Musings on the gig economy Post-Covid: The genie is out of the bottle and doesn’t want to go back
Organizations that do not seize the opportunity and harness freelance talents as assets will miss out on a slice of the expert manpower pizza pie, writes Ariel Halevi
Forbes magazine recently posted the following data, according to which, 60 million freelancers were registered in the U.S in 2020, and that number is only expected to keep rising. Their motivation: the flexibility of working from home. Ninety percent of business owners expect that they will increasingly need to rely on transient and independent workers.
Working from home during the pandemic has served as an “induction” for this so-called birth of occupational independence. People have realized that they would rather provide services to several different organizations, rather than gather all of their “skill-eggs” into a single basket. In parallel, organizations and businesses have come to understand that they may not need to employ one full-time worker, especially when the market is in limbo and said employee’s talents are not needed full-time.
The working world is trending towards partnerships and collaborations that have long been engaged in, in other areas of our lives. This trend can be compared to a man who is in possession of and fully owns a car: he is required to pay insurance, maintenance, and parking fees, even if he barely uses the vehicle at all. To save on unnecessary costs and make the most of the vehicles on the road, a worldwide trend erupted: ride-sharing. There is no need to own a vehicle when one can share one with others. Now, the occupational world is becoming more “mobile” as well, understanding that it too, can share its precious assets as needed: workers.
This will likely happen to many other professions: they will become shareable and the world will shift over towards singular communications/engagement with freelancers. This change will undoubtedly bring with it its fair share of new challenges, and we will need to learn to adapt while on the job: how to keep going, be cohesive, retain workers/customers, transfer information, and develop expertise. Conversely, it is precisely this shift to an approach through which transient workers focus on defined tasks that will enable freelancers to continuously examine themselves and strive to achieve excellence, so as to keep earning a living. This, as opposed to employees who spend years under the employment of large companies, but only work to a moderate level of satisfaction.
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Employers will need to put together lists of parameters that help them understand whether a position should be permanent or project-based. New managers will have to place basic trust in the worker’s ability to manage him or herself. The Covid-19 pandemic opened the door to a new challenge: a forced departure from micromanagement. The occupational revolution is bidding farewell to the industrial revolution that brought with it timecards we had to punch at the start and end of each work day, as well as during breaks. The illusion of control has been shattered, making space for a new paradigm, according to which “I am not supervising my employees, but rather am giving them access to the tools they need to work independently.” Whoever insists that their employees return to full-time positions will lose out of excellent workers.
Employers will no longer be able to rely on permanent workers alone. Covid-19 has created a situation in which employees must tend to other commitments as soon as their “accepted” work day comes to a close, and they are no longer interested in working overtime. As a result, a pool of freelancers has been created, and these alternative workers are filling in for the salaried employees, at off-hours. This change requires precise descriptions of necessary and desired work processes so that the freelancers – who are not familiar with the organization’s methods and practices – can swiftly and seamlessly execute tasks, even when no one is available to answer questions.
Global organizations have a global challenge: being a singular organization that is also able to adapt itself to various regions in the world. Here, leveraging freelancers provides unprecedented opportunities: the salary that would traditionally go to a full-time employee can be used to hire five freelancers in five regions and in five languages.
Freelancers are an important and growing source of talent in the working world. People want greater flexibility and remote working opportunities. Organizations that do not seize the opportunity and harness freelance talents as assets will miss out on a slice of the expert manpower pizza pie.
Robert Nickell, the Founder and President of Rocket Station, a business processing outsourcing company, once said: “The pandemic has taught businesses two important lessons. One, that remote working isn’t just an option, but rather, a preference. The second lesson is that the average person wants flexibility and freedom in their life. Employers must prepare. The genie is out of the bottle, and there’s no going back.”
Ariel Halevi is a Founding Partner of VAYOMAR , a company that specializes in improving performance and decision making among Executive Leadership Teams, sales teams, and mid-level managers.