Gig Workers: An Emerging Frontier For HR

The gig economy, a global phenomenon, accounts for up to 12 percent of the global labour market—much higher than previously estimated—and holds particular promise for women and youth in developing countries (The World Bank)

Across the world, countries are witnessing profound changes in work cultures and job expectations. One of the most significant shifts is the surge in flexible jobs and gig workers facilitated by digital platforms. This trend of gig workers transcends the traditional 9-to-5 model and is being embraced by organisations and workers alike. The gig economy offers short-term contractual jobs and freelancing opportunities to demonstrate a free labour market, providing financial gain and a flexible workspace. According to the World Bank, more than 435 million gig workers seek independent work formats rather than being regular employees. 

HR professionals are at the forefront of reviving the organisation framework relating to the gig economy, which continues to reshape work and corporate dynamics. They are not just observers but active participants, adapting HR policies and strategies to manage a diversified workforce effectively. The rise of gig workers has led to a shift in HR practices, with global HRs now scheduling virtual interviews, conducting skill assessments, and negotiating flexible contracts. The gig economy encompasses diverse workers, from freelancers and part-time workers to seasonal workers and micro-entrepreneurs, all driven by the growing demand for e-commerce, ride-hailing services, online shopping, and hyperlocal delivery apps. 

On the one hand, the gig economy unlocks a large pool of talent for startups and MNCs, while on the other side, HR leaders are coping with major challenges, such as workers’ classification based on their temporary to permanent terminals, regulatory and legal compliances, onboarding and training for contractual jobs, and data security threat due to remote working. Major transformations have been implemented in the digital hiring process, shifting from traditional performance reviews to continuous communication and collaboration, as short-term projects require more frequent updates and targeted training programs. 

Companies with a wide segment of gig workers constantly update HR policies to increase employee engagement. They host virtual meetups and facilitate networking events to foster a sense of inclusivity and collaboration within the organisational structure. With dynamic work environments, time-based evaluations are being replaced with output-based measurements. 

The United States has taken the lead in expanding the global gig economy, with around 57 million gig workers actively working on the freelancing model. Developing nations like India, Indonesia, Australia, and Brazil are also gearing up with trends to empower growth. However, gig workers are struggling with low wage rates, fewer governing rules and regulations, unethical termination, and uncertainty of payments. Acknowledging all these concerns, global HR is developing strategies and policies to reframe gig workers’ perspectives through building trust and credibility. Lack of engagement and loyalty might result in frequent gig worker turnover and costly losses for companies’ short-term project management that are unable to find suitable talent on short notice. 

Inclusive HR practices and regular performance administration will help the organisation balance diverse workforce expectations with agile management. HR and management can effectively manage risk and compliance drawbacks by incorporating gig-specific policies. With the digital landscape, startups and companies aim to recruit fresh, young talent with flexible skills. The modern workforce is a blend of Gen Z and millennials who prefer to work in a free, versatile, and independent mindset. Sticking to traditional HR practices makes it tough for companies to expand in the edging market. Adaptability is the key driving force to growth in these fast-paced technologies, such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, data analytics, and robotics. 

Given the expansion of gig workers, HR is forced to create an adaptable work environment that can accommodate both traditional employees and gig workers. HR practices should be more flexible to maintain diversified talent, refine recruitment strategies, and foster continuous learning and performance metrics that help management shape the future of work culture. Companies will adopt ‘pay-per-task’ models and contractual jobs to set the economic balance in the upcoming decades. Global HR should speed up with their inclusive policies to strike a balance for work efficiency.

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