The “future of work” arrived sooner than expected. COVID-19 pandemic proved one critical thing to organisations worldwide: YES, remote work can be productive. On the dark side, though unemployment is on the rise, and salary cuts have become a norm. In this backdrop, there has been a boom in the gig economy.
With the world economy taking a hit after the pandemic, most organisations are going leaner. They are outsourcing work outside their core functions and freelancers, or gig workers, are gearing up for the increasing demand.
On September 30, three experts with frontline exposure to the gig economy discussed how it is shaping up in current times. With some very interesting research-based insights and key predictions, the Imagining Gig 2.0 panel discussion between Shashank Murali, Anirban Gupta, and Roopank Chaudhary is truly valuable and unmissable for anyone even remotely connected with the gig economy.
About the Panellists
Shashank Murali: Co-founder & CEO of TapChief, his entrepreneurial journey began at the age of 21 when he launched an on-demand tutoring app for computer exams. He went on to start another venture in 2016 that we now know as Tapchief. The platform has over 100,000 professionals and counting.
Anirban Gupta, Director Performance Rewards and Organisation Effectiveness at Aon. He has rich consulting experience in KPO and BPO sectors and is head of Aon’s Research and Incubation Lab. Anirban led Aon’s research on the gig economy to dissect what is really happening in the gig workspace.
Key Takeaways from the Webinar
The gig economy is becoming a force to reckon with globally. While in the US and Europe, the gig workforce and its demand have already spiked, it’s still nascent in India. Whether or not it will sustain in India and see more and more acceptance from different sectors is yet to be ascertained.
Q1: What is Gig 2.0? Has ‘gig’ changed over the last few years? Are we seeing a new form of gig emerge?
Going back in history, gig workers were mostly seen as contingent workers. After every recession, unemployment levels shot up and so did the number of gig workers. Once the economy recovered, there was a dip in the gig workforce. But now, things have changed.
- The Great Recession revolutionised the gig economy. That’s because, although the economy significantly improved afterwards, job creation was still far behind.
- Now, after the COVID-19 pandemic, economic activity has reduced. Consequently, the gig workforce will increase as organisations are looking at ways in which they can fulfil the demand for roles outside core business areas.
- Gig 2.0 is a convergence of economy and technology, allowing professionals to deliver work irrespective of their location.
- As organisations manage a more volatile environment post-pandemic, this model will get stronger.
- Now, the inverse relationship between the gig economy and economic recovery, as seen in the past, does not hold true anymore.
Q2. The gig economy is becoming larger, but would it be fair to say that after the economy improves, do we have a strong enough workforce to trust in the gig economy?
- Surely. On the one hand, organisations undergoing transformation are realising that some of the key skills required to transform the organisation don’t exist within.
- Trying to build that from ground-up will take time, and the organisation may risk losing market competitiveness. That’s where freelancing becomes useful as organisations have the best workers available on demand.
- With the disruption in the economy, organisations are harnessing the power of technology to get work done quickly and efficiently.
- In India, the myth of the ‘cradle to the grave’ job has busted in the last decade. Employees are uncertain whether the organisation will continue to keep them onboard. More and more people are willing to build something on their own and are motivated to control their destiny.
- The workforce in India is not a homogenous group. There are still people looking for stable employment because of job and social security. However, as the middle class becomes increasingly affluent, people are migrating towards saying “I don’t want to be a corporate slave anymore”.
Q3: How did Tapchief come about and when did freelancing become a possible career choice for people in India?
- On the one hand, there are tons of people with amazing skills who are looking for avenues to monetise their skills beyond regular jobs. They wish to commit to an objective, rather than committing to a company or a job.
- On the other hand, there are organisations looking for talented people to help with business objectives from time to time.
- Technology brings these two together, and that’s how the thought process of Tapchief began.
- After the pandemic, traditional organisations like manufacturing and FMCG have understood the importance of digital presence. This being out of their core business area can be outsourced, and that’s where the demand for gig workforce comes in.
- It’s easier to hire a consultant for a short term objective if you don’t already have the expertise in house.
- Another factor contributing heavily to the gig economy is bandwidth constraints. Organisations often experience low offer-to-joining ratios and long hiring cycles. So, they can turn to the gig workforce if they are looking for someone who can come in quickly and take care of the task.
- Lastly, professionals today are more daring than ever. The pandemic has made people realise that job security is a myth. They are looking for ways in which they can secure their income stream.
- For instance, a person whose core skill is coding, cannot just code but teach it or develop learning material. So, while not moving significantly from their core skill, professionals are finding different ways in which they can apply their skill.
- The next decade could very well be the decade of the “solopreneur”. Independent workers are starting to figure out how they can build a business individually with the skills they have.
Q4: Which industries have traditionally had a high demand for gig and how will this change in the future?
- Outsourcing is moving from a B2B to a B2C model.
- The industries like banking and finance, Pharma, Manufacturing or FMCG, that have traditionally avoided gigs are the ones who will now see increasing demand.
- There will however be stratification. More requirements for gig workers will be for roles on the digital front, like sales or client operations, and not for core areas.
Q5: Will roles like administration or human resources also be outsourced? What kind of roles will turn into ‘gig’able jobs?
- With organisations getting leaner, anything that’s not core or strategic to organisations will be outsourced.
- How gigable a role depends on how important it is to the success of the firm. While areas that require decision making for day to day functions may not be gigable, other areas that are more tactical in nature would surely be outsourced.
- For instance, an organisation in the manufacturing sector will not outsource roles related to its supply chain. On the contrary, a grocery platform may outsource manufacturing, but will not outsource roles related to the core experience of the customer on the platform.
Q6: What criteria do companies look for when they hire freelancers? Are there any ways of measuring performance for gig workers?
- Organisations that hire gig workers are usually those that are either struggling with bandwidth or don’t have that expertise in-house. In both cases, if it’s a niche skill, the organisation is likely to look for someone who has operated in a full-time capacity in that niche.
- So, gig workers should be able to present their portfolios, case studies, or milestones.
- A digital presence also helps showcase skills, especially in the case of professionals like designers, writers, coders, etc.
- Performance in the gig economy generally is measured based on the time and quality of completion of milestones.
- Organisations have still not decided how they will monitor gig workers. This should be taken up because it is important to form a bond with freelancers rather than keeping the relationship merely transactional.
Q7: What are organisations doing to build an ecosystem for freelancers?
- Gig workers have to worry about retirement, savings, security, etc. Consequently, leading organisations are thinking about how they can provide social security to gig workers.
- We can foresee that HR teams across sectors will think about this aspect.
- Companies are thinking of ways in which they can form a bond and provide a sense of belonging to freelancers working with them.
Q8: Has the demand for any specific gig roles changed post-pandemic?
- Any role that can be managed through remote working irrespective of the industry was being and is still being outsourced after the pandemic.
- Such roles include digital marketing, software development, SEO, design, etc.
- However, in-person gig workers like delivery persons or onsite auditors have been negatively affected by the pandemic.
Q9: Are companies open to hiring ageing freelancers?
Research is silent on that. It is early to say, but there is going to be a spurt in the number of gig workers who have already had long careers. They may be in-demand in areas like finance, regulation and policy making. But how the demand plays out in the technology or design sector is yet to be seen.
Q10: How do we reconcile the traditional Indian organisational mind-set that employees should not take up work outside the job?
There will be a certain level of discomfort for people in management as they wonder if their employees will start doing gigs for their competitors. There will certainly be some level of friction as the gig economy expands. Organisations will have to come up with declarations or policies to clearly define these aspects.
Research on over a hundred companies across various sectors shows that more than 65% of employers want an increase in the gig workforce. More and more non-traditional sectors like FMCG are opening their doors to gig workers. The relationship between employers and freelancers is deepening and is not merely transactional anymore. However, there is a need to tweak rewards and refine roles and performance management systems of organisations to align with the requirements of the gig economy. All in all, the gig is here to stay.