can come to be defined and organised in companies has evolved significantly in this climate: new employment options come with new definitions on the future of work – and workers.

To succeed, senior leaders across every sector must engage, seek to understand, and tap into human capital to generate value for the organisation and society.   

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Kylie Baullo

Kylie Baullo

As Managing Director, Kylie Baullo is responsible for defining and leading the business strategy for ADP in Australia and New Zealand. Mrs Baullo will work closely with the global leadership team to identify key growth opportunities while modernising ADP’s product offerings, including bringing NextGen solutions to markets in the region. Kylie has spent three decades with ADP including 4 years as Vice President Client Services for APAC.

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