Some experts call it the flex economy, but it is also known as the gig, online, or on-demand economy, with some even referring to it as the Uberization of work. Whatever name you prefer, this trend represents a significant shift in the labor market, as more workers take on contract and freelance work, rather than traditional employee positions.
Some of this shift is fueled by the app-based technology that powers companies like Uber and Airbnb. But even traditional companies are using more contract workers as they seek to save direct labor costs and focus more on their core competencies.
What do today’s workers have to say about it? A survey conducted by Express Employment Professionals shows the concept is gaining a lot of interest:
- 40% said they want to be an independent contractor, but don’t know where to start
- 16% are currently taking steps to become an independent contractor
- 14% said the independent contractor lifestyle doesn’t appeal to them
- 13% don’t want to leave the stability of a full-time job
- 9% are currently working as an independent contractor
The Implications for employers
Today’s businesses can expect that this trend will continue to grow. In fact, a Deloitte survey found that 42% of executives expect to increase the use of contingent workers in the next three to five years.
What will tomorrow’s businesses look like? Some experts point to tech giant Apple as a striking example of what is possible. Apple actually employs fewer than 10 percent of the million-plus workers who make and sell its products, according to a New York Times article.
However experts warn that this scale may not be feasible in all industries. In particular, companies must make sure they can keep contract or freelance workers up to speed on the compliance and training that are integral for the business.
As far as age, early reports showed Millennials as most likely to embrace the contractor work-style, because they value jobs that work around their lifestyle, rather than vice versa. However, an Inc. article revealed that Baby Boomers are also cutting the cord from traditional employment. In fact, research has found that about 18% of gig or on-demand workers are 55 or older.
A Win-Win Scenario
Contract workers have been a solid resource for many companies since the 1970s. This work opportunity also offers the flexibility many of today’s workers require. It is a winning solution for Millennials who want to spend more time with their children, for anyone caring for elderly family members or for those enjoying semi-retirement by working on an as needed basis.
As the labor market continues to shift in response to this new trend, employers and employees will need to decide how they’ll respond. For some employers, moving to a workforce made up of more contract and independent workers will be the answer. Workers will need to consider all their options, weigh the benefits of working in the gig-economy against the drawbacks and decide if pursuing independent work is the answer for their situation.