In this advice column, we tackle industry challenges.
Q: Supposedly we’re entering the “gig economy” in which more people piece together an income through various freelance positions. As much as I try to offer full-time positions at my small retail shop, many of my employees are part-timers. Does this “gig economy” mean good things or bad things for my business?
A: It’s hard to say exactly what effects to so-called “gig economy” will have on any individual small company. It’s true that it’s becoming rarer for young workers to find long-lasting stable jobs, and this affects their ability to have health insurance, save for retirement, pay down loans and buy a home — factors that will impact the American economy as we know it.
According to a report by the American Action Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based policy institute, 2.1 million people gained employment as independent contractors from 2010 through 2014, accounting for 28.8% of all new jobs in that period.
But with the “gig economy” also comes more flexibility in scheduling, work arrangements and job expectations. Employers and employees alike are able to tailor their needs, rather than relying on one-size-fits-all job slots.
Whereas once shift planning may have meant a hard-copy calendar tacked to a bulletin board inside a retail shop, now scheduling exists in apps and software — thus it’s more personalized, digital and fluid based on what actually fits everyone’s complicated lives.
It’s good to be mindful of the squeeze on employees (and employers) as new job arrangements take hold. And non-desk employers should be aware of the growing conversation about what the “gig economy” means for offering benefits to workers who didn’t traditionally qualify for perks.
In the meantime, making shift planning easier and improving internal communication with employees in any retail store is a step forward — streamlining this process can help business overall and will make customers happy, too.