Where we do business, who we do business with, and how we work are all changing. The rise of the gig or sharing economy – and the burgeoning success of apps like Uber and Airbnb – is creating a new breed of workers.
In this new economy middle man roles are eliminated or diminished, and people have no set hours or ongoing commitments.
Contractor life might sound great, but there is a degree of uncertainty that comes with not knowing how much you’ll make week to week.
Despite some of the obvious downsides – like no employee benefits – it’s estimated that some 150 million workers in North America and Europe are working as independent contractors – and the success of tech service platforms like Uber are at least partly credited with this transition.
But what challenges and opportunities does the gig economy present for leaders? Here are four key areas I’ve identified that need attention.
As many of the best and brightest shift to working for themselves, staff retention will be a big challenge for companies. Team continuity is highly desirable, but a report by McKinsey recently found that “knowledge-intensive industries and creative occupations are the largest and fastest-growing segments of the freelance economy”. One potential solution? Adopting a startup mentality, often characterised by a culture of idea sharing. Creating a mission-driven culture where there is room for innovation and experimentation will help to keep your team engaged – and benefit your business.
Embrace Technology for Good
Technology – and especially mobile technology – is a major element of this new ‘gig’ economy, but leaders should be discerning about how, why and when a business will use technology. The end goal should not be digital disruption, but the enhancement of the end-to-end customer experience. The imperative to use technology to improve efficiencies should be balanced against the need for quality human connections. Leaders will need to reflect on the end-to-end consumer experience to a greater extent and ensure a client-centric model underpins all interactions. Ask: What opportunities do we offer for personal connection with our consumer? Stakeholder feedback will be critical too.
Innovation Isn’t Just an App
New technologies are an important aspect of modern workplaces, but they’re only part of the story. While uberisation – defined as “a different way of buying or using [a service], especially using mobile technology” – has its place, it isn’t relevant to all people and all businesses who want to use a service. Leaders must keep their target consumers’ needs front of mind, and can also consider some of the other ways to innovate as a business. Co-creation, waste minimisation and partnerships are some of the ways companies can implement innovative practices into their business. You can also check out this article I wrote recently about nine innovative consumer trends.
Accept the Pace
The pace of change is perhaps one of the biggest challenges for businesses across the board. In 2019 artificial intelligence (AI), augmented reality (AR), apps, drones, and advanced robotics have all become mainstream tech vernacular. Allocating and respecting the time and resources needed to think creatively as a business is essential. Leaders must accept that continuous innovation in business is no longer a choice. And continual review and assessment will be vital to getting it right.
As consumers, the gig economy means more choice and greater convenience than ever before. But, more than ever, businesses and leaders must ensure that you bring your team and customers along for the ride. This means balancing the need for fast-paced innovation against cultural considerations, and constantly assessing our end-to-end experience from both a technological and human experience perspective.