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Gig Economy: What It Is And How Businesses Can Adapt

Either way, this new workforce is an integral part of business success in the 21st century.

In this article, the workforce-management experts at Sling discuss everything you need to know about the gig economy so your business can adapt, evolve, and improve.

What Is The Gig Economy?

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The gig economy — also known as the shared economy and the liquid workforce — is a segment of the current labor pool that works on a contingent basis.

And just to avoid confusion, the word “gig” in gig economy — pronounced with a hard g like “go” — is musician’s slang for a one-off performance (or one that lasts for a specified period of time), as opposed to permanent employment.

The “gig” in gig economy does not refer to the gigabyte (a unit of data storage), nor does it refer to the jig (a lively dance with leaping movements or a device that holds a piece of work and guides the tools operating on it).

Freelancers and consultants have long operated under a form of the gig economy by taking on temporary positions and short-term projects within a larger organization before moving on to another position or project.

Now, though, with the growth of on-demand services such as Uber, DoorDash, Airbnb, and others, the gig economy is spreading into corners of the market that were once the exclusive domain of the more traditional corporate business model.

Industries That Participate In The Gig Economy

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Recently, the gig economy has grown in usefulness and popularity within such industries as:

  • I.T.
  • Software development
  • Project management
  • Accounting and finance
  • Education
  • Construction
  • Media and communications
  • Freelance writing
  • Arts and design
  • Transportation
  • Material moving

For example, a tech company may hire a freelance information security engineer or a network analyst to review certain aspects of their infrastructure from an unbiased, uninvolved perspective.

A more familiar example of the gig economy in action — and perhaps one of the original proponents of the concept — is the education sector that hires substitute teachers, instructors, and tutors for temporary jobs on an as-needed basis.

Keep in mind that the list above is not exhaustive nor exclusive.

All businesses, regardless of niche, can benefit in small and large ways by harnessing the flexibility, breadth, and depth of the gig economy.

Business Benefits Of The Gig Economy

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1) Low Overhead

Office space, along with labor costs, is one of the biggest expenses that most businesses will face.

You need room for your full-time and part-time employees to move about and do what needs to be done to make your business a success.

With the gig economy, however, freelancers, consultants, and temporary employees often work remotely or only report to a physical location for a short time.

Because of that, your business can maintain a smaller workspace and keep overhead (e.g., utilities, maintenance, equipment, supplies, etc.) low and under control.

2) Less Need For Employee Benefits

With the gig economy, your business can keep employee benefits — be they fringe or otherwise — at a minimum due to the temporary nature of employment.

Benefits are a strategy many companies use to recruit and retain the best employees for their team.

While you may have to pay gig workers a bit more for their experience and expertise, your business will still save money in the long run because it won’t have to pay for healthcare, insurance, retirement, and other extras.

3) Minimal Training

Two workers in an office discussing the gig economy

Keeping the skills of your regular employees up-to-date with on-the-job training is a challenging prospect for businesses large and small.

The gig economy, however, reduces the need for employee training, and, in some cases, removes it completely.

Your business can hire freelancers or consultants with the exact mix of skills it needs, without having to spend time and money getting everyone up to speed.

4) Agility

Another benefit of the gig economy is that it provides a significant amount of agility to the way a business operates.

With temporary workers, your business can scale its workforce up or down quickly to meet the changing demands of the market.

Being able to react quickly like this in the face of economic factors can ultimately mean the difference between failure and success in this fast-paced business ecosystem.

5) Experts For Specific Projects

The gig economy allows businesses to contract with experts for a specific project or need that only comes up once in a while.

For example, instead of spending hard-earned capital and time developing unique skills in one or two employees, your business can contract with a freelancer or consultant for highly-technical maintenance or reviews that are only necessary once or twice a year.

Business Challenges Of The Gig Economy

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1) Maintaining Corporate Culture

One significant challenge of mixing the gig economy with regular, in-house employees is maintaining corporate culture.

Most often, a business will maintain its culture through a mix of hiring, team-building, and training.

With so many temporary gig workers coming and going, however, it can be extremely difficult to sustain a consistent culture amongst your team.

It’s not impossible, but it certainly is more difficult.

2) Supporting Worker Mobility Under The Gig Economy

The gig economy, by its very nature, is extremely mobile. With a computer, a car (or even a bike), freelancers and consultants can work just about anywhere.

But if your business chooses to engage these types of employees, it may have to support that mobility in order to enjoy the benefits mentioned earlier in the article.

For example, your business will need to provide access to shared company software and cloud-based collaboration programs in order to integrate a consultant into the workflow.

You may even have to provide specialized hardware if it’s necessary for the job.

3) Teams Can Be Harder To Manage

Three people working on laptops in co-working space

Yes, managers have to coordinate team members to get the job done, but they also have their own specific tasks they need to accomplish.

Hiring temporary employees from the gig economy increases the level of manager involvement necessary for teams to progress.

New employees — regardless of their technical expertise — often have lots of questions. Without an extensive support staff, these issues can draw a manager away from their core work and cause delays within the business.

4) Enabling Collaboration

Collaboration is difficult enough with a team that works together on a regular basis.

But with the gig economy, collaboration is made even more difficult because team members are here one day and gone the next.

Like corporate culture, enabling collaboration within and around the gig economy is not impossible, it just might take a bit more doing than it would with a regular team.

5) Assessing Workplace Needs

The needs of your employees will dictate how you structure and outfit your office. But hiring from within the gig economy can make assessing workplace needs more of a murky proposition.

With most employees — or even a small number of employees — working offsite, your business may not know what it needs to compete until the need actually arises.

By then, it may be too late to react and your business can suffer.

The Gig Economy Depends On Scheduling

Sling app for scheduling to help gig economy

Because of the temporary nature of the gig economy, creating accurate schedules can be very difficult.

Computer software, though, simplifies the job of workforce management, but it comes with a caveat. You’ve got to use the right software.

Scheduling employees with anything other than the best workforce optimization software — with Sling — makes the job even more difficult than it would be without the software.

The Sling suite of tools is perfect for creating even the most difficult types of schedules because it offers features that other programs don’t.

Features of the Sling app include:

  • Powerful and intuitive scheduling
  • Comprehensive time-tracking (with geofencing)
  • Dynamic reporting
  • Time-saving payroll processing
  • Customizable communication (e.g., location-specific or team-wide)
  • Effective budgeting
  • Productive labor-cost optimization
  • Helpful overtime control
  • Flexible cloud-based distribution
  • And much more…

The Sling app even incorporates onboard artificial intelligence that warns you when conflicts arise and then suggests solutions.

Try Sling for free to discover the myriad ways it can help streamline the way you schedule around the gig economy and how it can take your business to the next level.

For more free resources to help you manage your business better, organize and schedule your team, and track and calculate labor costs, visit today.

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This content is for informational purposes and is not intended as legal, tax, HR, or any other professional advice. Please contact an attorney or other professional for specific advice.

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