A Growing White Collar Gig Economy

When you think of the “gig economy,” you probably think of delivery drivers, ride shares, dog walkers and other app-based blue collar jobs, right? While it is true that these sorts of roles make up the bread and butter of the gig economy, you may be surprised to learn that the same dynamics are quickly moving into the white collar career space. 

In today’s marketplace, traditional multi-nationals are competing with highly innovative startups for access to top talent. 

According to a survey from Mavenlink 2017, 61 percent of business leaders name agility as the organizational attribute most critical to success. One way that businesses are trying to achieve an agile operation is by supplementing their traditional workforce with more on-demand and project-based contractors.

In fact, according to that same Mavenlink study, a whopping 79 percent of executives said that an on-demand workforce is a crucial competitive advantage. 

40 % of companies are experiencing talent and skills shortages

For many directors and hiring managers, hiring contractors offer loads of benefits. In many organizations, there are fewer approvals needed to hire a short-term contractor compared to a full-time employee.

The business also sees reduced overhead in payroll taxes and in fracture costs. But for many managers, one of the greatest advantages that contractors offer is the access to specific, high-level talent that perfectly matches specific project needs. 

79 % of executives says future of work is project-specific

According to a 2017 study from Accenture, 40 percent of companies are experiencing talent and skills shortages that impact their ability to innovate. Additionally, 79 percent of the executives surveyed agreed that the future of work will become more and more project-specific. For all of these companies, they are looking to fill those gaps with a variety of freelancers. 

This strategy can provide companies and departments with instant access to innovative talent they may not normally be able to hire. 

Let’s look at a hypothetical example. A company is looking to shake this up to help their stay relevant in the marketplace. They could create a project workgroup with consumer psychologists, agile programmers, storytellers, industrial designers and futurists in order to ideate and iterate a new product and brand approach.

In many organizations, these highly specialized roles wouldn’t necessarily have a place in any one department. With a project-focused approach, though, the company can access top talent from around the world to create a bespoke workgroup dedicated to solving complex challenges. 

Hiring managers surveyed in the Mavenlink study said that they are most often looking for contractors with upper management experience (47 percent) with specialized degrees (35 percent) and more than 10 years of experience (29 percent). 

According to the  Financial Times, the number of workers entering this so-called white collar gig economy will have grown to 42 million this year. That’s triple the number of professional gig workers in 2017. 

This poses huge opportunities for executives with this kind of experience. And it appears those executives are open to the opportunity. Mavenlink found that 63 percent of executives were willing to leave their current full-time employment if the right contracting gig came along. 

That’s not to say that bringing on a stable of freelancers and contractors is a panacea. Organizations must be ready for the change, and the change must suit the organization. For instance, company culture can have a major say as to whether a contractor workforce will work at all.

Many long time employees may see an influx of new freelance talent as an indication that the organization is in financial trouble, or their own jobs are at risk of being outsourced. It is up to managers to effectively communicate the purpose and benefits of bringing gig workers on board. 

At the same time, relying too heavily on a pool of gig workers may make it tougher to create a tangible company culture that makes workers want to stay.

Without a foundation of full-time employees who leave and breathe the company’s ethos, an organization can slowly become a soulless machine jumping from project to project. It’s about finding the right balance, which is different for every business. 

After all, Maven link found that 94 percent of businesses expect the use of contractors to stay the same or increase within the next year. Managers will need to find that perfect formula sooner rather than later though. All data points toward a growing white collar gig economy.