Is the gig economy the future of work?


A recent ABC News story highlighted that, for the first time in history, less than half of all working Australians now have a permanent full-time job. For those of us in full-time jobs, this news is probably greeted with a mixture of concern and envy. It should also be a wake-up call – for workers and businesses – about how quickly the world of work is changing.

A ‘job for life’ is not just an outdated concept, but a complete anathema to Millennials and Gen Z, who are much more fluid in their approach to work than Gen X or the Baby Boomers.

As millennials become the dominant generation in the workforce, the power balance between the organisation and the individual has shifted towards the individual, who is now calling the shots about who they want to work for and for how long.

Deloitte’s 2018 Millennial Survey found that 53% of Australian millennials are already joining or considering the gig economy instead of a full-time job and 67% of Gen Z see the gig economy as a supplement to a part-time or full-time job.

Compared to Gen X, millennials vote with their feet. They will leave an organisation if it doesn’t meet their expectations:

  • Almost half (44%) of millennials expect to stay with their employer for less than two years. Only 22% say they plan to stay beyond five years
  • Gen Z loyalty is even lower, with 59% saying they would expect to stay with their current employer for less than two years and only 16% saying they would stay beyond five years.

One reason millennials don’t stay with organisations long is likely due to a mismatch between their personal values and purpose and those of the organisation they are working for. The Deloitte 2018 Millennials Survey also found that:

  • Millennials’ opinion of business’ motivation and ethics is at its lowest level in four years. The percentage of Australian millennials who say business has a positive impact on society has dropped from 72% in 2017 to 45% in 2018
  • Less than half (44%) believe businesses behave ethically and 83% believe business focuses on its own agenda, rather than considering wider society (up from 69% in 2017).

Millennials believe business’ priorities should be job creation, innovation, enhancing employees’ lives and careers, and making a positive impact on society and the environment. However, when asked what the organisations they work for focus on, millennials cited generating profit, driving efficiencies, and producing or selling goods and services—the three areas they felt should have the least focus.

What can business do to attract & retain those enamoured with the gig economy?

There are three changes business can make:

  1. Recognise the reality of the gig economy – the linear ‘career ladder’ has been replaced by ‘career experiences’ according to Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends report. Offer your workers a multitude of valuable experiences; provide flexibility; and recognise that their desire to do another job while working for you can make them more valuable, not less
  2. Invest in training for future workplace skills – such as how to work with robots or artificial intelligence (millennials rank ‘opportunities for continuous learning’ as the fourth most important consideration when choosing a new employer. And 40% cite business as most responsible for educating them, versus 18% saying government)
  3. Have a point of view on social issues – Deloitte’s 2018 Human Capital Trends report found that with increased transparency and social awareness, business focus is shifting towards stronger relationships with employees, customers and communities. Organisations today are judged for more than their success as a business. They’re now being held responsible for their impact on society at large – their role as a social enterprise. What do you stand for?

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