The annual employee satisfaction surveys are a norm at big and medium businesses and most of the employees assume that there’s nothing good that will come out of these surveys. Speak with a sample set across an organisation, off-the-record, and you will get a much realistic picture of their attitude towards such surveys. Over time, organisations might have moved to more agile hiring methods and have started ‘closing the loop with prospective candidates’, such initiatives are addressing just a tiny aspect of the larger problem at hand – providing a work experience that the employees connect with.
The gig economy has been in existence since time immemorial and as with most transitions in workforce preferences, Silicon Valley saw the emergence of this business model much prior to the rest of the world. Availability of projects, getting a fair value for efforts and the sense of being recognised for efforts are some of the factors that are better validated in the businesses around the Valley.
Let me highlight a few factors that have helped the gig economy evolve into what it is now.
A large number of highly skilled and intelligent creators are either in the process of leaving a full-time job or have already left such jobs. Absence of job satisfaction is the main reason that most of them state. When working in a full-time job, most people are tied to a vaguely laid out job description. Then there are problems arising out of silos within organisations. The definition of breaking the silos, in most organisations, begins and ends with cross-team engagements. That would work for 98% of the folks on the teams, but not for the 2% whose aspirations and thought process cannot be restricted to just one function.
If a person is self-aware of their productive hours in the day, flexibility in work hours is of paramount importance to them to deliver the best in what he or she does. While the client might still expect the consultant to turn up during regular office hours, that’s not the case every day. The flexibility to apportion time for things that matter the most in life – family, health and learning – is an allure that probably beats all other factors hands-down.
The amount of money spent by organisations on training their employees is insane and it’s is the right thing to do in the current business model for them. Learn – get certified – get on a project. The ‘current’ business model also ensures that only a part of the learning is utilised in projects and someone who wants to learn and execute something beyond their regular duties at work, might have to do it on their own time and not during work hours. Doesn’t it make sense to learn while executing kick-ass and interesting projects, solving multiple problems that you might not have come across in the job description that you’re tied to?
The reason why only 2% of the larger workforce even think of getting their gig on is that the rest 98% can’t fathom the courage to take up the challenge. They are slaves of their own thinking. It is difficult. It is even more difficult if you have a family to take care of. Ask any independent consultant and they will tell you that maintaining a cash flow is the biggest issue that they have to take care of. It is similar in the case of early stage startups but the probability of an early stage startup getting funded is higher than that for a lone warrior.
It’s a sum of all that drives a person to take up gigs. The desire to create something new. The desire to seek satisfaction. The desire to learn. The desire to seek a new challenge.
So, how are businesses not ready for such a business model?
The businesses of today cannot, over the next 3-4 years, afford to hire people as they have been doing till now. With the advent of new technologies – AI, ML, Voice, to name a few – hiring people with credible knowledge of such technologies is expensive.
Hiring talent is more expensive since the businesses don’t know what to do with the talent
With the top 2% of the workforce saying – either give me what I want or I work with multiple organisations – it’s not going to be an easy road ahead. And this doesn’t apply only to technology. I have come across advertising people who have just moved on to create experiences that they could not in their full-time jobs. There are human resources people who have worked in organisations for decades and have started their individual gigs, addressing the problems for organisations that they faced when within the organisations. There are defence personnel who are ace training instructors for leadership coaching. It is an endless list and this list was populated by a few; the list is going to grow exponentially over the next two years as markets such as India, China, Africa and East Asia begin to mature, with customers seeking more from established players.
Surprise sector: Business Education
The business education sector has already seen the number of people opting for a business education decline, over the last 5 years. Except for the top 10-15 schools, none of the others have experiential courses that focus on the new economy. While everyone has courses on entrepreneurship, where are the courses that help build the foundations of sectors that a prospective entrepreneur can learn from? Most of the school still restrict the focus to marketing, operations, finance and strategy with a chapter or two thrown in about a new economy need – digital marketing, for example. These too are usually superficial. No wonder the likes of Udemy and Coursera are eating into the pie that once was the fiefdom of a few.
It’s an exciting time for those who have the appetite to take the risk. The challenges are similar to what a startup faces, but more personal and with more impact.