How the Gig Economy Will Impact HR in 2020 and Beyond


It’s not just employees who drive business impact: Consultants, freelancers, contractors, temporary, and on-call workers generated $1.28 trillion of revenue for the U.S. economy last year. The overall size of the gig workforce will only increase as more people seek self-employment—both out of necessity and by choice—and employers choose to hire more people who are off the balance sheet.

As we highlight in our HR Trends 2020 report, the proliferation of gig work platforms in the hourly space will intensify as the need to quickly fill short-term and seasonal roles increases. 

More organizations will also turn to decision-making support tools to help with strategic gig worker questions, such as: Do we have the right people to achieve our business goals? Is our high turnover rate a “bad” thing–or is it just the result from contracts ending as planned?

But getting actionable data related to independent workers is fraught with challenges: Not all gig worker data is in core HR systems, it’s constantly changing, and there is no easy way to manually connect it to business outcome data. The most robust people analytics platforms, however, automate the collection of data from various disparate systems (including those that cover contingent workers) and come equipped with pre-built questions that align this data with business strategy. 

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The Gig Economy: Implications for HR

In the near future, gig worker data will feature more prominently in every organization’s data strategy. Other implications include:

  • The redefinition of roles: The staying power of the gig economy means it’s time to rethink how work gets done. Freelancers may not fit precisely into the whole job of a caregiver or retail sales associate, but the opportunities to find talent become clearer when you see work as a series of tasks that can be shared, rather than a single job completed by one person.
  • Evaluation of gig worker impact: Unlike traditional employees, systems that track a freelancer’s employee lifecycle are relatively new. In order to measure the impact these kinds of workers have on the business, it’s essential to connect this data to your other workforce systems, so you can spot issues, trends, and opportunities.
  • Updating traditional labor policies to incorporate freelancers: As gig work becomes more deeply rooted in hourly labor, HR will need to lead the charge in creating policies that provide proper benefits, rights, and protections to these workers.

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Clearly, finding the optimal mix of regular employees and alternative workers will be a critical task for HR leaders over the next decade. Follow these tips to set your organization up for success:

Deconstruct jobs in your organization

  • To see where you can tap freelance platforms to alleviate work shortages, start by deconstructing the job into its tasks, advises Dr. John Boudreau, professor and research director at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations.
  • This exercise will lead you to re-evaluate not just the nature of that job and the kind of talent needed to accomplish it, but the different types of arrangements—including contracts, gigs, alliances, volunteers, automation, etc—that can be used to create a more fulfilling career path for all involved.

Build-in measurement systems to better analyze gig work

  • When gig work data is combined with a multi-dimensional analysis that combines information from several systems, you gain powerful and actionable answers that will help you design the best programs for all your employees—and make a better impact on business goals.
  • Look for robust analytics platforms that have insight and value paths for contingent labor analysis, hourly, seasonal workers, contractors, etc. and connection points to business outcomes to understand the impact. They can bring together the talent lifecycle across all the roles in your business, together with organizational effectiveness to understand and optimize structure and plan. 

Pilot a test program

  • If you’re ready to try incorporating gig work into your labor force, it’s important to conduct your due diligence. Once you know the scope of your test project, involve your partners in Legal, Compliance, IT, and Finance to find out what infrastructure and policies should be in place for gig workers to come in and accomplish the necessary tasks.

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