Here's How Your Business Can Make The Most Of The Gig Economy

This article was first published in The Huffington Post on September 8, 2016.

The potential and growth rate of the gig economy is creating a new labour and economic landscape.

Most businesses are just beginning to appreciate the benefits that the gig economy represents for them.

In our last piece, we shared some of the advantages and reasons why businesses of all sizes need to make engaging in the gig economy a key component of their growth and strategy plan (quick re-cap: it's the most efficient and cost effective way of accessing top talent to solve problems, grow, and innovate).

But while this disruption in the traditional labour landscape represents significant opportunities for businesses to increase internal creativity, productivity, and subsequently, profits -- actually and effectively doing so is often difficult.

To truly understand the business benefits of the gig economy, these are the three key changes that need to happen among company leaders, HR departments, and project managers.

1. Adopt A Project & Solution Framework:

Traditionally corporate growth strategies are framed around looking for a full time team member to lead a certain business area, function, service or region.

However, effectively leveraging the talent of the gig economy requires a new frame on recruitment and staffing.

This is not about trying to make a role that was traditionally a full-time senior position into a remote or part-time arrangement - it's about focusing on what the outcome or result that needs to be created is.
For instance, MTV, AOL, SAP, NBC are just some of big companies that regularly use freelancers to address work backlog, a need for special services and experiences, to overcome group think, and for rapid accountability.

2. Understand How Talent Is Moving:

The traditional frame on work tends to view freelancing or consulting as a reluctant secondary career choice - something that an individual would do as a stop-gap until the next full-time role is secured. Another common misconception is that it's another version of the "mommy track."

But today, the opposite is true. A shift in values and opportunities means that high talent individuals are opting out of the traditional work model to instead build senior level careers on their terms as project-based consultants and interim advisors.

It's a trend the Harvard Business Review describes as the rise of the "supertemp".

"Supertemps are top managers and professionals--from lawyers to CFOs or consultants--who've been trained at top schools and companies and who choose to pursue project-based careers independent of any major firm."

There are several forces driving this shift, including: a growing desire for (and value placed) on having autonomy and control over how and when work happens, experienced executives re-writing how they want to retire, and parents interested in a new and better way of combining careers and family.

"Supertemps" are increasingly hired to do mission critical work on projects that would have been done in the past by permanent employees or established outside consultants.

Organizations of all sizes need to recognize that top talent will increasingly be clustered in the gig economy and won't be interested in full time roles - and then adjust their recruitment channels accordingly.

3. Face-time vs. Commitment: End The Tension

For organizations to really engage and benefit from working with high talent individuals who are interim consultants, advisors, or project based hires, it is essential that they first address the entrenched bias against workers who don't conform to the traditional full-time onsite model.

Despite the business case for freelance and contract employees, the hallway culture of many organizations still penalizes this mode of employment.

The myth of the always there Ideal Worker is so entrenched in our work culture that too often colleagues, leaders, and employers, still unconsciously view consultants and freelancers as less committed, engaged, or ambitious.

Senior leadership needs to take deliberate steps to ensure that when interim executive talent does come on board, there's a strong understanding of the potential they offer and how to best integrate it into teams and projects.

For businesses of all sizes, maturity, and sectors, the gig economy remains a powerful and largely under-leveraged opportunity. But for organizations that become leaders in how to channel and apply this talent pool effectively, the potential competitive advantage is significant.

Michael Carter & Caleb Rubin

Michael Carter & Caleb Rubin are the Co-Founders of Kahuso an online platform they built to help accomplished executives find part-time, interim, advisory & board opportunities.

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