A Blog by Jonathan Low

 

Dec 29, 2016

Gig Economy Workers Are Taking On More Key Tasks and Becoming More Valuable

As the economy demands more specialists and fewer generalists, those with niche skills become more valuable - and can demand more concessions from employers. JL

Lauren Weber reports in the Wall Street Journal:

Nearly 16% of the U.S. workforce in 2015 was composed of people in contingent work arrangements, including freelance graphic designers and part-time management consultants. Contractors and consultants with niche skills have many options, and they are demanding to be treated “with dignity and almost as if they’re your employee. That means offering them not just respect but even some of the benefits available to permanent employees
For many employers, contingent—or “gig economy”—workers are interchangeable and disposable. But companies will need to rethink that approach as they use more freelancers for mission-critical tasks.
That is the top job market prediction for 2017, according to Futurestep, a division of search firm Korn/Ferry International that offers clients outsourced professional-level recruiting.
Contractors and consultants with niche skills have many options, and they are demanding to be treated “with dignity and almost as if they’re your employee,” said Jeanne MacDonald, a president at Futurestep. That means offering them not just respect but even some of the benefits available to permanent employees, she said.
Nearly 16% of the U.S. workforce in 2015 was composed of people in contingent work arrangements, including freelance graphic designers, occasional Uber drivers, and part-time management consultants, according to researchers at Harvard and Princeton universities. That is up from 10% in 2005.
Ms. MacDonald says companies should think about contingent workers as people who can bring a unique skill set, especially when the need for those skills is temporary—for example, to complete a cybersecurity project. In such circumstances, the motivation for outsourcing the work to temporary employees ought not to be seen as cost savings, since these freelancers often bring critical skills.
The increasing value of contingent work will have myriad repercussions. For workers, this emerging reality means that skills need to be constantly refreshed. Across the skill spectrum, new models of work can offer flexibility and variety. But the burden of finding and paying for training is shifting more than ever from employers to individuals.

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