5 things I learned from the gig economy

Last April, I started driving for Uber. I joined the over one million Americans who drive for a variety of reasons, from lack of full-time work to the independence of being self-employed with a gig economy app. Here's what internal communicators and HR teams can learn from my experience with Uber's app.

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Last April, I started driving for Uber.

I joined the over one million Americans who drive for a variety of reasons, from lack of full-time work to the independence of being self-employed.

Up until then, I was like most people. I tried out TaskRabbit, Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, and other gig economy apps, with their promise to make my life easier, better, and more affordable.

But I wanted to understand more about these workers, the ones driving.

I wanted to learn what it was like to be on the other side, as a worker. How did they onboard and get started? How did they communicate with the company supplying them with the jobs? What was it like interacting with an app, and not a boss? And what lessons could I take away for worker experiences at other companies, especially those that employ large numbers of part-time workers, like in retail, warehousing, and more?

Learn more about my time driving for Uber, and more lessons for HR and internal communications leaders from my webinar, Why Should We Care About Gig Economy Apps?


Why should we care about gig economy apps?

Big and growing global workforces—like Uber’s—are being powered almost exclusively by their proprietary workforce apps. When combined with SMS, close to 100% of the worker interaction is via phone—with a consumer-like experience.

So, I believe that workers will come to expect from all employers that kind of app-powered experience that Uber, Lyft, and others provide. Say, if I wanted to work at McDonald’s or The Gap, I would expect that they would also offer some of the same experience as Uber.

Also, these apps offer a seamless onboarding and employee experience. After I signed up with Uber, I was driving almost the same day. I drove seniors home from their shopping, patients to the hospital, students to their part-time jobs, and even an Uber engineer to their headquarters! I asked her a ton of questions along the way.

And here’s what I learned from my experience.

5 Key Insights From Inside the Uber Driver App

What I learned from the gig economy

1. I had the best worker onboarding of my life.

It was easy and fast, and everything was done on my smartphone. I took a photo of my driver’s license, and my background screening was completed in minutes. The app became my go-to place when I drove for Uber.

2. To keep drivers motivated, Uber gamifies the work experience in real-time.

The app made me feel recognized when I was driving well, but I also wasn’t sure if it was trying to exploit my insecurities. Uber was constantly nudging me to drive more to make more money.

3. I constantly got feedback from the app.

From my smooth breaking to my smooth accelerations, I could see my “Driving Report” daily. I always knew where I stood, which I appreciated.  

4. My pay was completely transparent.

I knew how much fares were, the distances, times, Uber’s cut, and my final earnings. What other part-time job offers workers that much pay transparency – and make it that easy to see real-time?

5. All my experience was 100% personalized.

The app called me by my first name, and it offered advice to make my driving better and more profitable. I felt engaged and connected.

Is this the future of internal communications or AI-powered hell?

The more I drove, the more I felt the creepiness of Uber watching me. I wasn’t sure if I should follow their advice. Was it really benefiting me or just them? Who was on the other side of the messages, a real person or just machine learned communications?

And soon, I realized there was an important piece missing from my Uber driver experience: the lack of stories. Good corporate stories help employees feel like they are part of something bigger. That’s what internal communicators do best. They engage employees and help align with their organization’s goals, and stories are an essential part of this.

Working on your branded mobile app strategy? Learn how to increase adoption and retention by reading our blog post, The Top 7 Frustrations With Outsourced Employee Engagement Apps.

Related resources

Greg Shove

Greg Shove

Greg is the executive chairman and founder of Firstup. He thinks that all employees, especially deskless workers, deserve to be connected every day to what matters to them at work. In the past, he has founded three other start-ups and worked at companies like Apple Computer and AOL. He is also the co-creator of Like a Boss, a new way to train global leaders.

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