This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos. What's up with Gen Z and the gig economy? Do they prefer gig work over traditional jobs?

While terms like “gig” and “gig economy” suggest a brave new world, sometimes it’s easy to forget that temporary employment has been around for a long time, especially for younger and entry level workers. The rise of platform enabled gigs like Lyft, Door Dash, etc. have made it easier to connect with and be paid quickly for those jobs, but those platform enabled jobs still represent the minority of gig work for younger workers. Research from the Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well Being of US Households in 2018 defined gig work as a range of “informal, infrequent paid activities” that ranged from dog walking to selling goods at flea markets. They found that only 5% of 18-29 year olds engaged in work where they found their customers online, but 37% overall had participated in gig work overall.

I started working part time in 1970, at age 14, helping with payroll in my father’s codfish processing plant in the summer and doing retail, housecleaning and babysitting jobs during the school year.  My objective was spending money.  As my skills and maturity evolved, I took on more challenging work during college summers, serving as a lab technician at a pediatric hospital.  I still cared about the spending money, but the skills I was acquiring became increasingly important as well.  These earliest gig jobs helped me learn how to show up for work.

My first post-collegiate job was a temporary one, helping a biochemistry professor develop and test lab instructions for his organic chemistry course.  From there, I moved on to my first full time job, abstracting toxicology reports for a team of researchers and evaluating the health of Chinese Hamster chromosomes.  The isolation of that work wasn’t a good fit for me.  I moved on to my next gig – accepting a contract to teach 9th grade biology and 10th grade chemistry for one year to fill a teacher shortage.  I catered private events during grad school and finally got a “real” job in 1982. By four years post-college I’d had 4 different jobs, 3 of them temporary by design.  Like the Gen Z’s pursuing their entry level jobs today, those gigs provided the funds and flexibility I needed to prepare myself for my own future of work.

So, maybe it’s not so surprising that our recent research of Gen Z around the world reveals that they see a lot to like in the gig economy as they move into the workplace.  Gen Z is the biggest cohort in the world population right now – 32% vs. 31.5% Millennials according to Bloomberg. Employers who want to employ their fair share will do well to invest in understanding them.  We surveyed 3,400 Gen Z workers across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. to learn about their attitudes toward work.

Our data indicates an even higher rate of gig economy participation than that cited in the Federal Reserve study, with 46% percent of Gen Z respondents globally saying they’ve done gig work. When asked what’s appealing about it, they cite flexible work schedules (55%) and greater independence (i.e. being their own boss; 53%) as the most appealing aspects of the gig economy. 

When asked about their long-term career aspirations, though, Gen Z desires the benefits that more traditional work models provide. They are interested in the flexibility and independence of gig work, yet hesitant to join the gig economy due to lack of stability and unpredictable pay.  This desire for stable predictable hours and pay has resulted in gig worker strikes and political action. The recently signed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) in California strengthens the rules that define contractor vs. employee status in the interest of ensuring that employers aren’t using the former to avoid extending benefits to workers.  More of these actions will follow as lawmakers hustle to catch up with the new dynamics of high demand – and in many cases on demand – talent.  And employers will continue to make tough decisions as they blend full and part time employees as part of their mission.

What can employers do to appeal to Gen Z who want both stability and flexibility?  While our respondents say job stability is “very important” (46%), with nearly all (91%) saying it’s at least moderately important, they may not stay long. Twenty-seven percent expect to move on from their first full-time job within two years. They expect control over their schedules with 33% saying they won’t stick around if they don’t have a say over their work schedule. Gen Z respondents in Canada (33%), the U.K., and the U.S. (both 31%) say flexibility to work when, where, and how they want is motivation to deliver their “best work.” Similarly, 1 in 4 (26%) Gen Zers worldwide would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules.

Employers who’d like to keep them longer will find ways to incorporate the flexibility advantages of the gig model into their workplace culture.  While we all learn that even the best jobs include aspects we don’t love, some employers do better than others to create environments where employees thrive and choose to remain. Consider employees’ preferences in their schedules.  If your employees’ jobs don’t require presence, support remote work where possible.   Consider unlimited PTO if you can. 

And don’t forget that the benefits of the gig economy can help you throughout the employee lifecycle.  In 2018, I resumed the gig life as I entered semi-retirement while continuing to work for my employer.  Everybody starts somewhere.  But the gig life is a great way to slow down as well.

This post was originally published on the Kronos What Works Blog.

The following post is submitted by Workforce Institute Executive Director Joyce Maroney. Here she reviews recent research examining Gen Z feelings about gig work. You can download an executive summary of the findings here.

This is the second in a series of reports from The Workforce Institute and Future Workplace in which we surveyed 3,400 Gen Z workers across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. This report expands on surprising contradictions uncovered in part one, “Meet Gen Z: Hopeful, Anxious, Hardworking, and Searching for Inspiration,” by examining this generation’s perceptions of the gig economy – the good and the bad – to reveal how traditional employers can best compete for Gen Z talent.

While terms like "gig" and "gig economy" suggest a brave new world, sometimes it's easy to forget that temporary self-employment has been around for a long time. What's new, though, is the rise of organizations that have been founded on their ability to mobilize a temporary workforce via technology platforms like Lyft, Wonolo, and Amazon Flex. Workers can log in when they want to be working, and just as easily log out when they don't. They don't get benefits like healthcare, but they aren't forced to work when they don't want to either.

Though there is disagreement about exactly what defines gig work, this Federal Reserve Report on the Economic Well Being of US Households in 2018 provides a instructive breakdown of gig work by age group. In this survey, gig work is defined as "informal, infrequent paid activities" that range from dog walking to selling goods at flea markets. They found that only 5% of 18-29 year olds engaged in work where they found their customers online, but 37% overall had participated in gig work overall.

Our data indicates an even higher participation rate with 46% percent of respondents globally (44% US) in our survey having done gig work. When asked what's appealing about gig work, they cite flexible work schedules (55%) and greater independence (i.e. being their own boss; 53%) as the most appealing aspects of the gig economy.

When asked what they want in a career, though, Gen Z desires the benefits that traditional work provides. Gen Zers would hesitate to go all-in with the gig economy because of unwillingness to give up the stability (47%), predictable pay (46%), workplace structure (26%), health benefits (26%), predictable schedules (22%), mentorship opportunities (17%), and manager support (16%) that a traditional job may offer. They are interested in the flexibility and independence of gig work, yet hesitant to join the gig economy due to lack of stability and unpredictable pay.

This desire for stability and predictable hours and pay has already led to worker strikes and legislative action in some places. Just today, California signed Assembly Bill 5 (AB5) into law, to strengthen the rules that define contractor vs. employee status in the interest of ensuring that employers aren't using the former to avoid extending benefits to workers.

What can employers do to appeal to Gen Z candidates? Legislated push back may curb the growth of the gig economy, but it won't squelch the desire of Gen Zs for flexible hours (37%). They expect control over their schedules with 33% saying they won't stick around if they don't have a say over their work schedule. Gen Z respondents in Canada (33%), the U.K., and the U.S. (both 31%) say flexibility to work when, where, and how they want is motivation to deliver their “best work.” Similarly, 1 in 4 (26%) Gen Zers worldwide would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules.

While our respondents say job stability is “very important” (46%), with nearly all (91%) saying it’s at least moderately important, they may not stay long. Twenty-seven percent expect to move on from their first full-time job within two years. Employers who'd like to keep them longer will find ways to incorporate the flexibility advantages of the gig model into their workplace culture.

Today's post comes to us from Workforce Institute board member and executive director of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources, Neil Reichenberg, who provides a high-level overview of their 2019 Workplace Trends Survey.

The Center for State and Local Government Excellence recently released our 2019 Workforce Trends survey which found that the top workforce challenges facing U.S. state and local governments are (1) recruitment and retention of qualified personnel with the needed skills for public service and (2) providing competitive compensation. The survey results emphasize the importance of state and local governments adopting innovative practices in order to attract and retain needed staff. Other workforce issues important to state and local governments include employee morale, employee engagement, retaining staff needed for core services, and leadership development. The report is based on survey responses from the members of the International Public Management Association for Human Resources and the National Association of State Personnel Executives.

This year’s survey included a focus on the gig economy, with office and administrative support, accounting, and information technology positions being the most common areas filled by those working on a temporary or contingent basis. Some functions such as policing, emergency dispatch, corrections, and firefighting/emergency medical are hard-to-fill positions, which due to the nature of the work are difficult to staff by those working on a temporary or contingent basis. The impact of the gig economy on governmental organizations was measured, with the biggest positive being management flexibility while the greatest drawback is the impact on the morale of full-time employees.

Reflecting a strong economy, hiring has picked up with 80% of respondents reporting that they hired employees. Only 7% say that they undertook layoffs as compared to 42% who implemented layoffs in 2009. This year, almost 60% of respondents indicated higher levels of full-time hiring as compared to last year, and only 10% noted that hiring would be reduced from last year. Interpersonal, technology, and written communications are the skill-sets most needed in new hires. The most successful recruitment practices in reaching qualified candidates include online job advertisement, government websites, employee referrals, and the use of social media.

Workplace flexibility is becoming increasingly important and almost 20% of survey respondents have either increased the number of those eligible for flexible work or the range of flexible work arrangements that are offered. The most common work practices are flexible schedules, flexible work hours, and telework. Employee development both through in-house training as well as funds for training and tuition, wellness programs, leave benefits, recognition programs, and onboarding are the most popular programs designed to encourage employee retention and development.

Survey respondents believe that their benefits packages are more competitive than their pay, with 88% indicating that the benefits they offer are competitive with the labor market while 56% say their wages are competitive with the labor market. Government employers continue to shift more health care costs from the employer to employee (36% of survey respondents) and are implementing wellness programs (28% of survey respondents). Almost 50% of respondents believe their employees are not prepared financially for retirement, indicating an area on which governments should focus.

Gallup gig worker sat chart 2018Today's post is courtesy of Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute.

I recently had a conversation about the gig economy with my colleague, David Creelman.  David is the CEO of Creelman Research and writes on a broad variety of human resource topics.  His recent book, Lead the Work: Navigating a World Beyond Employment , explores the future of work in a world where the traditional employer-employee relationship is only one route to productivity.

How big is the gig economy? An August Gallup report said that 36% of U.S. workers are participating in the gig economy.  A 2018 survey by Airbnb indicated that 1 in 10 US teachers supplemented their income by hosting guests in their homes.  Gallup defines the gig economy to include "multiple types of alternative work arrangements such as independent contractors, online platform workers, contract firm workers, on-call workers and temporary workers."

The Gallup report distinguishes between truly independent gig workers who have autonomy and control over their schedules such as contractors and those who offer their services via platforms like Uber and Airbnb vs. contingent workers who don't have this autonomy and control.  They surveyed workers in both categories, as well as salaried employees about their attitudes toward their work.  (See chart above.)

Not surprisingly, their data shows that the attitudes of the low control contingent workers are much closer to their salaried counterparts on most issues except security, stability, and timely and accurate pay.  The truly independent contractors score significantly higher than salaried or contingent workers on many fronts including flexibility, passion about their work, control over the work, etc.  Timely and accurate pay is still more challenging for them than is the case for salaried workers, but they otherwise appear pretty satisfied with their independent gigs.

So, is the future of work going to look a lot more like the gig economy?  Is the traditional employer-worker relationship truly changing?  How can organizations provide a more gig-like experience to the top talent they want to attract and retain? David and I take on these and other questions in the podcast below.  Please listen in, and let us know what you think in the comments section.

Conversation with David Creelman about the gig economy?

 

Today's post is courtesy of our board member Bob Clements.  Bob is Senior Principal at Axsium Group,  a leading workforce management consulting firm.

 The gig economy is a hot topic with human resource and operations professionals around the world. It’s now estimated to make up about 30 percent of the workforce in North America and Europe with numbers growing steadily.  At its core, the gig economy isn’t a new concept. Contingent and temporary labor has been around for as long as people have earned compensation for work. What’s different today is the technology involved. It’s made it much easier for temporary workers to find gigs and companies to find the giggers.

Though there are new opportunities for businesses and workers, it’s also brought on some controversy. When we consider lower wage, hourly jobs like those often found in the retail and hospitality industries, the gig economy has the potential to make what’s perceived as a problematic employment situation even worse. Imagine a scene where retailers, restaurateurs and hoteliers jettison part-time employees in favor of gig workers who must bid against each other for shifts. If you think these industries get a bad rap now because of poor pay and inconsistent hours, imagine the public outcry if a situation like this one played-out.

Today, many of the retail and hospitality clients I work with recognize how important their associates are to the success of their business, so it’s unlikely that such a development could take place. Stores, restaurants and hotels depend on customer service; a race to the bottom with wages will directly impact the customer experience, resulting in negative consequences to earnings. Instead, to drive financial performance, they’re seeking ways to give employees more hours and better training to increase retention. I believe the gig economy can do a lot to help promote that goal. Here are three potential scenarios that can work.

Scenario 1: The internal gig economy

The first scenario creates a gig-like economy inside of your company by making it easy to share employees between locations. Today, administrative rigor and out-dated technology make it difficult for stores, restaurants and hotels to do this effectively.

By creating an internal gig economy, a casual dining chain, for example, would open up shifts (gigs) to all locations in a certain geographic area. Team members would go online and build their schedules by picking up the gigs at locations and times convenient for them.

As with each scenario, rules would be put in place to ensure employees only pick up shifts they’re qualified to work, that comply with all applicable laws and policies, and can’t create overtime without approval.

Scenario 2: The seasonal gig economy

Many retailers already use seasonal staff to flex up and down at scale. A good example of this is Target in the U.S. At Christmas time,  Target hires around 100,000 people, on top of their 325,000 other employees. Though the gig economy is similar to seasonal hiring it represents a shift in mindset and a better use of technology, particularly related to the mobile scheduling tools used.

The scenario for a retailer adopting into the gig economy, would look something like this: A retailer would band together with other retailers that have complementary seasons. For example, an electronics retailer that hits its peak in December, an office supply retailer with a strong back-to-school peak and a DIY retailer with a spring planting season could form a “gig coalition.”

Each retailer would staff itself with the full-timers and part-timers necessary to handle its off-peak demand. The coalition would also start to create a pool of seasonal workers that could transition from retailer to retailer as seasons change. Shifts would be posted and shared where workers in the seasonal pool could pick up gigs, giving each retailer coverage at critical times of their individual businesses.

The benefit for retailers is that once the seasonal pool has been on-boarded and trained for the first season, the same employee is ready with a little updated training for subsequent seasons. The benefit for employees is that they have steady, reliable work during the most exciting time of each retailer’s season.

Scenario 3: The private gig economy

Arguably, the second scenario is easily extended to create a “private” gig economy. Here companies share associates all year, with employees picking up shifts at retailers in the gig coalition whether it’s in-season or not.

Today, employees work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Both the employee and the employer have to manage conflict. In the private gig economy, known, trained employees can work across retailers and are empowered through technology to manage their schedules and avoid conflicts between employers.

Making the right choices

There’s no doubt that the gig economy is set to change the way the retail and hospitality industries manage their workforces. Though there are a number of scenarios that can work, applying the right processes and technologies to take advantage of the changing workplace will help to achieve substantive advantages – for employers and their workers.

The following post comes to us courtesy of board member Veronica Baz, founder of profesionistas.org.mx, one of the most visited Spanish language sites focused on job search, career path, and work skills.

As my fellow board member, David Creelman has written about here, the rise of the gig economy, driven by innovation and technological change, is transforming organizations and business environments across many industries. Indeed, digital platforms like UBER, Lyft, Amazon Flex, and Freelancer have drastically multiplied options for gig workers.

Enthusiasts of the gig economy extol its ability to allow workers to work when they want, manage their own time, and organize their lives according to their wishes. Critics argue that individual workers now bear all the costs of working while being paid less.

No matter which side of that argument you find yourself on, everyone can probably agree that the majority of labor laws and protections in the books today were written with a traditional workforce in mind and do not take into account working folks who consider themselves to be “gig-ers”.

If we can all agree that the gig economy is here to stay – and it sure looks like it – then it’s critical that government and private industry come together to make the changes needed to support this new class of worker.

From labor laws that provide protection to the interests of independent workers to company policies that offer more flexibility and adapt to future changes, the time to embrace the gig economy, and benefit from it, is here.

Connect with us

Subscribe to our blog

cross linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram