The convenience of modern technology and the ability to procure information ‘on-demand’ has become a welcomed luxury in the workplace. Applications like Trello, designed to boost efficiency and collaboration among workers, and communication software like Skype, are shaping the way corporations conduct business. Between innovation in technology and the cultural shift in what constitutes as desirable in the workplace, employers are striving to update internal practices, reworking processes to align with the needs of the evolving workplace. This paradigm shift will continue to have a transformational impact on employers over the next few years, altering the way we connect, earn a living, and navigate the business world. Here's what's trending.
Movement Towards an On-Demand Workforce
The progression towards a gig economy is rehabilitating the traditional anatomy of our workforce. These independent workers, classified by individuals who have job fluidity, establish their own work schedules, and contract with an assortment of clients or employers throughout the year, account for nearly 3 in 10 U.S. workers. In Upwork's recently released Freelancing in America Study, they found that 57.3 million people freelanced this year, with an estimated growth rate that is three times faster than the US workforce overall since 2014.
Hourly employees and gig workers can provide economic benefits for companies who are weathering staffing shortages or looking for an alternative to making layoffs. Whether it be an unexpected departure from an all-star employee, maternity leave, disability-related absences, or the need for someone’s expertise on a temporary project, hiring a contingent worker can be a valuable asset to a company.
A Cultural Crusade: The Driving Force Behind the Gigger Mentality
The surge in gig workers can be largely attributed to two factors: the growing demands of the millennial generation, who have surpassed gen-xers as the largest group dominating our workforce, and the 94% of business leaders who plan on continuing and expanding their use of skilled contingent workers. In a recent Snagajob and LinkedIn study, their findings confirmed this theory, concluding that 71% of hourly workers surveyed were under the age of 30.
Companies looking to attract and retain this talent pool will need to integrate certain perks and programs into their core offerings in order to satiate the millennial palate. Career mobility and professional development, policies surrounding social responsibility, and work-life balance are some of the components that harmonize with the interests of this generation. In addition, they are motivated by the greater mission of the company, continually striving to exceed their previous successes, and excelling in environments where accomplishments are recognized and rewarded.
As the evolution of our workforce continues to grow, so will the corresponding demand for policies and programs that address the challenges and needs of employers and workers in this space. Progressive leaders like Virginia Senator, Mark Warner, have begun to recognize the attention this division of labor requires, proposing new bills focused on portable benefits for gig workers.
TechCrunch recently penned an article regarding Warner’s bill, which is the first of its kind to propose national-level legislation for non-traditional workers. The bill petitions for $20 million in federal funding for employers to use towards the research and implementation of benefits programs for gig workers that can be transferred from job to job.
Interlacing Fingers: The Fusion of Technology & Workers
Every day, it seems like news channels are broadcasting new stories surrounding automation in the workplace - Lowe’s courteous service reps, ‘Lowebots;’ the digital shopping assistant, ‘Macy’s On Call’ (which can be accessed via mobile); the mouth-watering drone delivery service from Chipotle; Crowne Plaza’s endearing room service robot named Dash. Researchers and economic forecasters have been closely monitoring how technology will impact the future of employment, predicting that many occupations will become automated over the next 20 years.
For workers, this means nurturing the skills that are impervious to automation. Client-facing or service-centered roles and positions that require creativity, like jobs in the hospitality industry, will always require the distinct human touch in order to excel.
The Woes of Underemployment
Unemployment seems to continually seize the labor market spotlight, while underemployment takes a back seat. However, current figures illustrate a different story; one where workers have considerable commutes, feel they are undercompensated, and are craving more hours in order to lead a fulfilling life. Inefficiencies in the workplace are creating an environment conducive to underemployment, especially as it pertains to hourly workers. Many employees are available to work, yet their schedules fail to maximize their hours. Ironically, many employers are shelling out overtime dollars to accommodate their understaffed offices.
Whether employers elect to use new performance management software, implement incentivized programs to reward achievements on an individual level, or initiate more flexible work opportunities, they must address the needs of hourly employees. Optimizing productivity is the core goal here, and employers will need to invest enough time to evaluate what solution(s) will be advantageous to the company and its workers.
As the global diversification of employees, business automation and robotics, and autonomy in the workplace continue to shape the business world, employers will need to adapt to the changing demands of our progressing labor market.