Watch Out; There’s Big Animals Coming After You! How to Survive and Thrive Beside the Gig Economy.

The world’s changed unequivocally since 1858 when Darwin proposed his theory of evolution by natural selection, but the concept stands as true today as it did then. Those that are poorly adapted to their environment are less likely to escape their predators and survive.

So what does today’s workforce landscape look like? And are you fit for survival?

Globally the workforce and its providers are evolving and fragmenting into different silos before our eyes. Millenials are opting for “portfolio careers” with 1 in 3 freelancing to enhance skills and supplement their own entrepreneurial endeavours. By 2020 50% of all workers are forecast to be contingent and 5 billion people will own a smartphone. Remote work has become enabled through mobile technology.

Freelancer management systems provide the technological means to allow workers and employers to communicate directly and trade skills and jobs, disintermediating traditional staffing organisations. It’s an automated polar opposite to the offshoring trend that took off in the 90s; the work no longer goes to the worker, the worker is now connected to the work.

How does this impact the staffing industry? The answer is big time, but ask most recruitment consultants who their competitors are and they will readily cite local or national agencies. Some may recognise the increased prevalence of in-house recruiters. But how many would name gig platforms such as Freelancer or UpWork as direct competitors?

In the UK, agencies and recruiters could be forgiven for believing that the “gig economy” is a US phenomenon since much of the media hype centres around the potential misclassification of workers as independent contractors. Yet according to recent research published by The University of Hertfordshire 4.9m in the UK have secured work through one of these “sharing economy platforms”. That’s almost 5m potential UK candidates that agencies could be missing out on. The report claims that 21% of the UK’s working aged population are “would be crowdworkers”.

Add to this that one of the most established online staffing platforms, Swiss player Staff-finder, has just raised €20m to launch in the UK, describing themselves as “the first online temping agency” and claiming to fill 98% of vacancies posted on their site within 4 hours. They belong to a new breed of platforms defined by The Staffing Industry Analysts as “just-in-time staffing players” who facilitate short-term work engagements found and accepted via a smartphone application. In some cases, the platform acts as the employer of record, just like a staffing firm. These are not the gig workers who work remotely rewarded by project, these are on-site and hourly paid. Your bread and butter.

There’s no doubt, these big scary on-line animals are coming to get you, so what do agencies need to know and do to stay alive and thrive?

  • Knowledge is power. Educate yourself on the emerging players exploiting these new labour market dynamics that could encroach on your market. Keep abreast of how the employment landscape and worker behaviour and preferences are evolving.
  • Put the candidate centre stage. Consider the journey and experience from their perspective. How do they want to communicate with you? What will make their life easier? Hand-in-hand with this goes taking a mobile-first approach. Not just a mobile-friendly website (although that’s a must), but using mobile technology for genuine gain. We live in a one-click world, we crave frictionless interactions.
  • Invest in tech that will convert your (low value) passive temporary candidate database into a (high value) “on-demand” workforce. Most agencies have already invested the dollars in building a database of relevant skilled candidates. Most continue to pay job boards to attract more, rather than looking to place those already at their fingertips thereby building candidate loyalty.
  • Real-time availability of your candidate-base will allow you to offer them work where and when they want it, simultaneously enhancing your speed-to-fill bookings – key to competing on a level playing field with the on-line players.
  • Reduce or eliminate unnecessary admin like timesheets from the process for improved productivity and competitive advantage.
  • 360 degree ratings. Not essential, but a nice-to-have. A feature that can set you apart from your competitors before it becomes the industry norm. On-line staffing companies utilise ratings systems, placing more power in the candidates’ hands to select a booking according to previous worker sentiment.
  • By 2020 with an increased work-life expectancy, there will be 5 generations in the workplace. Many of these at both the entry and exit level will rely on contingent work to suit their lifestyle. Understand how can you best reach them and diversify your talent pool

Bottom line? To outrun the on-line predators you need to invest in smart tech that can help you drive efficiencies and leverage your existing (candidate) assets, ensuring you win out in the natural selection process.

(Previously published at the Job Post)

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