In 2019, if you had asked CIOs and CTOs to predict the next big change in the workforce, most of them would have undoubtedly mentioned AI, machine learning, robotics or other kinds of automation. So it’s no surprise that business leaders and companies were caught off guard by the Great Resignation.
The combination of the labor shortage, remote work and digital recruiting has enabled employees to seek greener pastures in droves. Knowledge workers are moving to scenic locales outside of metro hubs, while deskless workers are switching industries for better pay and more manageable schedules. All of these changes have been driven by the pandemic—but what if I told you we’re never going to change back?
My belief is that, in some ways, we’re seeing the permanent “gigification” of all employment. In other words, job-hopping once frowned upon by recruiters, will become the norm for employees in all roles and industries.
What’s driving permanent gigification?
Gigification has been a long time coming. Some deskless jobs have always had high turnover, and at-will employment is now the law of the land, at least in the US private sector. But not until the digital transformation of 2020 did gigification start to benefit employees. And there are three reasons why it’s unlikely to disappear anytime soon:
Opportunity has gone nationwide
For roles that can be performed remotely, jobs are now available anywhere in the country, if not the world. The number of positions an employee can apply for has increased tenfold or more, allowing them to seek both better career and quality of life opportunities. Recruiters and organizations are just as likely to benefit from the larger talent pool, so this is a win for all sides.
Job searches and interviews are easier
Technology has simplified things for both job seekers and recruiters. AI now matches seekers with positions based on qualifications, so if prospective employees are the right fit, the jobs come to them. Social networks like Linkedin allow workers to leverage connections nationwide and apply with just a click. Interviews are now conducted on zoom—no more expensive cross-country travel. The right technology can even simplify onboarding, allowing employees to access the right information and help them hit the ground running from their first day.
The way we make connections is changing
The pandemic has forced a culture shift around digital relationships. 2020 turned our digital connections into our primary connections, both personally and professionally. For employees, this has allowed them to dramatically expand their networks and cultivate contacts in new locations and organizations. For younger millennial and Gen Z workers, digital relationships have always been as valuable as in-person relationships, so in their eyes business culture is simply catching up to their norms.
Taken together, these factors mean that in the employee’s eyes, their job is simply their current gig. They’ll be happy to switch to a new one as soon as the benefits outweigh the hassle of doing so. And if their first job transition in a virtual world goes well, they’ll be happy to repeat the experience. Employers won’t be able to prevent this high-turnover future, but there are things they can do to turn it to their advantage.
How gigification can benefit both employers and employees
As gigification becomes the “new normal,” companies will need to account for it in their hiring, retention and attrition strategies. That requires managing employees, individually and in teams, based on where they are in the employee journey—while recognizing that each stage of that journey may be short-lived. Here at Firstup, there are a few ways we recommend our customers prepare for this change:
Focus on building relationships
As digital connections become people’s primary work connections, employees will still look for the same things they seek from in-person professional relationships: ease of collaboration, a positive team dynamic, helpful and likable coworkers. These relationships are harder to facilitate in the digital realm, especially within large enterprises. Organizations will need to invest in new ways for people to connect across entire companies, not just among teams or departments that share functions.
Improve the digital experience of onboarding
Employers will need to ensure that a workforce of short-term employees can still deliver the same level of value as those who are in it for the long haul. That means empowering them to be productive from day one with a fast, seamless digital onboarding experience. Workers should immediately be able to find the critical content, resources and contacts they need to do their work, without the IT security hurdles of traditional onboarding. The less time employees spend figuring out how to do their jobs, the more quickly they can do them well.
An improved onboarding experience will also give new employees a better first impression of the company, reducing early attrition and improving retention. Employers who make the onboarding process simple and painless will gain an edge over those that don’t—both in terms of employee sentiment and productivity.
Reframe the thinking around reorgs
With a remote workforce, organizational change no longer needs to be location-dependent. Businesses can continue to dynamically shift resources where they need as their org charts or production models change, without costly and time-consuming relocations. Consultancies have worked this way for decades, but only because they incorporated continuous travel into their business model, which is both expensive and potentially exhausting for employees. Now any company can follow the same business model without the risk of burnout and blown budgets.
Optimize the digital experience across the employee journey
For remote workers and other “gigified” employees, their digital experience will be almost the entirety of their work experience, so it makes sense to tailor that experience to where they are in their journey. This is only possible with the use of advanced analytics. Companies are already gathering user data on their employees, so it makes sense to put that data to work in ways that benefit both workers and employers, such as:
- Targeting the right onboarding, policy and process change information to each user based on their employment data and journey stage
- Accelerating digital transformation with personalized information that boosts adoption
- Identifying points of friction that are slowing employees down, and improving the user experience in those areas
- Determining who is disengaged or otherwise struggling, and offering them appropriate assistance
- Anticipating who is likely to leave the company, so organizations can try to retain them or plan for their departure
Avoid reliance on just one tool
Enterprises implemented dozens of new technologies during the pandemic, so it’s tempting for them to think their digital employee experience or DEX is where it needs to be. But it’s important to evaluate whether that experience is highly reliant on just one tool because no single tool is going to work for every cohort in the workforce.
For example, modern intranets, a favorite solution for IT, are great for searching for information, but not ideal for delivering targeted, personalized information to every user. HR systems house the data of every employee, but their content management and distribution capabilities are quite limited. Collaboration tools and social platforms give workers the opportunity to connect, but offer companies few user insights that can improve the experience.
Rather than relying on a single tool, the priority should be to make them all work together seamlessly for employees. No matter whether workers spend most of their day in SharePoint, Salesforce, Workday or Slack, they should all have access to an experience that makes their lives easier and supports their productivity day to day.
Market your value proposition to candidates
As looking for a better job becomes a constant for employees, employers with a strong value proposition can continually upgrade talent and will find it easier to source in-demand skills for a particular job or project. Be sure to include all the experiential benefits of your workplace when recruiting candidates—share what’s in it for them, not just your requirements. Employers who can provide better working relationships, onboarding and DEX will be the ones who attract the best employees to their ‘gigs’.
In the era of gigification, intelligence is everything
As employee retention gets more difficult, companies will need the ability not just to prevent churn, but to prepare for and cope with it. The secret to all three lies in the user data of employees, but the trick will be extracting insights from the data that are useful and actionable. Businesses that can achieve that goal will see the upside of gigification—and so will their employees.