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[#WorkTrends] The End of Jobs and The Rise of On-Demand Workers

Driven by the desire for more work-life flexibility, more and more of us now consider gig work our full-time jobs. In fact, just before the pandemic hit, the workplace saw a 43 percent increase in on-demand workers. And gig workers now comprise 1 Trillion dollars of the total U.S. freelancing income.

But what does this mean for the future of work — especially in post-pandemic years to come? How will workers and companies react to accelerating change in the workplace?

Our Guest: Jeff Wald, Founder of Work Market

Jeff Wald is the Founder of Work Market, an enterprise software platform that enables companies to manage freelancers. He is also the author of The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations. Jeff is known as a student of the workforce and forecaster on what the future will hold for employees and employers, so I couldn’t wait to dive into this future of work conversation!

After discussing the increasing role of tech in the future of work, including Jeff’s summation that history shows technology does not take away jobs, we discussed:

  • How the lessons learned from the past three industrial revolutions help us better understand today and tomorrow’s labor market
  • How we ensure fairness for workers by setting clear rules for companies (which includes Jeff’s thoughts on the $15 per hour minimum wage)
  • The surprising inspiration for Jeff’s The End of Jobs: The Rise of On-Demand Workers and Agile Corporations
  • How the pandemic has impacted the world of work, including the biggest surprise of the COVID-19 crisis
  • The key takeaways from the book — and how they apply to on-demand workers, people working remotely, and also employers

I’m sure you’ll enjoy listening to Jeff’s take on the future of work. Be sure to listen to this entire episode of #WorkTrends!


Find Jeff on LinkedIn and Twitter.


Editor’s note: We’ve given our #WorkTrends Podcast page (and also our FAQ page too) a fresh, new look. Please tell us your thoughts?


Photo: Ali Yahya

#WorkTrends: Going Gig: Freelancing in HR

Meghan invited both Chris Russell, the founder of HR Lancers, and Jim Stroud, VP of Marketing at Proactive Talent, to talk about the new trend in HR: hiring freelancers and consultants to fill in the gaps. 

COVID-19’s uncertainties are leaving no field untouched, including HR. As Jim said, “if employees hear the whiff of a rumor, or a layoff or have any kind of indication that their job might be in jeopardy or a furlough,” they might venture to freelance as a quick way to gain income and stay afloat. Further, freelancing is on the rise among millennials who are leaving the city. They can make their living at home — now more than ever before, noted Meghan. 

But not everyone’s cut out for the gig, Jim said. It takes self-discipline and the ability to self-structure, particularly now. Schedules may be more flexible, but kids and mounting responsibilities can add up. But the demand is there: Companies are hiring experts to help bridge the gaps, and sourcing out project-based, niched assignments like crafting job descriptions or writing a handbook. For smaller companies, this may be an effective solution. 

And if we see universal healthcare, said Chris, we’ll also see an explosion in freelancers. Meghan concurred: If benefits weren’t tied to employment, a lot more people would go independent. And that’s something companies need to think about, Jim added. Companies could be much more competitive at attracting top freelancers if they offered to cover healthcare expenses for the duration of a gig. And Meghan predicts we’ll see HR shifting along with the rest of the gig economy‚ and it’s going to be interesting to see how that changes our practices. 

Listen to the full conversation and see our questions for the upcoming #WorkTrends Twitter Chat. And don’t forget to subscribe, so you don’t miss an episode.

Twitter Chat Questions

Q1: Why are more organizations hiring freelancers for HR? #WorkTrends
Q2: How is freelancing changing the nature of HR? #WorkTrends
Q3: How can leaders better attract top HR freelancers? #WorkTrends

Find Chris Russell on Linkedin and Twitter

Find Jim Stroud on Linkedin and Twitter

How Mastercard Is Evolving Payments for the Gig Economy

At the 2018 Collaboration in the Gig Economy conference in Dallas earlier this month, I was struck by the keynote message, delivered by Dr. Vivienne Ming. Her thesis: There’s a lot of fear and buzz about AI taking over the workforce, but we will always need people’s problem-solving skills to supplement those algorithms. And because we’ll always need people, we’ll always need payments.

That’s why we’re excited to play an integral role in ushering in the next era of the gig economy. At Mastercard, we believe it’s time for more sophisticated, tailor-made solution to support this emerging workforce.

Both the challenge and the stakes are right in front of us. The role of payment is critical to the gig economy, and enabling payment is the golden thread that ties it all together.

What Gig Workers Want

At Mastercard we began focusing on the gig economy more than two years ago, talking to hundreds of gig workers around the world and fielding research with thousands more. The results were illuminating.

We heard that the best and worst aspect about gig work is the flexibility. Nobody gives you any structure, workers tell us, so you have to create that on your own — not always the easiest task under old payment paradigms.

Our research clearly shows that the inefficiency of payments is one of the most prevalent obstacles keeping independent workers from fully realizing the flexibility and independence that attracts many people to gig work in the first place.
Here is what they want:

  • Visibility into their gig. Mastercard research shows that today, 90 percent of gig workers use their personal payment product for business purposes, mixing their personal and professional expenses. This generates confusion about inflows and outflows and a poor understand of the gig’s profitability.
  • Fast payments. Only a small percentage of gig platforms have fast payment capabilities, but when they offer it, gig workers love it. Fifty-seven percent of Uber and Lyft drivers use instant or express pay apps to get paid out instantly; 36 percent use it at least three times a week.
  • Benefits. Gig workers do not have the same benefits full time employees have, and they feel the pain. 76 percent of gig workers would value merchant offers linked to their card, considering this a necessary feature of their payment solution.

A Global Gig Payment Solution

The Mastercard Gig Payment Solution was co-created with gig workers to address their specific needs. We applied design thinking and a user-centric development process to build an end-to-end solution that answers both gig platforms’ and gig workers’ needs.

This payment solution resonates with the key insights of our research. We built the value proposition around the three pillars of visibility, fast payments and benefits.

The new prepaid card for gig workers give them a better visibility into their gigs, allowing them to separate their gig from their personal life; also, the solution enables gig workers to request an instant payment from the platform as soon as the buyer has made payment. It gives access to benefits such as discounts and rebates at over 40,000 relevant merchants and device insurance.

We are working with many partners all around the world to seize the opportunity to serve gig workers with a new and more effective payment solution, through new product launches, partnerships and more.

The gig economy is thriving and here to stay. The time for intelligent payment solutions to support this revolution is upon us.

This post is sponsored by Mastercard.

How Payments and Collaboration Are Evolving in the Gig Economy

As the gig economy continues to expand and transform the workforce in significant ways, HR professionals and other business leaders should be thinking about the implications these changes will have for their organizations and their people.

Millions of people are already freelancers, entrepreneurs and independent workers who rely on short-term engagements for all or part of their income, and the number is only expected to grow in the coming years. A 2016 study by the McKinsey Global Institute says independent workers make up 20-30 percent of the workforce in the U.S. and key European countries, with the figure projected to climb.

Such a dramatic transformation in the global workforce will have profound implications for workers and organizations alike, while also presenting opportunities for smart organizations that can help usher in this new era.

Diverse Backgrounds and Needs

Mastercard began focusing on the Gig Economy over two years ago, talking to hundreds of Gig workers and fielding research with thousands more. Gig workers are not only ride-sharing drivers, they are also service providers of all types, sellers of goods such as crafts and jewelry, as well as lessors of short-term room, apartment and house rentals. Some 85 percent of gig workers have multiple gigs, the Mastercard report says, and they represent a diverse set of people, from the underbanked to the affluent across multiple generations. They also have unique business needs.

With the growth of a global independent workforce, a number of clear pain points have emerged, with the inefficiency of payments ranking near the top. Based on the research a report by Mastercard cites, 84 percent of gig workers said they would perform more gig work if they were paid faster, and 90 percent said they use personal payment products for business purposes.

Meanwhile, many independent worker platforms are struggling to manage payments. Research indicates that only 44 percent of payments are made through such platforms, and only 17 percent pay their workers with fast payments, increasing the risk that independent workers will leave those one gig platform for another that better serves their needs.

Payment Evolution

In recent months a number of companies in the market have identified ways to serve independent workers through new acquisitions, product launches, partnerships and more. Mastercard, for example, created an end-to-end solution with a business card for independent workers to help separate business from personal finances. Most important, the solution enables gig platforms to pay workers immediately when the gig is finished and the buyer payment made. So gig workers get paid faster. It also provides benefits such as discounts and rebates at over 40,000 relevant merchants.

Mastercard Gig Solution was co-created with gig workers to address their specific needs. The company believes the program is a fast, frictionless and secure solution that supports everyone in the value chain, from individual workers to platforms.

The solution offers freelancers greater visibility into their finances through a separate account specifically for gig income and expenses. For organizations looking to engage with gig workers, Mastercard says its solution allows them get to market quickly and earn worker loyalty, while generating greater revenue.

The company’s solution is a fascinating and innovative early entry into a growing wave of financial solutions aimed at servicing a gig worker phenomenon that is already transforming the global economy.

This post is sponsored by Mastercard.

#WorkTrends: The Future of Work: On-Demand Talent

The future of work is going to look radically different as it will be fueled by on-demand talent. And perhaps no one will be more affected by this disruption than HR. But what will those changes look like and is HR prepared for this shift?

This week on WorkTrends, we’re talking to Carisa Miklusak. She is an HR tech veteran who worked for CareerBuilder for many years. Three years ago, she founded tilr (TILL-err), a technology platform that automates the recruitment process for job seekers and companies. Her goal is to shrink the skills gap and eliminate bias in hiring. In this conversation, we talk through misconceptions about the gig economy and how some traditional hiring methods might not work with the contingent workforce.

You can listen to the full episode below or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

Misconceptions About the Gig Economy

Many people think that gig work applies to either younger people, low-skill workers or people who couldn’t get W2 jobs, but Miklusak says it’s really quite the opposite. “What I’d love for HR people to hear and take away is that people are choosing to work differently and they have more options of how to work, and they’re starting to develop new motivations for work.”

There’s been a cultural shift in the current workforce, and all kinds of people are drawn to contingent work. “Learning and growing and having flexibility have risen to the top of these workplace values, even over making another dollar or two per hour or another $20,000 per year,” she says.

This isn’t a special class of workers. She says they’re the same workers who were taking W2 jobs yesterday, but now that there’s a system that allows you to work differently, they’re choosing this option.

At tilr, the company has workers who want to be “giggers” and go from one project to the next. But tilr is also attracting people who are exploring different projects and looking for a company they want work with on a permanent basis. Some other tilr workers are giggers for a while and then they go back in the traditional workforce, and then they come back as giggers.

Search Technology Isn’t Working for the Gig Economy

Miklusak says the current search technology still relies on a candidate’s job title as the main building block of recruitment. That’s not working. “What we’ve learned is that titles can actually be limiting and screen people out rather than screen them in.”

In the new workforce, people often have many different jobs over the course of their career, and their skills are more likely to reveal not only what they’re good at, but what they want to do. “Tilr doesn’t look at titles, gender, age or years of experience,” she says. It looks at skills and proficiency.

This has allowed the company to reallocate talent differently. “What we find is, let’s say Charlie did job A and job B, and he gained skills one through three at job A, and then skills four, five, and six in job B, but he’s never done job C,” she says. “Job C simply requires skills one and five, which he has from his prior two roles, so our search technology will actually present that job to Charlie, and if he accepts, because the decision’s up to him, we’ll measure the outcome of that reallocation.”

And if Charlie turns out to be a good fit, she says the algorithm starts to really learn about how you can look at skills and reallocate talent in very effective, new ways.

Interviews May Become Obsolete

As this matching process becomes more advanced, Miklusak believes it might do away with job interviews. “One of the reasons that we’ve focused on the gig economy as we started to introduce this technology to business leaders and to workers is because we do believe that it’s easier to start to make this mind shift to an algorithm without an interview for jobs with start and end dates.”

“Interviews can be really misleading because some people are great persuasive communicators, and although an interview is a great way to get to know a person and learn about their communication style, it’s often truly not indicative, nor is their title, of how they’re going to perform in the role.” So tilr has replaced the traditional interview with a few hours or days onsite in a temporary fashion, based on skills, to really see how someone performs.

However, tilr does ask workers to pass a background check, and the company speaks with every single worker by phone. “We’ve talked with over 30,000 people about their skills, ambitions, the type of jobs they’d like to see, what would really inspire them.” She says that while a human talks to them now, in the future, there might be a chatbot asking questions.

There’s a lot more to unpack here about how HR will change in the face of an increasingly contingent workforce. Let’s keep the conversation going! Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

#WorkTrends: How Hollywood Is Killing HR

What are you working on right now? Who’s helping you?

If you’re like a lot of people, you’re probably working on projects with a broad range of people — employees, freelancers, contractors and everyone in between. How long have you worked with them? Will you ever talk to them again after this project? And most importantly, what’s your connection to each other and to the work?

This week on #WorkTrends, we’re talking to leadership coach Lisa Prior. She’s passionate about helping leaders bring out the best in themselves and their people. In our conversation, we went deep on how the changing nature of work is changing our relationships and our sense of connection. If you’ve never heard of the “Hollywood model,” you’re going to want to listen in or keep reading. It’s a fascinating way to think about the changing status quo for careers.

You can listen to the full episode below, or keep reading for this week’s topic. Share your thoughts with us using the hashtag #WorkTrends.

What Is the Hollywood Model?

A generation ago, everyone worked in a traditional, hierarchical model. The workers were at the bottom and the leaders were at the top, in a pyramid. Then, that pyramid flattened a bit and we saw more of a matrix management structure. Now, experts are pointing to a new way of working: Just like teams come together to make a movie in Hollywood, then disband and move on to the next project, we’re all moving through a fluid work structure, based on projects and outcomes instead of strict, defined teams and hierarchies.

But, Prior says, HR hasn’t kept up with that new model. Instead, we’re still using the same tools and structures to manage talent that we did in the industrial era — and it’s not working.

What we’re missing is connection between people, she says. “Even though the Hollywood model has its appeal, I also think it can be a bit dysfunctional. There is no depth of connection.”

How to Create Connection

So, how can organizations create connections among their people, whether they’re employees, freelancers, contractors or a combination of many different kinds of workers? Prior says it’s all about homing in on where people’s passion and talent meet the organization’s goals. She thinks about that point like a Venn Diagram overlap — the nexus of passion, talent and goals.

Forget Programs and Initiatives. Improve the Core Work Experience

First, she says, HR has to shift the mindset about the employee experience. “We tend to think about the employee experience as something that we’re going to create all these programs for and initiatives,” she says, when what we need to think about is the work experience itself. The goal? “Give employees purpose and relationships and development that helps them take charge of their lives by taking charge of their careers.”

Consider Your Company’s “Software”

“Leaders have to pay attention to the ‘hardware’ — the strategy, the playbook, the goals and objectives. That gets measured. But what’s often shortchanged is what I call the ‘software’ side,” she says. Prior says leaders should think about their company culture as an operating system.

Consider elements of your organization that don’t show up on a balance sheet: What’s the vision? How do you want people to relate to each other? How do you want them to collaborate and communicate across groups? What is your specific expectation of the executive team and the team that reports to them? What kind of environment should they create for people to work in?

“Leaders have to own the culture, but someone has to be stewarding along the activities that can help create the culture and make it happen,” she says.

Focus on Career Development

The gig economy gives workers a lot of freedom and flexibility, but it also brings a loss of loyalty and security. “Career development is the new job security,” Prior says. “It has become essential in the organization’s fabric.” But instead of thinking about career development as a traditional top-down initiative, Prior says, we need to put more tools in workers’ hands.

In her book, “Take Charge of Your VIEW: Career Advice You Won’t Get from Your Boss,” Prior maps out four skills for career development in the new world of work:

  • Vision: Have a vision for your life and how your career fits into it.
  • Insight: Understand your own strengths and your impact on others. What do you need to change or improve?
  • Engagement: How will you create a nexus between your passion and talents and what the organization needs?
  • Will: If you don’t have the will to make your plan happen, then your ideas and plans will just sit in your journal. Will is how you move forward and take action.

If you can work on all four of those areas, Prior says, you have a roadmap for navigating modern work life.

Continue the conversation. Join us on Twitter (#WorkTrends) for our weekly chat on Wednesdays at 1:30 p.m. Eastern, 10:30 a.m. Pacific or anywhere in the world you are joining from to discuss this topic and more.

What’s the Role of Company Culture in the Gig Economy?

Company culture is a huge factor when it comes to recruiting and retaining employees and building an organization’s public reputation. But does culture matter for freelancers, consultants and contract workers in the gig economy — those who have a company of one?

Yes, says Marion McGovern, author of “Thriving in the Gig Economy.” “The whole culture thing goes hand-in-hand with your brand,” she says, even if you’re small. “Culture is what makes people resonate with your mission. If that’s true for big companies, why shouldn’t it be true for a small one? Even if you’re a company of one, you’re still in a community of clients and other people who can help you serve those clients.”

Whether you’re just starting out on your own or have been working solo for years, culture is still vital to the work you do. Here’s what you need to know about how culture works in a company of one.

Culture Brings Multiple Benefits

Large organizations focus on company culture because having happy employees makes them more productive. A strong company culture can also help a company sharpen its brand and stand out in its market, and a company of one can take advantage of these benefits as well. “If you believe what organizational experts say, culture is really the most important thing in defining a company and creating the best experience for your customer,” McGovern says. “Every company, even if it’s just your company of one, should focus on it.”

This can sometimes be a challenge, especially for freelancers or contract workers who left full-time employment because they didn’t want to be a part of corporate life anymore, McGovern says. But if you’ve made the choice and decided that being a company of one is your path, configuring a company culture will help you think about issues important to your business, she says.

Your Culture Communicates Your Value

When you set out on your own, you probably knew how you wanted to run your business. For many, that looks like wanting to make more money on their own or having more control over their time, McGovern says. But as the day-to-day reality of running a business set in, those ideas may have changed or gotten pushed aside as you worked to keep the lights on. Establishing values — for yourself, for the kind of work you want to take on and how you’ll do that work — will give you guideposts for your business and help you set a culture.

You likely have a good idea of your own values; they’re what pushed you to work on your own. For organizational values, look at what makes your company stand out, McGovern says — the “special sauce” that you add to get results for your customers. It might be collaboration, inquiry or creativity, for example. Whatever it is, it can serve as a stake for your company culture that guides how you work, the kinds of projects you take on an the clients you work with.

Scott Poniewaz, founder of Austin-based The Pony Group, is intentional about his culture of one. “When starting my freelance and consulting career, I knew that the area of marketing was crowded, so I needed to decide if I was going to be a scrappy growth hacker or develop my brand and persona around a more professional demeanor,” he says. “I went with the latter.”

While he works with many startups, his polished website design and “Fractional CMO” tagline communicate gravitas for larger, more established clients. His office space plays a role as well: “I easily could be in a hip co-working space, but instead chose a more professional office” in a building that’s home to banks, investment funds, title companies and lawyers, he says. “It’s not as hip, but it provides me the opportunity to attract and work with serious and well-funded clients.”

Your Company Is Part of a Larger Community

Just because you’re a company of one doesn’t mean you’re a single player. You’re part of a larger community, and having a strong culture will help you find partners, clients and connections that can build your business. “That culture matters not just to you but to the community that you are a part of,” McGovern says.

It can be helpful to go to your community — former co-workers, clients and colleagues — and get their input on the value you bring and how they see you as you define your culture. “It might feel awkward, like you’re fishing for compliments, but you’re fishing for competence,” McGovern says. Ask people what they would hire you for, what they think you do best, and what suggestions they have to strengthen and highlight your culture. “People buy from people. When you’re an independent, in essence, you’re selling yourself,” McGovern says.

The Gig Economy: Distraction from a Real Problem or Disruption to the System?

Uber. Airbnb. TaskRabbit. Fiverr. These companies and many others like them have been recent harbingers of change in the business world. Known as the “gig economy,” this new way of working that allows people—with the click of an app—to earn a little money on the side, when and where they want, appears to be here to stay. In fact, a recent study showed the number of Americans benefiting from alternative work arrangements rose by nearly 10 million between 2005 and 2015.

That study revealed something else, which for “gig economy” naysayers was telling: The online, “app-driven” workforce accounted for less than one percent of the gig economy workforce in 2015. The majority of these “alternative work arrangements” were not digitally focused and app-driven, which is what most media reporting on the gig economy tends to focus on.

So, who are these workers? According to the report, they are on-call workers, temporary help agency workers, contract workers, and independent contractors or freelancers. Among them, the fastest growing group is contracted workers. And that’s a little scary. Where does that leave today’s job seekers? Are the halcyon days of company loyalty, full benefits, and long-term employment prospects over?

Has the Gig Economy Hurt the Workforce? 

However you slice it, the gig economy has definitely hurt the workforce. In 2014, the U.S. Department of Labor’s David Weil coined the term “the fissured workplace.” He also published a book of the same name and found there’s been a seismic change in the way companies do business, shifting from focusing on employee-worker relations to placing priority on “building a devoted customer base and delivering value to investors.”

The results haven’t been pretty, and they go a long way toward accounting for those high numbers of people I mentioned above—those engaged in the “non-digital” side of the gig economy. As Weil writes in his book “The Fissured Workplace,” “…large corporations have shed their role as direct employers of the people responsible for their products, in favor of outsourcing work to small companies that compete fiercely with one another. The result has been declining wages, eroding benefits, inadequate health and safety conditions, and ever-widening income inequality.”

Ironically, Apple, the very company that has been at the forefront of the rapid technological changes that have allowed this work splintering to occur, is one of the worst, employing fewer than 10 percent of the more than one million workers around the world who design, make, and sell their products.

This doesn’t bode well for new graduates entering the workforce. Nearly a decade after the last Great Recession, most Americans are still anxious about their futures, economic and otherwise.

The Impact of the Gig Economy

Economists tend to be our “canaries in the coal mine,” if you will, and many of them feel the gig economy and the resultant instability in the workforce due to increased outsourcing will have a huge impact on our economy in years to come.

“The general suppression of peoples’ ability to earn a good wage is part of what is leading to slower overall growth, what some people call secular stagnation… [and] it contributes to the ornery politics that we have now,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Washington-based Economic Policy Institute, in a recent Bloomberg article.

And while the U.S. jobless rate of around five percent looks good on paper, that number masks the fact that wage growth has stagnated, and a higher number of people than ever are working part time due to the overall decrease in full-time opportunities. If people can’t earn, they can’t buy. Nor can they invest in retirement and/or health care benefits for their families, nor help their kids with the costs of higher education.

Are We All Doomed?

No, of course not. The tech-driven gig economy has brought many new jobs to the table, and offers the opportunity to work remotely to people who can’t access more traditional 9-to-5 office jobs due to location or transportation issues. In fact, of the nearly nine-million-plus new jobs created in America since 2005, nearly all of them have been “gig economy” style employment. And job growth of any type is always good news.

There are, however, very real issues we have to face to avoid feeling doomed. The tidal wave of change in the way companies run their businesses is not going to stop. And this “flexible” work world we’ve created, with all its pluses and minuses, is not going away. There is an urgent need for corporations, governments, and society as a whole to adjust to these changes so workers don’t get left behind. As entire industries are transformed by the gig economy, and new “gigs” are created due to rapid technological advancement, people with the skill sets to fill those gigs will be needed.

Today’s flexible work structure has the power to fundamentally disrupt our place in the world. The next five years will reveal unprecedented upheaval for business. It’s up to us, as a society, to proactively get our arms around these changes and modernize training programs, regulatory policies, and employment laws so both businesses and workers benefit from the gig economy—truly the fourth industrial revolution, whether we like it or not.

Photo Credit: Flickr via Compfight cc

Leadership: Adapting to Today’s Harsh Realities

The world in which we live is going through fundamental shifts – simultaneous changes that are literally turning everything, as we know it, on its head. Leaders of today and tomorrow are challenged with addressing these aspects to drive the business forward.

From the influence of technology, to a struggling world economy veiled in high unemployment, protectionism and a depleting middle class, most of us are at odds with these concurrent shifts in events that are disrupting our livelihoods and expectations of career paths.

We must overcome our fear of fundamental shifts and learn how to adapt to the new reality. One could not have fathomed the news of robots and computers displacing highly skilled workers in the near term. But that is today’s harsh reality.

Large corporations simply are not ready. While consumer behavior and expectations continue to evolve, the businesses have not kept pace. Companies have experienced a deterioration of control, despite knowing the eventual need for upheaving the precious infrastructure of the organization.

In the next decade, leadership will take many sharp turns in the journey.  These current trends will challenge organizational leadership.

  • Globalization has opened the borders and has given rise to emerging markets with an evolving middle class. Pressure from global competition is quickly elevating more nimble companies to the forefront while those within the Fortune 500, mired in traditional practices and legacy structures are falling to the wayside: Blockbuster, Borders, Eastman Kodak, among others. More companies are or will be integrating automation capabilities to streamline process, improve productivity and increase speed and accuracy in communication within the organization and to all customer touch points.

For leaders, the need to adapt to market speed will be tantamount to managing the real-time complexities of the market pulse, customer tendencies, competitive pressures and brand position.

  • The Rise of the Millennials gives credence to a generation who has, by far, experienced a mercurial existence compared to their older counterparts. With their natural affinity to tech adoption, plus their unpredictable job prospects, this future generation of leaders will influence the way corporations function, how the workplace is governed and how business practices are developed.

Tomorrow’s leaders will shake the foundation of today’s business with a zeal to drive significant revision in response to the expectation of continuous market disorder. The complacency, which is common among many of today’s leaders, will cease to exist.

  • Data will be more pervasive than ever and artificial intelligence and machine learning science will be interwoven into all areas of the organization to capture meaningful insights that will improve decision-making capabilities.

Leadership will be challenged when they are confronted with the opportunity to share their datasets with partners, vendors and even competitors to create an open source environment that will yield an improved contextual understanding of markets and customers, but will also allow for a much different market dynamic.

  • The Gig Economy will become more pronounced as companies begin to flatten their structures to make way for increased efficiency across the organization. And while many of these processes will be automated, the demand for acute skills across many verticals will create a more defined need for specific outputs on a task basis or as Google terms, “work-for-hire as the new normal”.

For leaders, they will be tasked with creating a black book of contingency or flexible workers but will be challenged to retain top talent under these conditions.

  • Growing Economic Uncertainty will also expose a workforce population caught in the grips of technological change, and are left unprepared to evolve with the demands of the time. The groundswell towards Universal Basic Income will make it necessary to give a boost to an economy in uncertain times. On the other end of the spectrum, the impetus of technology which gives strength to efficiencies, will make many things more affordable, which should help keep the economic wheel turning.

This is, by far, a significant hurdle that will consume business as they battle the elements that will attempt to hinder performance.

I have hesitated to mention Climate Change, This, in itself, will have its catastrophic impacts in the next 30 years. Government, research and corporate investments will prioritize spending to mitigate its effects but as we’ve seen thus far, unless various governments are willing to recognize its eventual impacts, let alone its existence, the efforts of the changing business landscape becomes a moot point.  

Leadership in the coming decade will be unlike what we’ve witnessed in the last 30 years. The simultaneous shifts in economy, technology, consumption, employment, environment and politics necessitate a mindset that not only seeks to sustain organizations, but also push for a fervent, more social-conscious mentality.


Photo Credit: Fundamental Advisory Flickr via Compfight cc

Does the Gig Economy Have an HR Department?

The gig economy, also called the “on-demand economy,” represents a growing sector of the job market where millions of people work as freelancers and independent contractors, hiring themselves and their skills out for income as clients need them.

Many workers love this lifestyle due to the freedom it offers, but one of the notable challenges is that these freelancers may not have access to a human resources department and, if they do, they probably don’t get to meet its representatives face to face.

Essentially, the gig economy has changed how some human resources departments operate and has subsequently shaped what freelancers do when they need job-related assistance.

A Huge Portion of the Workforce

Statistics from 2015 indicate there are 53 million people who worked as freelancers that year. Although those individuals earned 17 percent more on an hourly basis than full-time employees working in traditional settings, their overall career earnings were 28 percent less than their peers because they didn’t work as many hours.

The gig economy has the most workers in Los Angeles, but it’s growing most rapidly in Orlando. Plus, it’s expected the on-demand workforce will continue to prosper. Employers particularly like hiring workers to contribute to the gig economy because they can save significant amounts of money on payroll costs by doing so. But, what do on-demand workers do when they need help with something that would characteristically be handled by an HR department?

Mobile Technology Moves to the Forefront

Until recently, on-demand workers were often largely, or completely, on their own when it came to being assigned work, getting feedback and resolving problems. However, things are changing.

Forward-thinking companies have realized HR solutions for the gig economy are needed and will be most readily adopted if they’re offered via mobile platforms. HR professionals often manage their teams in very fluid ways, and they need to be able to monitor things from wherever they, or their teams, are.

Of course, certain tools are needed to make this process run smoothly, and many remote team have found services like VPNs and Cloud documents to be real lifesavers. As Ksenia Votinova, Technology Entrepreneur & Chief Marketing Officer at Le VPN, explains of the former:

“Connecting without a VPN means remote or traveling employees could be compromising their security and all their business communication, documents, access codes to online platforms, even the content of VOIP calls. Using a VPN resolves these issues.”

However, using mobile tech for gig workers extends further than just giving them secure ways to connect to workplace interfaces. When gig workers rarely or never see HR professionals, it can make them feel like there’s no recourse when problems arise, or even if they need clarification about something in the worker agreement they signed.

That’s why it’s important for companies to give gig workers ways to touch base with them as needed. Teleconferences conducted with headsets and tablets, smartphone messaging apps and project management interfaces are all things that could be used effectively to help HR professionals stay abreast of what’s going on with gig workers, when applicable.

Disputes in the On-Demand Economy

The gig economy offers a favorable way to work for people who love to get tasks done, often while doing things that are naturally part of their lifestyles, such as driving. Also, they go about their business without being under the constantly watchful eyes of their bosses. However, it can also become hectic if customers make complaints.

Companies like Lyft and Uber allow freelance workers to directly interact with clients who need transportation assistance. Although, when disputes arise, these workers are usually out of luck.

Uber has published a descriptive list of things that could cause drivers to get “deactivated,” meaning they can’t work. Although the company says drivers may get transportation privileges reinstated if they do things like attend training sessions, there’s not yet an appeals process in place.

Uber drivers, and similar service providers, are considered independent contractors. The companies that provide them with income don’t have to offer benefits, and they make the workers take care of their own taxes. HR departments are nonexistent for these freelancers. The only thing left for these workers to do when they have problems, then, is to file lawsuits against the respective businesses.

Things get even trickier because the laws determining whether a worker is an independent contractor or employee vary by state, and gig workers often don’t fit neatly into either category. Also, because most work becomes available through apps, many of the companies in the industry are considered “software technology companies.”

The legal framework for that sector is still being developed, because current labor laws don’t fit what gig workers do. Some workers may find a precedent has not yet been set, leaving them caught in a stressful legal limbo.

Access to a Worldwide Market

In the United States, nearly a third of workers complete on-demand tasks. Although this option isn’t yet as popular in the United Kingdom, it’s going through a period of similarly fast growth. There, the number of self-employed workers is nearly the same as amount of public sector employees.

Many of the top gig economy websites advertise how clients get nearly instant access to workers from around the globe. That’s good news for people who need specialized work done fast or at odd hours, but as should now be clear, these worldwide contributors often don’t have access to an HR department when they have questions or things go wrong. If they do, help may be a continent away.

Although it’s true many gig workers have the good fortune of earning income flexibly without ever running into problems, that’s not a very realistic expectation. After all, gig workers often interact with dozens of customers daily. A gig worker’s earnings could be compromised by poor feedback or even disputes about things that never actually occurred. When these things happen in traditional workforces, people can usually go to their HR representatives, but for gig workers, an HR department is often unavailable. Hopefully HR resources offered by companies or independent HR firms can fill the gap for workers as the gig economy continues to grow.

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Free Agent Nation Romance: The Good, The Bad, And The Unknown

You know the story. Once upon a time, companies courted new talent with the promise of a lifelong relationship. “Work” meant employment, training, benefits, and job security for years, if not decades. But for many, if not most companies and employees, the romance has died.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, an estimated 40% of all U.S. workers now operate on a part-time or contract basis. Josh Bersin adds:

“Bottom Line: the workforce of today is specialized and highly virtual: working part-time, mobile, from home, and often on a contract basis. Our research shows that among large employers upwards of 32% of all positions are now “part-time” or contract-based.”

Bersin argues that social media have enabled employers and a fast-moving, trained workforce to link up with “local projects, local tasks, and local jobs.” He gives the examples of the rapid growth of job boards such as TaskRabbit and GigWalk, and notes that “this mode of work has hit the corporate market as well. . . . But they don’t see what’s really coming – an explosion of mobile, virtual, local workers. One can think of these new services as “mobile-enabled, local job-boards” – but what they really are is enablers of the younger, more virtual workforce.”

Here’s the bottom line and our collective reality check. Bersin sums it up nicely here “the contingent workforce is now a permanent fixture, so many elements of talent management, recruiting and engagement are being extended to these mobile ‘free agents.’

Really? Just how well are leaders rising to the occasion in this “highly scalable” new world order they’ve created?

Let’s take a closer look at this Brave New Free Agent World of Work. 

1) The Good

Flexibility. For both employers and employees. Lots of my friends, especially my mom friends, like having freelance jobs for that reason.

Varied work experiences. Freelances can try different kinds of work and companies, without committing to any of them. They are “pan-opportunists.”

New skills. We like having the chance to reinvent ourselves and gain new skills. We never stop dreaming. This is very exciting.

Savings for companies. Firms save millions by not giving benefits or providing training or career ladders, and by freely expanding or contracting their workforce as needed. (All of which gives us a fascinating meaning to the word free in “free agents” and “freelancers” . . . )

Adapting to the new culture. “The fast-moving, technologically dynamic global economy has forced leaders to think about work in modular, ever- shifting ways. Organizations that can adapt, change, and innovate quickly have an advantage today. [Having] contingent and contract workers can facilitate this change.”

2) The Bad

No bennies. While my freelancer friends like the flexibility, none of them likes the lack health care, sick time, vacation pay, or other bennies. Many of them would willingly give up the flexibility if they could find work at firms offering these benefits.

No job security. Ever had that pit-in-the-stomach feeling as one project ends and you can’t see the next one over the horizon?

No training. No comment. There is no excuse for bad leadership. This should be a must for all companies and leaders. Even for “consultants” or “free lancers”

No engagement. What’s being done by leading-edge companies to ensure that contingent workers fit into the culture and engage with the organization? In fact, in nearly every way you can name, contractors are still considered “second-class citizens” in most corporate settings.

Less stability. The most stable firms are those that have stable and loyal employees. Oh no. Not good.

3) The Unknown

Have companies and their employees broken up for good?

Williams and Bersin seem to agree that contingent work is here to stay, in massive numbers. And so do I. The facts speaks for themselves.


“Dana Shaw, former senior Vice-President for Staffing Industry Analysts, reported that in the Fortune 100 companies, contingent workers make up 20-30% of the workforce, but predicts it will soon be 50%. Statistics Canada reported that by 2009, 52% of all temporary jobs were contract jobs, 25% of them were professionals. . . . McKinsey &Co. reported that 65% of U.S. corporations have restructured their workforce and have no plans to return to pre-recession employment, but rather are opting for contingent and contract work when the need for expansion takes place.”

What about innovation? What does freelancers’ “pan-opportunism” mean for innovation? The results aren’t in. All I know for sure is that innovation generally comes from companies who nurture their teams, support their passions, and given them scope to imagine and produce. This does not sound like a description of a company dependent on a contingent workforce.

As freelancers begin having families, needing health care, wanting stability, and so on, will they change—and insist on more meaningful relationships with companies? And, therefore, will we have the happy ending: with these protagonists getting back together in more permanent ways, both wiser than before?

Social media is awesome. It has done astounding things, producing cultural transformations in HR and Leadership and Technology we never dreamed of even a few years ago. Surely we should—and can—use it to foster fidelity between leaders and contract employees. Can we agree that building a fair, meaningful relationship between these parties is a good thing . . . for leaders, free agents, and our global world of work?

So. Light the candles . . . put on the mood music . . . And think strategically about the kind of relationships that will allow us to live happily ever after in our careers.

Will social media combined with this unstable jobs economy forever lead companies and employees into the arms of many different suitors, relationships, careers?

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photo credit: The Office(at home) via photopin (license)

Surviving the Gig Economy: When your Talent Pool Refuses to Stay Put

If the last decade has taught us something, it’s that we will live in a world that continues to disrupt. It is impacting how people behave, how they consume information and how business should operate, as a result.

The economy that, in years’ past, has been the fortress of stability, is now as predictable as tomorrow’s stock market. This has spawned a domino effect concurrent with the introduction of technologies that give rise to the fickle consumer, and now…. the ever growing nomadic workforce.

The one certainty we have today is change. Companies are changing because they have to.

Nothing is what it was supposed to be. Careers that should have been launched from years of hard work and education are now relegated to a series of opportunities indicative of a more entrepreneurial economy.

The Guardian says this

Today, more and more of us choose, instead, to make our living working gigs rather than full time. To the optimists, it promises a future of empowered entrepreneurs and boundless innovation. To the naysayers, it portends a dystopian future of disenfranchised workers hunting for their next wedge of piecework.

In our latest Blended Generation Think Tank, our panellists of Boomers, GenXers and Millennials agreed that loyalty to any one company does not exist today. It is, for all intents and purposes, a “false promise”.

With the number of Millennials now becoming an increasing majority in the work force, they want to make a difference. While money is initial motivator, it is merely table stakes. Here is how some of our Millennials put it:
For GenXers and Boomers, who have lived through this turmoil multiple times, Doug Haslam said it best:

I never thought of 3 years or job impermanence as a fear, but an expectation

For many companies, the expectation of large budgets, a stable workforce are no longer realities.

For our Millennials, here’s how they see their ‘careers’ progressing:

  • Earning every dollar  keeps you on your toes. You have to keep “being good” at what you’re doing to remain in the company. GenY refuses to be “this” vulnerable to any organization, and instead be more in control of their destiny.
  • The concept of rising through the ranks has become less about climbing the corporate ladder. It’s no longer linear  but a longer path that means more lateral movements over time.
  • Competing for work means picking up new skills with each new opportunity and becoming a jack-of-all-trades.
  • Continuous learning to remain relevant and marketable is now an expectation.
  • Working for any one company is not enough. This highly-networked generation will always explore “side-hustle” passion projects.

Startups realize the expectation of change is expected and embraced. People, in the new economy, will move from one opportunity to another.

There is this growing desire to have control over one’s fate. No longer does anyone want their destiny decided by a corporation, which has proven time and time again it ONLY looks after its own interests and that of its shareholders… at least, that is how the employee perceives it.

One thing that is clear: people are loyal to people NOT to corporations.

If you are a manager, your job is to support the company initiatives but you have a greater responsibility to the employees you manage. One of our wise Boomers said it best

Other than my commitment to help the company do what I can under the circumstances it is facing, the only commitment I have can make it is to the employee through coaching, managing, training and respecting and nurturing their abilities… One thing I tell those I manage: You will be better going out than coming in.

~Steve Dodd

What’s under a manager’s control is to create an environment that allows employees opportunities to contribute and feel part of “something” while they are there. The investment in talent means the following:

  • Lead by inspiration, not by job function or process.
  • Creativity and ideas should come from everywhere, and not dictated by job description.
  • Trust your employees. Have faith in their abilities. There is a reason they were hired.
  • Give employees a stake in the outcome. Give them ownership and recognize their successes and contributions informally and formally.
  • For Millennials, constant feedback is appreciated. It’s what they’re accustomed to and how they learn.
  • Find ways to take people outside what they are doing and comfortably stretch them into other areas.

In other words,

Put the people first. Develop them in ways that are meaningful for them.

Let’s face it, the new work environment cannot guarantee it can retain the best employees. However, developing an employee-centric culture allows a company to increase productivity, sustain awesome employees longer, and attract top talent in the process.