Redefining work in a gig economy


What, exactly, is a job? And what’s work? The fundamental definitions of both may be changing as companies evolve to keep pace with the shift to digital. The idea of one person performing one job, retiring after four decades (and getting a gold watch) is largely extinct. That model just isn’t flexible enough to suit today’s business environment.

Work is becoming more about tasks or activities as part of a broader plan or strategy, which helps explain the rise of independent workers, or freelancers, in this “gig economy.” A 2017 study conducted by MBO Partners revealed that 41 million workers in the US, representing 31% of the total adult workforce, were participants in the gig economy.

Jobs are increasingly being broken down to a transactional level with less emphasis on the number of hours someone works. Instead, more focus is placed on the activity itself and its role in a sequence of dependencies. Frequently, the activity is part of a broader ecosystem or strategy, and it often has its own constituents, stakeholders and players.

You’re already familiar with the gig economy because it’s the prevalent form of work in areas like news gathering and publishing. Countless videographers, writers, editors and more are involved in the production of print and broadcast news stories, but the finished product carries the label of the network that publishes the story.

This draws out two key aspects of work:  the activities and the people (the other actors, stakeholders and constituents).  All activities need at least ONE worker, and for now, these are humans. It has become commonplace for one person to be involved in many activities. What used to be one person to one job, has evolved to one person to many activities, where many activities do indeed make one or more jobs.

Technology needs to lean in here to track activities and help people connect, collaborate and communicate. These are key building blocks to a modern workplace. By tracking, measuring and exposing activities and projects, we get a consistent view across the organization, including the demand and capacity. The introduction of a project-centric marketplace enables individuals and teams to align their skills, interests and passions with the projects available, maximize their enjoyment and productivity, and increase the likelihood of project success.

Not surprisingly perhaps, technology companies are starting to adopt a marketplace model, where project owners can advertise internally for resources or skills needed and individuals can apply to be on the team – via the marketplace – based on their interest, passion, skill or career path. Correct alignment of motivation often trumps historic performance, and it is sometimes better to have the employees who really care on the project versus the ones who have done the same thing many times over (and are actually bored with it now).

As technology continues to evolve, the role of freelancing and the gig economy model may be more necessary than ever. The rapid rise of artificial intelligence, machine learning and other technologies is accelerating the obsolescence rate of worker skills. Companies and workers alike will be under pressure to continually reskill, reshuffle and reprioritize, which makes the flexibility of the gig economy more attractive than ever.

At the same time, those same technologies will make it easier than ever to help companies collect and analyze precise data on gig workers, to better assess their work patterns, needs and interests. Leading employers in this space will stop asking themselves “Why is it so hard to find the right people?” and instead deploy analytics to target the right worker population.

Even more fundamentally, they’ll be focused on asking the right questions. “What is work? Who should do it? And how?” By asking the right questions, we’ll come to a more complete understanding of what the gig economy is, and what it means for companies.

Marc WilkinsonMarc Wilkinson was DXC Technology’s chief technology officer for Workplace & Mobility. He left DXC in October 2019.


  1. Pete Tapley says:

    And how do we provision and de-provision access to our company’s systems and data when they start and stop their gigs…perhaps hours apart? MyWorkStyle can do that.

  2. Also, with the advances in data science, the emergence of gig workers within larger orgs could profoundly affect the way talent is recruited and retained, by capturing crucial behavioural data and putting it to work.
    Rather than sticking to outdated ‘cast the net as wide as possible and hope you find the right fish’ technologies, we’re now seeing new tech that can collect relevant and precise data for the patterns and needs of workers. So rather than just using technology to evaluate them, we can use it to deploy a solution that acts like a sonar fish finder, both to locate the most appropriate talent, wherever they are in the organisation, and to entice them with the most appropriate bait!

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.