4 tips for organizations to reap the benefits of the gig economy

gig-economy-sign

The gig economy is fundamentally redefining the nature of work and the workplace, and not just for the burgeoning ranks of freelancers, independent contractors and project workers. Today, close to one-third of the global workforce is forgoing traditional employment. They are placing a higher value on independence, flexibility and mobility. Some still collect a steady paycheck but no longer rely on it entirely, supplementing their income with additional gigs. And companies are understanding that to address talent gaps without significant payroll increases, it makes sense to tap into this pool of non-traditional workers. In fact, in a recent survey, 46% of respondents  said their companies are already participating in the gig economy.

While the gig employment model may vary from employer to employer, employees invariably work on multiple projects across several multi-functional teams at any one time. These teams include both employees and gig workers, coalescing and then dispersing on a project-by-project basis, blurring the line between employee and gig worker. And as these lines continue to blur, companies are realizing not only the benefits of gig adoption in workforce flexibility and project agility, but also in labor cost savings of 20% and beyond .

To accommodate this new gig reality, companies must re-evaluate their systems, processes and infrastructure. Many companies quickly realize they are not ready to capitalize on the gig economy and need to undergo radical transformation.

Can your digital workplace accommodate gig workers?

 For companies to leverage the gig economy, IT and HR departments need to come together to support and provide change management, infrastructure enablement and new processes. Additionally, to capitalize on the talent pool’s flexibility and agility, the project management function across all domains needs to embrace the fluidity that comes with gig adoption. All workers need easy-to-use tools and applications that enable a productive and collaborative environment across business units.

Here we outline four key areas that organizations must consider to deliver a modern workplace environment optimized for the gig economy:

Adopt project-centric tools and thinking

Truly capitalizing on the agile workforce that gig employment brings means aligning tools with a project-centric model.  Microsoft Teams and Slack, for instance, are based on channels that frequently focus on a specific topic, project or thread and help consolidate contextual information in a way that helps new team members accelerate productivity.  These tools provide a cloud-based, central location to access relevant project data and information, while also supporting the community of project workers and stakeholders — simplifying the engagement and onboarding process and enabling people to stay connected with chat and meeting features.

Without Teams or similar applications, a new worker may have to figure out important questions on their own: Who are the relevant people I need to work with? Where is the information I need? How do I engage? Would this project potentially require access to multiple systems and logins, rather than a temporary software license?

Avoid culture shock and friction

Tools, applications, and systems help organizations reap the benefits of the gig economy by fostering seamless collaboration among all workers, gig or otherwise. Likewise, tools can be used to carefully manage and support change.  Workplace by Facebook, for instance – as opposed to an email-based approach that stifles information flow and disrupts, rather than promotes, productivity – can accelerate a change of mindset by creating communities of interest.

This social engagement helps people share information and feel part of a community. It also increases collaboration between employees and gig workers around the projects they are engaged on. While platforms such as Workplace are available today, they typically are not being leveraged to support the gig workforce or new hires because marketing or other parts of the organization have largely driven adoption. Effective change management can encourage a shift toward new platform adoption – change impelled not by the technology, but rather by the need to adapt to the gig workforce model.

Digitize business processes to enable scalability

Digital onboarding assistance and a virtual buddy system also help manage scalability and culture alignment. For example, organizations can leverage virtual agents, which have traditionally been used for digital IT support, to help with onboarding, whether concerns are related to technical or IT issues, HR, facilities support or DIY.  Platforms like Microsoft Teams and Slack support virtual agents that can address team member questions in real time, and this ability to intelligently query the project knowledge base can dramatically improve the time it takes for a new worker to understand the nuances of the project.

Upgrade corporate infrastructures

In adopting a gig employment model, the organization may need to consider changing a number of IT systems.  Agility and flexibility are two key benefits of this style of project structure, but they will be quickly lost if gig workers are unable to onboard quickly and access data, or are hindered due to policies that restrict BYOD and support.  Automated business processes, plus cloud-based SaaS apps for productivity, collaboration, digital support and HR, become critical infrastructure components.  Platforms like O365, Microsoft Teams and ServiceNow can securely control access to the team, the applications and the data for the project from a central cloud-based identity management system.  Project access can be granted and revoked automatically (or even through self-service with validation), meaning it can easily scale with the number of projects and people.

These platform systems provide many of the essential capabilities across security, data protection and information rights management. However, with many of the devices outside IT direct control, it is important to implement conditional access, so that even if the user is part of the team, they are denied access to the project if their device is compromised (for instance, jailbroken).  This type of access can also be used to ensure patching across OS and application is maintained.  The organization now has a much larger talent pool, many of which are outside of direct control or influence, providing digital support services, across IT, HR, facilities, offering a number of different channels will remove much of the friction team members might have as they focus on the project – reducing downtime while increasing engagement and productivity.

With gig adoption, a digital workplace succeeds

In the digital workplace, it’s all about workers – gig or otherwise – and how technology can support them, enable them, inform them, liberate them, secure them and eventually empower them to be more engaged, efficient and productive in their own tasks and in their work with others.

The gig movement may be accelerating this fundamental transformation, but as the benefits spill over to employees, everyone becomes part of the gig economy.


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

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