The Gig Economy: short term virtual jobs for knowledge workers

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

AME Sponsorships, retired Newport News Shipbuilding

The Gig economy is an environment in which temporary positions are common and virtual organizations contract with knowledge workers for short-term engagements to create virtual jobs.

Virtual organizations employ electronic means to transact business. It implies a high degree of telecommuting as well as using remote facilities. The concept explores issues surrounding virtual organizations from a knowledge management perspective.

The design of the 21st-century virtual workforce for the Gig economy will present new challenges to HR, technology, and business leaders that require deeper levels of collaboration to develop solutions. The open talent economy and the new workforce along with the second machine age are coming into focus, redefining “talent” to include people and machines working in different places under different contracts.

A new HR model will require more of a focus on developing people-centric leadership who can engage and motivate virtual teams that are constantly changing their makeup which is considerably more difficult to manage than in the traditional brick and mortar business environment where there's face to face interaction with the co-located resources.

A study by Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. In the digital age, the workforce is increasingly mobile and work can increasingly be done from anywhere, so the job and location are decoupled.

The term virtual organization implies the novel and innovative relationships between organizations and individuals.  A virtual organization involves detached and disseminated entities (from employees to entire enterprises) and requiring information technology and telecommunications to extend its capabilities by working routinely with employees or contractors located throughout the country.

Virtual companies with their virtual jobs are becoming more popular than ever before.  According to the Intuit Study regular telecommuting grew by 79.7 percent between 2005 and 2012, and that doesn’t even count people who are self-employed and working from home. Virtual teams have become the norm for managerial and professional people in complex organizations. While most virtual workers are employed by traditional, office-based companies, there are quite a few virtual companies and distributed teams taking remote work to the next level.

The digital revolution is partially responsible for the recent return to peer-to-peer exchange. Most of the new on-demand services rely on a population equipped with computers or GPS-enabled smartphones. Furthermore, the social capital we’ve digitized on Facebook and LinkedIn makes it easier to trust that semi-anonymous peer.

There’s certainly something empowering about being your own boss. With the right mindset, you can achieve a better work-life balance. It’s also empowering to receive steady pay checks, fixed work hours and company provided benefits. It’s harder to plan your life longer term when you don’t know how much money you’re going to be making next year.

The Accenture Strategy 2016 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study highlights the disparity between new graduate expectations and the reality of the working world, and examines how employers can improve the employee experience to attract and retain top talent. Only 20 percent of recent graduates want to work in large companies.

If large companies expect to attract and retain the best and brightest, they need to deliver a different kind of work experience—what’s being calling an internal Gig experience. That means offering the security of full-time employment, but at the same time moving employees from gig to gig internally—taking a project-based perspective with more frequent job rotation.

On the other hand, starting a new business has generally been an all-or-nothing proposition, requiring an appetite for taking risks. There are benefits for dipping your foot into the entrepreneurial waters by experimenting with a few gigs. Perhaps this lowering of barriers to entrepreneurship will spur more innovation across the economy and drive more diverse job opportunities.

The economy is now powered by millions of micro-entrepreneurs who own their businesses, rather than a small number of giant corporations. Virtual jobs for knowledge workers is fast becoming the new normal for the Gig economy.