The ‘Gig Work,’ the Free Agent Model and You

Key Point: Things are changing so dramatically that the required mix of competence and skills in organizations is also in flux. Yes, having the right DNA and values supporting the company culture is absolutely necessary for employees. However, that may not be enough? As an example, the current requirement for team members to have digital skills, a data science perspective and/or an innovative mindset may require organizations to inject people with those characteristics into the system. Developing incumbent personnel based on these rapidly emerging market needs is also necessary, but often not sufficient to help organizations change fast enough . The need for “new” and “better” ways of running a business is more urgent than ever. Intuitions that are too slow and complacent will disappear. This evolving dynamic is somewhat at odds with traditional loyalty considerations between employee and employer. That is: “I continue to grow and improve and the employer gives me ongoing employment?” Hmm… Maybe not?

And what about pay? I’m not sure current compensation systems are flexible and agile enough either? Part of attracting new talent with highly sought after capabilities puts pressure on the traditional pay process and ultimately material differential and exceptions to the compensation plan starts to happen. Along with this, the idea of annual pay increases may be too limiting and inadequate.

Additionally when leaders are looking to transform their business they often want someone “different.” It’s not that they necessarily believe current people are seriously underperforming, they just know new people coming in (assuming the required cultural values are resident in the newbie), will have a different angle and subsequently challenge the way things are done. My experience is that current people are often excellent performers and yet leaders just want to “upgrade,” which often translates to “different.” On the other hand, total replacement of people means valued institutional knowledge is lost. And who wants to be looking over their shoulder wondering whether their boss is going to simply decide they want a change?

I’m wondering if organizations might need to start thinking about something like a five-year contract for most, if not all employees? As employees enter their final year, they would be able to look for renewal. If after six months of the final contract year the employer does not confirm another 5-year renewal, the employee can trigger an exit leave with six months pay. This would change the relationship between employers and employees into a more of a pro player/team arrangement. If in five years you haven’t made yourself exceptionally valuable and/or if the business just needs someone with a different mix, it makes the change easier for both. Also, pay can be more individual, performance and market driven. Obviously the idea needs a lot more work, but you get the drift.

Character Moves:

  1. Recognize that the volatility and dramatic change pressures on organizations is going to impact traditional employer/employee relationships. The free agent model will get more traction, and traditional employer loyalty/retention models will significantly change. How will this impact you? If your five-year contract was up, would you be renewed?
  2. The U.S. government reports that around 40 percent of workers are contingent in some fashion. A huge market growth involves gig work networks: That is, vendors who try to match workers to gigs or projects. Companies such as Github (for software engineers), Pixelapse, and others are building similar community worksites. It may be beneficial to get to know more about “gig works” and the future relationship to you. 

Free agent in the Triangle,

Lorne

One Millennial View: What truly is ideal? Nowadays, do we really want to be with the same organization for 20+ years? I think it depends on the industry. We know there’s comfort in routine, but unless there’s a clear ladder to climb, the norm can be dangerously unprogressive. This is a case-by-case situation, “grass is always greener” predicament, but then again… Have you ever met someone who made a professional change after five years and truly regretted it?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

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