Every other month, Mercer brings together in-house experts, employee advocates and external thought leaders for an online discussion of the most pressing issues. The program is called #MercerChats and takes place entirely on Twitter, where individuals across the US engage with Mercer’s intellectual capital and other leading thought leadership to share insights and discuss the best solutions to help organizations thrive. Below is a summary of our May 2021 tweet chat, highlighting some of the key themes discussed and insights shared.
Answering the question “Where do you work?” has gotten a whole lot harder. Putting aside the global pandemic that’s forced people from their offices, the past five years have seen radical changes in the way we work and how employers mine and engage with the talent pool. But even amid major developments like the aging of the workforce or the arrival of Gen Z, one trend has caused more disruption and innovation than any other: the rise of the gig economy.
Though the term may still conjure images of ride-share drivers or food delivery workers, the gig economy has exploded in recent years to include all segments of the workforce, from basic administrative support professionals to specialized experts with some of the world’s most in-demand skills. Gig is most certainly big, and US employers are beginning to catch on by bringing these workers into their organizations for immediate support where traditional talent acquisition just won’t do.
But this new dynamic doesn’t come without complications. Roughly 65% of gig workers are now looking for access to benefits like health insurance, and leaders are looking for ways to manage and support this high-value talent within their organization. To get the latest on this ever-changing environment, we invited the world’s most prominent thought leaders to our #MercerChats tweet chat series to share their perspectives. Below are some of the highlights from our conversation.
The cat’s out of the bag, the genie has escaped the bottle, and the ship has sailed. There are now over 57 million individuals in the US working freelance, and employers that are slow to dip into the talent pool are falling behind. This gap will only widen as more talent floods into the gig economy as freelancers and independent contractors, a trend that Tamara McCleary expects to continue as workers look for more flexibility and control over their personal and work lives.
But there are other forces at play in the boom of the gig economy. To begin with, the gig economy can be a win-win for all parties, as Dr. Marcia F. Robinson shared. Just as employees value flexibility in their careers and lives, employers are also looking for agility to respond to challenges ahead. Ravin Jesuthasan identified this same phenomenon, noting that employers cannot afford to overlook the flexibility allowed by the gig economy as they compete to keep pace with market innovations and trends like digital transformation. In this environment, as Donna K Lenki pointed out, the gig economy allows employers to remain nimble and shift resources towards specific needs and time-sensitive projects.
We are already seeing a growing shift, particularly post COVID-19 to the gig economy. I see freelance / part-time work only growing over the next 5-10 years as people look for more flexibility and control over their personal and work lives.
The advantage to employers who may need to remain nimble due to shifting economics - gig/freelance workforce allows for the hiring of specific needs/time-sensitive projects.
Donna K Lenki
The gig economy will increase significantly across both the consumer and commercial sectors. The flexibility and agility afforded to business models can’t be ignored.
The on-demand workforce is increasingly in demand. As service models shift, remote work escalates and agility becomes the currency; the flexibility will offer big value for both workers and orgs.
Marcia F. Robinson
If going all in on the gig economy were easy, everyone would have done it by now. Instead, freelance and gig workers represent a novel challenge for HR and people leaders alike, who are now charged with finding a way to integrate these new workers into the existing org structure and day-to-day business. It’s almost like trying to connect a DVD player to a 1960s TV set: you know the new solution offers incredible value and potential, but you just don’t have a way to hook it up.
This is where top employers can really differentiate themselves with the right programs, policies and mechanisms. To start, HR needs to realize that gig workers may be harder to attract than full-time employees, and as Rachel Miller pointed out, they know their skills are in-demand. In response, organizations should reconsider how their employment brand and culture appeals to these individuals, accounting for the traits that Avrohom Gottheil shared and the need to shift from the traditional talent “buyer” mindset to a new employment “seller” mindset that Darran Menabney referenced.
Ultimately, though organizations can make the gig economy work for them by focusing on the same principles that make them an outstanding employer of traditional talent. All people – full-time and freelancers alike – are looking for a fair, supportive environment that allows them to grow and develop their career, so employers might be wise heed Will Ferguson’s advice and provide equitable treatment to all employees. Doing so will not only help them attract and retain some of the world’s most sought-after talent, but it will help create a culture that gets the most out of them.
Freelance workers are harder to attract than regular full-time employees. They know their skill set is in demand. Focus on culture, benefits, and a very clear mission statement to attract the workforce your company needs.
Move from BUY to SELL mindset. Develop employer brand aimed at freelancers. What can we offer in terms of reputation, development, or benefits? Focus on wellness benefits, show concern for wellbeing of gig workers, and be known for that.
Gig workers are attracted to:
3. Companies who value their services
4. A collaborative work culture
Equitable treatment is the greatest challenge. Employment status should not define have/have nots in your workforce. All are part of your company, reflect your customer experience so need the same employee experience.