The evolution of work culture and the gig economy

Organisations worldwide have become more diverse, team-focused, and less hierarchical. Organisational employment structures are shifting, too. Companies are hiring and retaining employees in a hybrid method, with higher numbers each year subscribing to the gig economy. The ‘gig economy’ which has many names (i.e. consultant, contingent, contract, independent, part-time, on-call, temporary, or even colloquially, “the side hustle”), has quickly become the market standard.

One particularly important domino-like effect companies will have to consider is the impact of part-time vs full-time staff on company culture. Such human capital concerns of the future must be addressed.

[Related article: How the gig economy has evolved and what to expect next]

 

The Gig Economy as the new norm

SIOP’s Annual Top 10 Workplace Trends, based on members’ surveys, clearly points to this shift. In one year (2018 to 2019), interest in the gig economy went from being the 10th to the 4th most prominent trend on the list. However, we know that gig-work is more than just a trend. 

Through 2019, in the United States alone, 41 million American gig-workers created $1.28 trillion in revenue, proving themselves a sizable and powerful part of the economy. And not surprisingly, in the UK, the size of the gig economy doubled between 2016 to 2019. Globally, companies are embracing this restructuring towards a more ‘flexible workforce’ which is soon to be considered the norm.

According to Harvard Business Review (HBR), freelancers have become just as important to company success as full-time employees which necessitates the need for them to be considered in the company culture. 

 

How can we evolve our work cultures to support the Gig Economy?

Companies now have two choices: learn to evolve in support of the gig economy or face obsoletion. 

Companies must ask themselves internally:

How can we minimise the negative effects of a transient workforce while continuing to capitalise on the obvious benefits?

 

Based on initial findings, there are certain value propositions that companies can focus on which may help ease into this transition. Values can be seen as guideposts for company culture to sit upon. They’re critical for creating an inclusive culture! Innovative companies will be built on values, philosophies, and beliefs that fundamentally consider the gig-worker experience.

But maybe it’s not that complicated. In the article by HBR, it is mentioned that contracted workers prefer to align with companies that treat them as part of the team. 

As with most workers, part-time workers need to receive value beyond the basic and professional transaction in which doing a job provides. Research is starting to show that many principles that are already embedded in current human capital strategies will remain important. 

8 ways to build a Gig-friendly company culture of the future:

  • Unapologetically include the gig-worker into your employee experience design
  • Offer opportunities to learn and grow, including personal development plans
  • Create common goals – something to work towards together
  • Cultivate a positive attitude by acknowledging successes of both full-time and part-time employees
  • Provide meaning and give employees a sense of purpose, even part-time employees need to buy-into the company vision
  • Emphasise employee wellness 
  • Listen to your employees and provide them with a platform to give and receive feedback easily 

 

The common theme? Having a concern for the individual. Companies that value the gig-worker as a human, and as an individual, will enjoy a competitive advantage in maintaining and retaining good workers, however transient.