The freelance market is gaining considerable momentum. With contractors projected to make up 43% of the workforce by 2020 (compared with 6% in 1989), the desire to shift from traditional full-time roles is on the rise.
The gig economy, or ‘connected market’ as it’s often known, is set to be worth £43bn globally by 2020, according to PwC research.
The marketplace itself is becoming more tolerant of the temporary role, not least because of the larger pool of freelancers and contractors it creates, but also the transitory attitude of the modern worker.
Millennials are a larger and larger part of the workforce and they are more comfortable than other generations in an environment where changing jobs frequently is not an uncommon practice. Millennials seem to place a greater emphasis on new experiences and gaining new skills than on long-term roles in a single organisation.
We often associate gig economy workers with low pay and low skill requirements. So, the question about whether an interim should be considered part of the gig economy might seem somewhat absurd, especially when you compare an experienced senior executive with an Uber driver or bicycle delivery person, for example.
But, if the broad definition of the gig economy is a marketplace where temporary, rather than permanent, contractors are hired to complete a specific function, then an interim executive could be considered a 'gig' worker.
Yes, interims are highly-skilled and are generally well-paid for their work. But they also suit the increasing requirement businesess have for filling key skill gaps, especially during specific periods of transition and transformation.
How are businesses benefitting from the gig economy?
Businesses can leverage the 'gig' mindset to optimise their resources and competitive advantage. The entrepreneurial mindset is a prerequisite for culture benefits ranging from flexibility, autonomy, and control.
Hiring temporary or freelance workers allows employers to fill and unfill skill gaps on an 'as and when needed' basis, flexing to meet requirements of today's oft-changing marketplace. Businesses are able to select from a wider pool of experts, making talent acquisition (albeit in the short term) all the more agile.
This approach also offers benefits beyond filling skills gaps, such as exposing permanent members of staff to fresh insight and different knowledge, allowing them to broaden their skillsets and experiences which is retained in the company. Along those lines, it enables the hiring of experts that might be too expensive or unnecessary to keep on full time.
As well as savings on permanent salary contracts, other costs like benefits, office space and training - often associated with permanent workers - can often be avoided with fixed duration contracts.
Currently the gig economy is thriving. But as it expands, we should expect to see a crackdown on existing loopholes if it is going to be considered a safe place for more and more contractors and experts.
Does the transitory nature of the gig economy contribute to a less cohesive workforce? And will the increasing presence of the 'job hopper' mentality cause talent retention to become problematic?
These are questions that will continue to be asked. And with the rise of the gig economy comes the need for a shift in mindset, particularly from those who so often repudiate changes to the traditional work mentality.