Preparing Your Business for Success in the Gig Economy

“With every gig we have to prove ourselves better than the night before.”
Ron Wood

Although Wood was referring to performing on tour in the Rolling Stones, he might as well have been referencing the rapidly evolving gig economy. Over the past decade, the best-known gig-based companies such as Uber and Doordash have grown into global superstars seemingly overnight. But the gig economy has expanded into more than just delivery and rideshare drivers. In fact, a gig worker includes almost anyone working outside a traditional full-time job, ranging from independent contractors to freelancers to temporary workers to online-platformers. Within this definitional framework, according to data garnered by a joint partnership between Cornell University and the Aspen Institute, the gig economy has exploded as of 2020. Fueled by COVID-19 demand for remote and often individualized solutions, the gig economy grew 33% in the U.S. in 2020 alone, totalling more than 93 million workers earning $1.6 trillion in income. And, while the U.S. accounts for nearly half of the global gig market, developing countries are seeing even faster growth collectively overall.

What and Who is Driving the Gig Economy 

This surge toward a gig economy is not only the result of consumer and business demand, but also of workforce supply. As millions experienced unemployment from more traditional work during the pandemic, many have turned to gig work. One March 2020 survey published by Statista revealed that 52% of global gig economy workers had lost their full- or part-time jobs because of the pandemic and an additional 26% reported reduced hours. According to an August 2020 National Bureau of Economic Research white paper, others discovered that gig work provided more flexibility for parents, particularly almost a million women, whose children and other dependents were suddenly home full-time. In surveys from Intuit and Linkedin, many more cited supplemental income (57%) or a more diversified client base (63%) as reasons for pursuing gig work in uncertain times. 

On the corporate side, the emergence of gig-based approaches have also brought new workforce options. Many companies whose employees worked exclusively in-house pre-COVID were compelled to allow remote work during the pandemic and found the situation to be more favorable than expected. A McKinsey Global Institute report from November 2020 stated that one in five U.S. workers can work more than half- to full-time remotely without reducing productivity. In return, many businesses have been able to cut fixed-costs such as office space up to 30%. 

Amazon Flex, Amazon’s delivery service, contracts with more than 500,000 gig workers nationwide as of December 2020 and is seeking to hire thousands more by mid 2021. Verizon is undergoing similar growth this year, expanding from 4,000 to 20,000 remote jobs in a few short months. And remote jobs span almost every industry beyond consumer products including healthcare, finance, hospitality, government, and technology.

It is no surprise that experts predict that more workers will be gig-based rather than in-house employees before the end of the decade. This aligns with lead global chief experience officers (CXOs) recently identifying digital capabilities as an immediate top three priority, up nearly 20% in ranking from the previous quarter.

The COVID-19 pandemic has and is forcing a paradigm shift in the workplace that clearly was unexpected. Not only are workers potentially more dispersed, but they also are presenting with a new mix of post-COVID digital processes and personal goals as well as being faced with some unique challenges. 

One recent global survey reported that only one out of 10 gig workers feel valued by their managers/clients. Moreover, Gallup reports that of the workers that intend to remain in the gig economy post-COVID, one out of five stated that loneliness and isolation were the greatest deterrent to working remotely. Frustration at feeling left outside the business brick and mortar location often leads to lack of information, misinformation and feeling of being “cut off”. While feelings of loneliness must be resolved at the human level, the state of isolation also can be addressed at the digital level. This shift demands a fresh, digitally-based approach to how workers are onboarded, trained, and engaged.

Supporting Your Remote Workforce for Success

Onboarding, or the process of introducing the worker into the corporate culture and workflow, is meant to help ease the transition into the company effectively and efficiently. Per LinkedIn, the “one-size-fits-all” onboarding process which can traditionally last from a week to 90 days won’t fit in the gig economy as workers may be on a short contract, maintaining a flexible schedule, and/or working remotely. An “on-the-go, as-you-go” process, tailored for each individual allows for only key pertinent information on an as-needed, as-accessible basis. In 2020, more than 90 percent of the global internet population accessed the Internet via a mobile phone indicating that communications with gig workers should be accessible via maximum devices and asynchronously 24/7 for maximum effect.

Through a flexible online learning and enablement platform, onboarding can flow into skilling or reskilling. Managers can easily release modules, videos, text, quizzes, and other media that are relevant to the worker for not just onboarding but also for continuous training. Immediate constructive feedback for the gig worker as well as the manager, moreover, can encourage workers to drill down on important issues as well as reveal possible gaps in skills and knowledge that can then be addressed in the moment. An effective platform can also reward workers with positive reinforcement toward pushing forward and achieving goals, thus encouraging engagement, making them feel like part of a team and less isolated. In fact, Gallup reported that when remote workers provided feedback a few times a week, they were more engaged than fully in-house employees. 

Additionally, as workers are onboarded and trained through a comprehensive learning and enablement platform, data detailing performance, learning styles, and more are collected, analyzed, and used to create and deliver a learning experience tailored to the individual. The more this solution is applied, the more personalized and, thus also engaging, the experience becomes. A study by Rallyware, found that when learning and engagement are combined with specific job tasks as they are assigned and tackled by a remote workforce, productivity can climb more than 38%. 

Despite all this, the typical workforce and training is often designed as the equivalent of the emergency room, a triage that is complete after “one and done”. Nine out of 10 millennials claim that learning opportunities and professional development are a major career goal, although less than 30% reported learning anything new while working within a 30-day period. As a result, many choose to move onto the next gig. Recent LinkedIn research also shows that this isn’t just a new generation issue: during COVID, workers are increasing their time learning by 130% while learning leaders are prioritising reskilling 64%. The investment in the right customizable learning and enablement platform could be your business’s best investment in the growing gig economy.

To learn more about how Rallyware can help personalize remote employee onboarding and training for your organization and improve employee engagement and performance, request a demo of the Rallyware Performance Enablement Platform!