It’s a buzz word that is gaining momentum, but does the gig economy really affect IT departments and firms? Or is its impact limited to low-paid, unskilled workers?
Let’s be clear, the gig economy is not a term to define a group of workers – it refers to an entire economic system where most workers are ‘self-employed’. Some commentators predict the UK and the USA will reach that point in 2020… I seriously doubt it.
But there has been a rise in self-employed workers (now 15% of the UK workforce*), and there are many more workers doing part-time gig projects in the evenings and weekends that are almost impossible to count.
So what’s the impact of all this gigging on the IT department?
If more IT experts become independent workers, then the pool of permanent staff shrinks. That may result in a less loyal workforce (and your new ideas or IP could leak) but could also lead to greater cross-fertilisation of ideas (as independent workers move to new firms and take their experience with them).
If independent work becomes the norm in IT, organisations will have to adjust to the additional planning and management required. As there are fewer permanent staff, will there be greater temptation to outsource the IT function because co-ordinating several contractors for routine IT functions becomes a drain on management resources?
Digital work platforms (PeoplePerHour.com, etc) give IT managers access to a global talent pool and make hiring gig workers a lot easier. But they can also create an environment where workers are treated as a commodity. Remember, gig workers are human so treat them with respect as the good ones are in demand and have a choice of work.
Skills in project managing remote or overseas workers could be in high demand as independent workers may not want to commute to the office every day (it contradicts flexible working).
More flexible working (from home?) and an IT department that grows and shrinks with demand could result in a review of the office space needed for this tech function. Is your operation ready for a workforce of mainly self-employed IT workers?
But why would more IT workers prefer self-employment?
We are told that millennials (workers who will be 17-37 years old in 2017) want more flexible work opportunities. Self-employment potentially gives them flexibility and a better work:life balance.
As the number of gig workers rises, so their political power grows and their demands for greater rights will be heard by MPs. We have already seen Hermes, the courier firm, under investigation for alleged ‘false self-employment’ after many gig drivers complained. Self-employment could soon have similar rights to permanent, yet another reason for IT workers to jump the fence.
This post is part of a series about the gig economy and its impact on IT talent acquisition. Other posts have examined the question ‘What’s the impact of the gig economy on Recruitment Departments?’ and ‘What’s the impact of the gig economy on IT contractors?‘.
* Office of National Statistics (May-July 2009) total employed in the UK was 29m, of which 13% were self-employed. In May-July 2016 the total employed was 31.7m, of which 15% were self-employed.