What Is The Gig Economy? Behind the Buzzword

August 31, 2017 Leah Hoffmann

gig economy workers and social contract: businessman shaking another businessman's hand in a crowded foyer

The gig economy has disrupted everything from food delivery to vacation rentals. It’s also poised to change the way big companies get work done.

Where’s this headed? Read the latest piece in our Behind the Buzzword series to learn more about what’s in store.

What is the gig economy?

The gig economy refers to a way of working that goes beyond traditional full-time employment. In short, it’s a migration from full-time roles to short-term project-based work, or “gigs,” and it’s happening at every level of employment. The gig economy encompasses everything from journalists who prefer to take freelance assignments rather than a news desk job to rideshare drivers who pick up shifts when they have spare time—as well as senior executives who leave F1000 companies for a life of independent consulting.

How big is it?

In the US & Europe alone, 162 million people engage in independent work (that’s 30% of the workforce!). More than 50% of companies plan to increase their use of independents in the next 3-5 years. And the fastest growing category of gig economy workers are those who make $100K per year. These workers have actually chosen to go independent, and their numbers have increased more than 50% since 2011.

What’s in it for gig workers?

People choose to join the gig economy for all sorts of reasons. Here are just a few of them.

  1. Professional control. For independent talent, the primary benefit is being able to choose what they work on, when they want to work, and for whom they wish to work. 65% of Business Talent Group’s own talent network cite control as one of their top 3 reasons for choosing a career as an independent consultant.
  2. Happiness. 79% of freelancers view freelancing as better than working at a traditional job with an employer.
  3. Money. 47% of independents make more money than they did in a permanent role in the first year alone.

What’s in it for big companies?

The gig economy gives traditional companies easy access to talent with the right skills at the right time. But there are plenty of other benefits, including:

  1. Better consulting for less. This means the ability to provide new types of consulting solutions that bring more expertise and a more aligned approach to each project, leading to better outcomes—all for significantly less.
  2. Nearly instant access to highly skilled and scarce talent. The gig economy opens a whole new world up to companies who want and need to work smarter and faster.

How can executives set themselves up for success?

There are plenty of ways for executives to start experimenting with the on-demand talent marketplace.

Smaller projects, for example those within a single business unit or function, that require highly skilled problem-solving or demand real-world operating experience are a perfect place to start. Another example? Projects that are primarily internal, where the team needs extra bandwidth or skillsets. In all of these cases, consulting solutions built with on-demand talent can bring more expertise, hands-on, for less.

At an enterprise level, some companies are even building platforms that make it easy for internal execs to connect with top on-demand talent.

To learn more about how you can put the gig economy to work for your company, download our eBook.

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About the Author

Leah Hoffmann

Leah Hoffmann is a former journalist who has worked for Forbes.com and The Economist. She is passionate about clear thinking, sharp writing, and strong points of view.

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