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Overcoming the Leadership Gap Part 3: The Gig Economy

The term ‘Gig Economy’ has become more popular over the last few years, but it is no surprise that it has pulled into a new era over the last year with the pandemic. As companies have had to reevaluate their needs in staffing, as well as employees evaluating their needs to balance personal and professional goals, the gig economy has gotten stronger.

While technology advances have made it easier to work remotely with an internet connection, the gig economy also encompasses construction and transportation. We can think of a ‘gig’ as something part-time, short-term, on-demand, and typically defined limits of what the work involves. Apps on our phone and websites have made the process of finding gigs that much easier for both parties involved and has been used for something as short as a 5 minute survey to full consulting agreements with independent contractors.

As we consider the leadership gap in terms of the gig economy, there is one area we have already explored – the generational shift. Many of those that are retiring are not taking the standard move to a warm climate and playing shuffleboard, there is still internal drive to stay engaged and busy just at a different compensation level than their previous careers. In order to utilize the institutional knowledge for many of these employees who are leaving the 40 hour work week, the gig economy is a great potential fit. Not only can these semi-retired resources be used for niche skillsets, but may also be a great fit for leadership coaching and mentoring to junior staff as upcoming leaders.

In addition to building leadership skills internally with gig workers, we also have to look at how gig work is attracting mid-level career employees. Throughout life shifts happen that cause each of us to balance personal and professional goals for a variety of reasons. Not only through the past year, but the gig economy has influenced many that have sought out additional flexibility in their schedules. One very evident industry of this increase has been ride shares and food delivery services. As this exit of mid-career professionals has potentially taken them out of their previous industries, recruiting and branding efforts to attract these employees back to the labor pool have to be considered. Increasing flexibility, opening options for part-time work, and being adaptable to the ebbs and flows of the business cycle for skills should all be on the table for discussion.

Some example scenarios where it may be the right time to ask internally if using a ‘gig’ worker makes sense:

  • A mid-level role has become vacant due to an employee leaving: Are the job responsibilities able to be parsed out to multiple people with minimal disruption to operations that can be foreseen? Is there a balance to be found between full-time salary and the efficiencies for someone more experienced in a skillset? Is the role one that there has been a natural cycle that includes a ‘busy’ or ‘slow’ season?

  • A senior leader is interested in retiring or has given their notice to retire: Do they possess institutional knowledge that may not be able to be transferred in their proposed timeline? Have they displayed ideal organizational cultural traits that other leaders should learn from internally?

  • A strategic business plan seeks to explore a new product or offering area: Are there consultants or short-term project leaders available to plan out the new product launch to ensure its success? Is there interest in exploring before fully committing to a new addition to your service offering portfolio? Are margins already tight in the established revenue streams that capital may not be available yet to dive deep into these new areas?

While it may be uncomfortable to stray away from the norm of filling full time positions with full time employees, the gig labor market should not be ignored as you plan your staffing and recruitment internally. Shaping your organizational structure with this new possibility of gig workers and other ways structures have been affected will be our next focused topic, so stick with us as we continue to dig into how to address the leadership gap.

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