Surviving The Gig Economy: When Your Talent Pool Refuses To Stay Put

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If the last decade has taught us something, it’s that we will live in a world that continues to disrupt. It is impacting how people behave, how they consume information and how business should operate, as a result.

The economy that, in years’ past, has been the fortress of stability, is now as predictable as tomorrow’s stock market. This has spawned a domino effect concurrent with the introduction of technologies that give rise to the fickle consumer, and now…. the ever growing nomadic workforce.

The one certainty we have today is change. Companies are changing because they have to.

Nothing is what it was supposed to be. Careers that should have been launched from years of hard work and education are now relegated to a series of opportunities indicative of a more entrepreneurial economy.

The Guardian says this

Today, more and more of us choose, instead, to make our living working gigs rather than full time. To the optimists, it promises a future of empowered entrepreneurs and boundless innovation. To the naysayers, it portends a dystopian future of disenfranchised workers hunting for their next wedge of piecework.

In our latest Blended Generation Think Tank, our panellists of Boomers, GenXers and Millennials agreed that loyalty to any one company does not exist today. It is, for all intents and purposes, a “false promise”.

With the number of Millennials now becoming an increasing majority in the work force, they want to make a difference. While money is initial motivator, it is merely table stakes. Here is how some of our Millennials put it:


For GenXers and Boomers, who have lived through this turmoil multiple times, Doug Haslam said it best:

I never thought of 3 years or job impermanence as a fear, but an expectation

For many companies, the expectation of large budgets, a stable workforce are no longer realities.

For our Millennials, here’s how they see their ‘careers’ progressing:

  • Earning every dollar  keeps you on your toes. You have to keep “being good” at what you’re doing to remain in the company.
  • GenY refuses to be “this” vulnerable to any organization, and instead be more in control of their destiny.
  • The concept of rising through the ranks has become less about climbing the corporate ladder. It’s no longer linear  but a longer path that means more lateral movements over time.
  • Competing for work means picking up new skills with each new opportunity and becoming a jack-of-all-trades.
  • Continuous learning to remain relevant and marketable is now an expectation.
  • Working for any one company is not enough. This highly-networked generation will always explore “side-hustle” passion projects.

Startups realize the expectation of change is expected and embraced. People, in the new economy, will move from one opportunity to another.

There is this growing desire to have control over one’s fate. No longer does anyone want their destiny decided by a corporation, which has proven time and time again it ONLY looks after its own interests and that of its shareholders… at least, that is how the employee perceives it.

One thing that is clear: people are loyal to people NOT to corporations.

If you are a manager, your job is to support the company initiatives but you have a greater responsibility to the employees you manage. One of our wise Boomers said it best

Other than my commitment to help the company do what I can under the circumstances it is facing, the only commitment I have can make it is to the employee through coaching, managing, training and respecting and nurturing their abilities… One thing I tell those I manage: You will be better going out than coming in.

~Steve Dodd

What’s under a manager’s control is to create an environment that allows employees opportunities to contribute and feel part of “something” while they are there. The investment in talent means the following:

  • Lead by inspiration, not by job function or process.
  • Creativity and ideas should come from everywhere, and not dictated by job description.
  • Trust your employees. Have faith in their abilities. There is a reason they were hired.
  • Give employees a stake in the outcome. Give them ownership and recognize their successes and contributions informally and formally.
  • For Millennials, constant feedback is appreciated. It’s what they’re accustomed to and how they learn.
  • Find ways to take people outside what they are doing and comfortably stretch them into other areas.

In other words,

Put the people first. Develop them in ways that are meaningful for them.

Let’s face it, the new work environment cannot guarantee it can retain the best employees. However, developing an employee-centric culture allows a company to increase productivity, sustain awesome employees longer, and attract top talent in the process.


This post first appeared in Talent Culture

Image source: Creative Shrimp

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