To Gig or Not to Gig – Is No Longer the Question
A Gig. It is defined as a job, especially one that is temporary or freelance and performed on an informal or on-demand basis.
Today’s workforce has created both an economy and mindset that enables the flexibility and variety that they want in their lives. Even better, this Gig economy mentality is great for businesses allowing them to scale up or down based on economic and seasonal demands. It sounds like a perfect marriage between the company and the employee.
With the gig market economy sitting at just over $36 Billion 2021 and forecasted to be almost $90B by 2027. It is growing fast – according to LinkedIn – it’s probably well past time for your firm to develop a gig approach. Whether you have a plan or not, gig workers have moved beyond the “should we embrace” stage.
The evolution of the gig economy and technologies begs the question: What’s next for gigs? And what’s going to look different as we approach the second half of the decade?
This article will walk through the critical operational processes, technological support, and a strategy you need to implement a cohesive approach to embracing the gig movement in your organization and use a common vertical – the retail industry – as a means of highlighting gig dynamics.
Industry Spotlight: Retail
The retail industry has been embracing the gig approach to long-term staffing for years. Adopting gig-based practices helps to meet variable staffing requirements aligned with annual experiences – such as the holiday shopping surge – as well as attract employees looking for more schedule flexibility.
In fact, flexibility is the number one reason retail employees are leaving their jobs(1). And if companies can’t meet this, the employees leave for more malleable pastures.
Of course, the pandemic further accelerated the gig mentality into the realm of business reality. In the Spring of 2020, the type of roles required to conduct everyday business changed for a lot of the big box retailers, many within 30 days. Rather than the in-person experience being paramount, retailers were suddenly asked to support their customers with minimal, to no, contact.
Retailers and employees pivoted to create robust last-mile product delivery experiences with curbside, locker, and eventually back to in-store pick-up. Inevitably, this adjustment changed the role within the store for the retail associate, demanding different skills and training.
Post-Covid, retail has adopted some residual practices and continues to embrace the gig mindset.
Gigging Yourself Up
Now approaching four years post-pandemic, we are still seeing market, technology, and customer expectations continuing to change. How do we utilize the gig population to benefit everyone?
Creating a successful gig model requires operational processes, technological support, and a strategy with a supporting plan.
1. Develop a talent strategy built around the gig mindset.
Building the “what and why” around gigs helps gain alignment and a plan as you go across the business. You will want to outline what are you trying to accomplish as a business, so you make sure you’re solving your organization’s specific problems while supporting the gig workers. Determine what you see as a success and key outcomes to measure it.
Defining the type of audiences and their specific needs or nuances will make sure you’re building a strategy with a plan that supports them.
2. To operationalize that program, you need to have the technology solutions that support the scheduling, capabilities, and preferences of the populations.
Gig work creates niche needs. The more you understand your talent pool’s desires the more you can create the match of the specific need with the right talent or vice versa so when there is a business need you can identify the right people to fill it quickly.
This is dependent on developing a skills ecosystem of your talent supply allowing for visibility and a detailed understanding of available talent. With a gig business, defining the skills DNA of your talent pool allows for a strategic approach to acquiring your talent.
There are several areas within the gig arena from a technology standpoint that retailers will need to start taking into account.
- Skill Passports are creating an external, credentialed talent pool of skill-identified individuals. It is like a resume but with more detail, verifications, and insight to quickly find the right person for you.
- Pay-and-Go is the Uber or DoorDash gig approach but with a gig employee completing their shift and being paid immediately for it. Gone will be the two-week pay period where your employee has done ten other jobs in that timeframe. They want to be paid now for the work that they completed.
- Shared Gig Platforms creating an employee resource portal for gig employees. These are a shared gig platform warehousing training resources, healthcare options, and retirement planning tools. This is a gap that this gig group is not always accounting for and now tools can help build that support model for them.
The gig talent pool is tech-savvy so determining how they can fit into your business will help you attract and retain gig employees with technology that supports them.
3. Develop an onboarding and training program that supports engagement of the talent pool.
RedThread Research surveyed and reported(2) organizations in mid-2023 and what they’re focusing on to help support the frontline worker (which includes the gig employees). The three key things revolved around performance, development, and inclusion.
Creating a gig model that brings an employee into your organization making them feel like they might be part of it, helping set clear expectations preparing them for their work, and providing resources to gain additional skills creates a supply that returns and performs well.
We know an inclusive culture where an employee (part-time, seasonal, project-based, or full-time) feels part of an organization increases their overall job satisfaction. Additionally, we know that employees who have clear job expectations from the start and growth opportunities also are more satisfied. In the same McKinsey study, frontline retail employees who are motivated and satisfied in their role have comparative store sales three percentage points higher than their peers who are less satisfied and lower performing(3). Satisfaction and sales go hand-in-hand.
As gigs arise, building a readied skilled talent pool feeds into the desire of the gig worker interested in learning new skills ahead of the demand or their next role. Using skills as the currency that they can learn and earn to better themselves, be assigned to new opportunities, and feel like the company is helping them grow is tapping into that desire and creating higher-performing gig employees.
4. Recognizing, socializing, and rewarding work as it is completed to create engagement and loyalty in an area where it might be absent.
The gig worker provides retailers and businesses the ability to respond to customer needs by providing flexibility when something is triggered in the market. They bring to the table a specific set of knowledge based on their background (and skills). This knowledge caters to the demands and provides higher customer satisfaction.
Additionally, this allows a business to develop or offer specialized areas of expertise around a product or service that they would not normally be able to offer.
To build and retain this model, companies need to recognize and reward the skills these gig employees are bringing into their business. Recognizing people by endorsing them for their work provides credibility to what they do and reinforces their loyalty to you as a client. Socializing this is rewarding and helps market them for what they are skilled in.
Short-Term Engagements Create Long-Term Gains
Creating a gig strategy that supports the employees has many benefits. If done with the employee in mind the returns are higher satisfaction equating to more revenue and happier customers. The strategy helps remove the traditional disposable or second-class citizen mindsets and put them into a specialized, valued role, even if it is short-term.
With the gig economy expected to expand at a CAGR (Compound Annual Growth Rate) of over 16% during the forecast period, one thing is certain: This market is going to continue to grow. So… how are you going to embrace and support gig strategy for 2024 and beyond?
1 David Fuller, Bryan Logan, Polio Suarez, and Aneliya Valkova, “How retailers can attract and retain frontline talent amid the Great Attrition.” McKinsey, August 17, 2022.
2 Heather Gilmartin Adams, “Final Report: Getting Real About the Frontline Workforce.” RedThread Research, May 16, 2023.
3 “Gig Economy Market Size, Growth & Statistics to 2031.” linkedin.com, November 29, 2023.