The ‘gig economy’ is a two-way street

Last fall marked my 15th year of self-employment. It’s the best job I’ve ever had. And a lot of people seem to agree, judging by the raging popularity of contingent labor—otherwise known as the “gig economy” workforce.

Gig workers give employers unprecedented flexibility in marshaling human resources, but to maximize value, companies need to think of contingent workers as extensions of their full-time workforce rather than disposable piece parts. This attitude change will only become more important as gig labor becomes more entrenched—a trend that has accelerated in the last year from business’ growing comfort level in hiring remote workers.

The shift is happening fast. Statista forecasts that project work will generate $455 billion in 2023, up 53% from 2020. A recent survey by daVinci Payments estimated that the gig economy grew 33% during the pandemic. More than nine in 10 respondents to a survey by recruiting site Monster said they think now is a good time to look into temporary work. And a study commissioned by Upwork and the Freelancers Union forecasts that the gig workforce will surpass the full-time workforce in size by 2027.

Much of this growth has been fueled by the emergence of dozens of websites that match freelance workers with businesses seeking help on a piecemeal basis. Fiverr, which started out a decade ago as a place where people posted descriptions of tasks they would do for $5, had 3.8 million active buyers in the most recent quarter, up 56% over the previous year. Upwork, Kaggle, Freelancer, and Taskrabbit are just a few of the other exchanges that match people with projects.

Growth will no doubt continue as organizations find hiring contingent labor to be both easier and faster than scouring resumes and conducting interviews. Technology is helping by making it possible for much more work to be done remotely.

The trend also plays well to the need for speed: Companies that want to adopt “fail fast” techniques in many cases would rather hire expertise than spend months training their own people. Finally, gig work dovetails nicely with the flexible capacity needs of organizations that are adjusting to a workforce that isn’t always in the office.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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