Have you noticed what a different feeling you get when someone says they do freelance work verses when someone says they do temp work? A Freelancer – doesn’t that sound like the perfect job? It kind of creates an image, they get to work when they want to, take time off when they want to and their work is interesting and fun. A Temp Worker – you might get an entirely different impression of what that would be like, probably not quite as positive.
While the Gig Economy has grown, today less than 16% of our workforce is under this arrangement according to a study done by Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger. There are lots of questions about whether this will grow to a much larger percentage of our workforce or not. What workers and employers alike are going to have to ponder…what will be the long-term effects if there is no reason for loyalty on either side of the work equation and what about continuity of workers, common purpose, understanding internal company processes and protocols, working in a consistent culture? Will anyone be truly effective if they are changing positions every few months or more?
We all know the buzz now is Gig Economy, it is kind of the rage and Millennials want it! It is hard to read anything about workforce trends and not have it at least mentioned. According to a recent Forbes article the opening paragraph said, “Whether your primary motivation is to choose your own hours and work from home, travel the world while earning a living, become your own boss or otherwise, countless millennials are opting to ditch traditional full-time employment and cash in on the gig economy.” And I’m sure you’ve read things that lead us all to believe our workforce is going to be moving in this direction because this is what the up and coming American worker wants. Not so fast…according to a study done in 2016 by the Shift Commission on Work, Workers, and Technology as reported in Bloomberg Business earlier this year, for the US contingent workforce – (temps, on-call workers, contract company workers, ICs and freelancers), this is not a life most workers want.
What’s Really Most Important to Workers
Some might think the interest is very different for low verses high income workers, however what this report revealed is, a “stable and secure” income is more important than “making more money” as a priority for all income groups. While there is a lot of discussion around this trend, let’s remember this type of working arrangement isn’t new, contingent arrangements have been around as long as workers have gotten paid.
As a recruiter, I am more often than not talking with potential candidates for CEO to Director level roles, many whom are Millennials. I can’t think of one person, who is likely a Millennial, that has seriously said they want to move to a gig job and definitely those who have been looking for a job for a while, want fulltime employment with benefits.
I find a stronger interest in gig or contingent project work in the age 55-65+ crowd. And those who truly prefer these arrangements are typically career leaders, who have worked hard, done well, however aren’t ready to quit. They are looking for project work where they can bring value, often still want and/or need to make some money. It is common at this stage they don’t feel they need to make the amount of money they have made in the past. Also, they don’t feel the need to be in a leadership role anymore.
Are there Millennials who want gig roles and who are happy in them? Sure there are. Recently I sat next to woman in her late 20’s on a flight; she was a gig worker and loved it. She was flying off to catch a cruise ship where she would be on assignment for about six months. She had been doing this for a few years; she was not an employee of the organization. However, they kept calling her back and she had moved up into what she described as a mid-management level position for the cruise. This allowed her to travel to very exotic places; it really was wonderful for her. One of the benefits she enjoyed was to have a number of months off between cruises. A negative she pointed out, when she “was on,” she “was on”, she had no flexibility. It wasn’t possible for her to just get off the ship to attend a friend’s wedding or leave to get together for a big family event. Of course nothing is perfect, after all – work is called work for a reason, right?
No doubt there will be a lot of interesting nuisances to watch as our work model changes or pretty much stays the same. Will it be basically new labels or significant differences in our actual working arrangements? How would you feel about hiring a gig worker in a fulltime role? And would you like it if your fulltime job was changed to a gig? Definitely food for thought!
Lu Miller is a Principal & SVP of Business Development at Morgan Consulting Resources, a healthcare executive search firm celebrating over 20 successful years in business.