Gig gets big

Gig gets big

Leadership & Management

STOrai Magazine

STOrai Magazine

25 Apr 2022, 09:47 — 9 min read

According to Seema Arora Nambiar, Strategic Growth Consultant, 85% of India’s economy works on informal jobs. Today, there are technology platforms that bring such informal workers into a structured or formal environment. “A recent BCG study found that if gig employees contribute in the way they should, it could add almost a per cent and a half to the country’s GDP. However, while there are advantages of having gig employees on board, there are challenges with regards to organisation structure and Learning and Development,” she said.

 

The surge

Gig workers have always been there in L&D in the form of coaches, assessors and leadership consultants. And in form of website designers and blog writers in other departments. However, the ability of online platforms to bring them all together is one of the factors that have contributed to its recent rise according to Neelam Ahluwalia, Vice President - L&D, Bigbasket. “The second factor is the pandemic. It would have taken 5 to 10 years for the trend to pick up. However, the pandemic accelerated it. Now that normal employees too are working from home, my comfort and trust with somebody working remotely and being able to deliver have gone up. Today, employees too are comfortable doing temporary jobs and there. There is no societal pressure to have a permanent 9 to 6 job and there is no stigma being a freelancer,” she said.

 

Gig workers have always been there in L&D in the form of coaches and leadership consultants. And in form of website designers and blog writers in other departments. However, the ability of online platforms to bring them all together has contributed to its recent rise. 

 

According to Nandini Mehta, CHRO, Metro Brands, another big reason for the trend to pick up is startups, which rely on gig employees to deliver certain projects. “Today, millennials don’t want to work full time, they would rather work in multiple organizations working on various projects, learning more, giving themselves some free time,” she said.

 

Gig work has also risen in popularity as it helps bridge the gaps in skills and requirements.

 

Redefining Gig

The word ‘gig’ is often equated with contract or short term work. “But gig is actually about gathering experiences and expertise,” according to Dhanashree Thakkar, Vice President HR, Bharti AXA Life Insurance. “A gig can also be full time without the eight-hour spectrum. There is a need of redefining that itself,” she said. For instance, there could be a requirement for specific expertise for some hours a day over a year or two.

 

Furthermore, gig work is no longer limited to junior roles and certain departments. Today, there are many senior roles in HR, legal and visual merchandising are being filled by gig employees. “When our legal head retired, we extended his expertise as a mentor,” shared Mehta of Metro Brands.

 

Today, millennials don’t want to work full time, they would rather work in multiple organisations working on various projects, learning more, giving themselves some free time.

 

Blended workforce

Thanks to the rise of the gig economy, today organisations have a workforce that is a blend of permanent and traditional. Interestingly, organisations end up hiring experts who have earlier worked with them, which makes managing the blended workforce easier for L&D professionals from an alignment and culture perspective.

 

“The percentage of gig employees is going to be higher now. The challenge often is getting the gig workers on to the project quickly, getting them comfortable with the team and its working style. The challenge of managing a blended workforce will be reduced if we can bring the gig employee up on the curve in terms of an organisation’s culture, which is nothing but the way we treat people and the way they feel,” said Saurabh Deshpande, Customer Care Associate & AVP – L & D, Shoppers Stop Ltd.

 

Unfortunately, gig employees are still not considered a part of the workforce—an area that still needs work. “The key lies in looking at the talent and skill they bring to the table rather than looking at the tenure,” added Deshpande.

 

Gig workers occupy around 30 to 40 per cent place in an organisation structure. There is a need to drive an agile workforce and integrate gig workers with full-time employees. Speaking of culture there are two things. “The first part is ownership and the second is collaboration. Attracting and retaining the right kind of gig talent should now be a part of a company’s strategic agenda not just an HR and L&OD mandate,” said Sonal Singh, Head Capability Development, V- Mart Retail Ltd.

 

According to Ahluwalia of Bigbasket, integrating gig employees with the workforce becomes easier if they are not looked at as temporary workers and even introduced that way. Bigbasket encourages gig workers who work remotely to meet their colleagues for lunch or coffee. This helps them gel with the team, and overcome the initial inhibition.

 

Gig workers occupy around 30 to 40 per cent place in an organisation structure. There is a need to drive an agile workforce and integrate gig workers with full-time employees.

 

Mehta of Metro suggested pairing the freelancer with a buddy or mentor to guide them which facilitates their adjustment to the organisation’s way of working.

 

Skilling gig workers

While most experts feel that gig workers are hired for their skills, making skilling them redundant, Bigbasket does offer learning opportunities to such employees. “We have adjusted the time of learning for most the L&D initiatives that happen with them,” she said. Gig employees can either learn on their own or join an online workshop or an existing offline class.

 

Giving an interesting take to the learning and skilling aspect, Isuru Kalamulla Waduge, Country Leadership and Competence Manager, IKEA said, “Freelancers come in with a lot of experience. And while they come in with a clear understanding of the assignment expectations, an interesting thing happens. A lot of full-time employees spend time with them learning from them. It’s a win-win for all…we get a freelancer who is delivering what we require and at the same time imparting knowledge to our co-workers.” Skill transfer to existing employees is the biggest benefit gig workers bring to an organisation.

 

Gig workers come with niche skills and fresh thinking. Working with different organisations exposes them to disruptive thinking. Skill transfer to existing employees is the biggest benefit gig workers bring to an organisation.

 

Gig workers come with niche skills and fresh thinking. Working with different organisations exposes them to disruptive thinking. V-Mart capitalises on this very strength by aligning its high potential full-time employees with such employees “so that they are exposed to that kind of learning environment and strategic and analytical thinking, creativity, innovation. These are some of the skills we want our employees to build upon. So we ensure that there are ample opportunities for learning transfer,” said Singh of V-Mart.

 

Lasting value

In addition to saving costs, gig employees bring a lot to the table and the ratio of variable to permanent employees in retail organisations is likely to increase soon. However, the relationship with gig employees shouldn’t end with the completion of a project. Singh suggests putting a strong feedback mechanism in place to improve the way organisations hire and integrate gig workers.

 

Making gig employment work depends on well-defined systems and processes and clarity in terms of expectations and job roles. Lastly, what’s required is a mindset from looking at gig workers as temporary hires to skilled assets. “We need to look at them not as employees at a lower cost but as assets with higher talent and passion,” said Deshpande of Shoppers Stop.

 

Also read: Tranform or be transformed

 

Article source: STOrai Magazine

 

Image source: Canva

 

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views, official policy or position of GlobalLinker.

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