Are Your Managers Prepared for the Gig Economy?

The 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey shows that 43% of South African Millennials are ready to embrace the gig economy. The gig economy is the segment of the labour market which is characterised by self-employed contractors or part-time employees opting to work flexible hours instead of the traditional nine-to-five working hours. Gig workers are paid for each assignment or project (gig) they work on. Technology is their gateway to employment and they find “gigs” by registering on mobile apps and websites advertising their services and skills. According to a Senior Associate at Bowmans, “15.6% of the UK’s workforce make up the gig economy, the figure is 34% in the US and expected to rise to 43% by the year 2020, with South Africa silently following suit.”

Management skills for the gig economy

There are certain sectors of the gig economy where the traditional management functions are now being carried out by algorithms. A recent article in the New York Times by Alex Rosenblat whose soon to be released book “Uberland: How Algorithms Are Rewriting the Rules of Work”, describes how the management function at Uber has been automated by an algorithm managing the workforce via their mobile phones. There are nearly a million active Uber drivers in the United States and Canada, and none of them have human supervisors.

For those sectors of the gig economy where workers are not managed via their mobile phones, traditional management skills are still essential in motivating and engaging gig workers to ensure their highest levels of productivity, creativity and innovation. Managers responsible for gig workers should be:

Committed Onboarders – Although gig workers are temporary employees, they still need to be introduced to the company culture, the team members they will be working with and the work that they will be doing. Gig worker onboarding time, although considerably shortened, must be carefully planned and skilfully executed by managers.

Excellent Communicators – Because gig workers are temporary employees and are unfamiliar with the inner workings of the organisation, they should always be kept in the loop and provided with the necessary context to facilitate their understanding of the task at hand. Managers must be able to effortlessly express their organisations purpose, brand and culture.

Skilled Collaborators – Leaders must facilitate collaboration between gig workers and full-time employees in order to create a cohesive team which is always on the same page and is able to work in alignment, to achieve organisational objectives.

Experienced Project Managers – Leaders must be skilled at setting clear parameters and deadlines for assignments and ensuring that key deliverables and responsibilities are communicated monitored and met, using relevant and appropriately selected metrics.

Skilled Coaches and Performance Managers – They must provide coaching, recognition and regular feedback against the project deliverables as outlined in the performance contract. Recognition and feedback are human needs and are not confined to full-time employees.

It seems as though the management/leadership skills required for gig economy workers are not too different from those needed to manage permanent employees. However, managing the gig workforce is definitely challenging and organisations should ensure that their leaders are adequately equipped to successfully integrate and gain the greatest levels of productivity from this talent segment.

By Natanya Rutstein


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