Murky questions in the professional gig economy

Employee engagement

Train people well enough so that they can leave, treat them well enough so that they don’t want to – Richard Branson

Great companies know that developing their people is a key differentiator and way of retaining brilliant people.

How might this change as we shift towards a gig economy?

In conversation with Pat Petitti, co-CEO at Catalant, an on-demand resourcing tool, we explored how the professional gig economy is raising big questions for business leaders.

Organisations are recognising that keeping up with a fast changing world means that they need access to continually evolving skillsets, many of which don’t reside in the organisation. Indeed, many more people are choosing to freelance, often craving more autonomy and control over how they work.

Companies are asking how they can think more fluidly [about their talent pool] – whether that’s consultancies, retirees, alumni or internal resources – Pat Petitti, co-CEO at Catalant

Take, for example, an established credit card company. To keep up with evolving technologies and consumer demand, they need need mobile payments capability. However the most advanced mobile payments capability sits in Silicon Valley rather than internally. So how do they access these skills?

Pat believes that tapping into dynamic talent pools is the future, where organisations will tap into fluid talent pools with specific skills for defined projects.

This is already happening today.

Professional services firms, like PwC, are already setting targets for the percentage of freelance staff, for and organisations that facilitate professional freelance ‘matching’, like Catalant, are growing fast.

It’s expected that in the not-too-distant future, c.20-60% of organisations’ workforces will be freelancers. Yet most organisations are only in the early stages of recognising this shift is here, let alone tackling some of the big questions it raises. Take for example the following ‘people’ areas:


Today: How do we offer a reward structure that motivates and retains our employees?

Future: How do we ensure fairness in how we reward permanent and flexible talent?

Today, freelancers are typically paid much more than permanent employees whose reward is often made up of benefits package. In a world where we value greater transparency and openness, this one-or-other option won’t carry us far, we’ll likely see employees demanding a reward package that works for them.Add paragraph text here.


Today: How do we help Managers better support their direct reports?

Future: How do we help Managers support a distributed team of fixed, flexible, remote, local individuals?

Much of today’s focus is on helping Managers to be more comfortable and confident in having valuable conversations with their staff. The role of the Manager in the future will require many more strings to their bow.


Today: How do we equip our people with the skills and capabilities to thrive?

Future: How do we need/want to develop people who join us on a flexible basis?

The main reason that freelancers choose to become a permanent employee is for training and development, indicating that great L&D is still an opportunity to attract and retain brilliant people.

Yet, in a world where people join a company for a matter of months, organisations will need to consider what promises they will make to develop different parts of their talent pool. Indeed, organisations’ stance on this will influence the level of responsibility on freelancers to drive and support their growth and development.


Today: How do we hire people who have a good cultural fit?

Future: How important is cultural fit for people joining us on a flexible basis?

Some leading organisations are already started to experiment with these questions – for example, giving employees the opportunity to take part in ‘talent exchanges’ with other organisations so that employees can develop new skills and scratch their itch for growth and new experiences.

At GroHappy, we’re particularly fascinated by how talent development will evolve in this new world. Many organisations are still trying to respond to employee demands for personalised, meaningful development experiences and want their employers to invest in them beyond simply climbing the career ladder.

Yet these crunchier questions about how growth happens in this new world are still in their infancy. If you’d like to join the conversation, we’d love to hear from you.

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