Why GIG Economy is making Stronger Inroads into Asia Pacific, with more Firms adapting it to their Needs
Are you coming across more people with job titles like ‘self-employed’, ‘freelancer’ and ‘entrepreneur’? There’s a good reason for this: self-employment is becoming common; thanks to the growing gig economy. A recent global Deloitte survey of over 13,000 millennials found almost half of respondents believe gig workers earn as much as those in full-time jobs, and the same number think gig workers have a better work-life balance (see ‘Future of Work’).
Eight in 10 talent managers in the Asia Pacific (APAC) region hire or use gig workers, says a 2018 report from KellyOCG, the outsourcing and consulting group of US-based Kelly Services. International accounting firm Deloitte’s 2019 Global Human Capital Trends report states that gig employment has become mainstream. Essentially, a gig worker is anyone engaged in independent work in any capacity—online or offline, with regular or occasional participation, and for primary or supplemental earnings. This includes diversified workers with many sources of incomes, contract workers or freelancers, small business owners, temporary workers or moonlighters.
The Way Forward
Advocates of gig economy bill them as a way to trade unemployment, burnout, or hating one’s job for freedom, flexibility, and financial gains. Critics, meanwhile, point to the costly trade-offs: unstable earnings, few or no benefits, reduced job security and stalled career advancement.
In the book, Gigged author Sarah Kessler argues that for people with desirable skills, the gig economy often permits a more engaging, entrepreneurial lifestyle; but for the unskilled who turn to such work out of necessity, it’s merely “the best of bad options.” Sydney-based Juliet Andrews, Partner (people Advisory Services), EY, agrees. “The rise of gig economy (in Asia Pacific) draws heavily on the US experience, overlooking fundamental structural and cultural differences in the region’s industrial relations laws, attitude towards entrepreneurship, and exposure to the global financial crisis which forced US citizens to adopt more innovative ways of working,” she says.
Another reason for the growing popularity of gig economy is increasing access to the internet, with people being able to promote their skill sets and connect with varied audiences. In some cases, this allows people to turn side hustles into full businesses.
“Companies can harness the full value that these workers bring if they are successfully embedded into the organisations they work for,” says Pete Hamilton, Vice President and Regional Director—APAC, KellyOCG. The report shows majority of hiring managers (79 per cent) say that a flexible workforce is the way forward.
40-50 per cent of the workforce could be in non-permanent employment by 2020 - EY
Why Agile Works
Principal of global architecture firm Woods Bagot, Amanda Stanaway, says about 60 per cent of their Australian clientele and about 40 per cent of clients in South East Asia, are agile, free address or ABW (activity-based working).
“The evolution towards more agile workplaces means that a big driver for modern workplace design is the facilitation of collaboration across teams, locations and even countries. Clients also prioritize ease of communication between gig workers and integration with technology, asking designers to find ways to prompt workers to engage with spaces intuitively as well as providing multiple settings for teamwork,” she says.
Wiktor Schmidt, Chief Executive, Netguru, one of the world’s leading software development companies that has a strong presence in Asia-Pacific, believes that agile working is the way forward. “Effective and empathetic leadership combined with systems in place for efficient communication across teams can have more of an impact on productivity than a physical layout of an office,” he says. Netguru’s remote team works with over 200 clients in more than 30 countries.
Michael Risse, Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of leading US-based software company Seeq, says when a work environment is all virtual, it’s a lot easier to keep everything organized. “Workspace technology has also made logarithmic leaps from where it was 10 years ago – just compare a traditional phone call to a Zoom conference meeting,” he confesses, adding, “A remote work environment enables employers to recruit and employ people from anywhere, and gives those employees the flexibility to work from where they already are.”
Working with gig workers too comes with its set of obstacles. How do you, for instance, ensure employees are being productive? Trust is the main factor, says Schmidt. “You need to be transparent, open, and there should be constant to ensure that such a set-up works. Having a strong, values-focused foundation can positively impact all aspects of a business, even relationships with external clients. If anything, we try to over-communicate, both internally and externally. We do this by constantly updating each other and making use of the latest communication technologies such as Slack and Jira.”
Control is rarely 100 per cent in the company’s hands, adds Risse. “It’s never been easier to track employee activity and progress: developers write code, sales people generate revenue, marketing creates PR & MQL and website visits, and executives spend money… all of these are numbers that can be tracked in any number of online tools (Salesforce account touches, Trello board actions, GitHub check-ins, web metrics budget tracking). Another thing is with developer-model daily stand-ups and sprints (two or three-week bursts) that mean deliverables are due sooner and performance is easier to track,” he explains. Schmidt suggests the best tactic is to set clear expectations of how you should work and communicate with a gig worker. “Hire mature, self-starting people.”