What Indian millennials, companies and the government can do for the gig economy to succeed

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With millennials moving into management roles, and Gen Z (individuals born between 1997 and 2012) gradually becoming a part of the workforce, we are seeing a new dimension being added to what constitutes as “employment.”

In today’s hyper-personalised and connected world, an individual’s dreams and aspirations are what drives them to choose a particular organisation or field of work. As a result, global economies are undergoing a shift from traditional work structures towards part-time or gig culture.

A report on the future of jobs in India by FICCI, EY, and NASSCOM, states that with a 24% share, India is leading in terms of online labour market globally. Further, a study by KellyOCG titled “Workforce Agility Barometer” reveals that for 56% of the Indian firms, the proportion of temporary workers is more than 20%.

The numbers are only going to increase over the next two years, with more than 71% organisations hiring more contingent workers. Furthermore, with a population of 1.3 billion and over 400 million millennials, it is clear that India is the global talent hub, and therefore, these figures will also lead to a rise of gig workers in the global workforce.

Last year, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 55 million people or 35% of the total US workforce comprises of gig workers. That number is projected to jump to 43% by 2020, a clear indication of how gig employment will grow manifold in the future.

Given this, the question is how do companies and individuals enable themselves to be a part of the gig economy and contribute towards the global economic, sustainable and inclusive growth.

Rise of the millennial workers

The gig economy is attracting millennials because it offers them alternative work arrangements. It provides them with what they value: flexible working hours, the ability to work from home, a variety of experiences, and a sense of excitement to be working on different projects with varied companies.

With passion being a huge trigger for gig-workers, it drives individuals to do what they like to do when they like to do, and at the speed that energises them.

In order to tap into the millennial workforce, organisations need to create a more diverse and inclusive workplace. Future businesses will have people from different generations, backgrounds, cultures, and styles working alongside each other.

Developing a strong understanding of the behaviours of this multigenerational workforce will be essential to build an efficient and inclusive workplace.

Role of policymakers

The success of the gig economy will be dependent on how policymakers, futurists, industry, and governments come together to develop an enabling framework and labour laws that allow it to thrive and sustain.

Also, companies will have to re-evaluate their current practices to accommodate gig workers. For example, non-compete and non-solicit agreements will have to be reassessed for applicability and organisations need to define a framework to protect themselves with the right confidentiality clauses.

Gig economy and the government sector

Similar work trends are emerging in the government sector as well.

Though they are not exactly examples of gig workers, they are on the lines of the same framework. The recent “lateral entry” introduced by the government with a limited period of employment has been a major success and made the gig economy relevant to the government sector as well.

The union budget 2020-21 has also proposed one-year long internship opportunities to engineers in urban local bodies. In this respect, it is emerging as an enabler to help India achieve its dream of being a $5 trillion economy by 2025.

Re-defining management’s role

Today chief financial officers, or CFOs, are concerned about business processes and want the operations to be more agile, accurate and qualitative. The gig economy enables the management to ensure the same.

The availability of gig workers has also transformed the way tech companies plan their hiring and manage the costs. The chief technology officer, or CTO, has a more active role in aligning with the human resource team to manage the security and privacy of data handled by the gig worker.

Survival of the fittest

Gig workers need to be constantly learning and keeping up with industry trends to maintain a competitive edge. In a gig economy, a worker needs to market oneself by networking, building relationships, and by creating a pipeline of opportunities. They need to develop future-focused capabilities like strategic thinking, analysing, influencing, and combine these with soft skills like creativity and lateral thinking.

Attributes such as the ability to never give up, creative thinking, resilience, and adaptability, will help gig work emerge as strong professionals. The tech firms and gig workers must develop a cohesive framework to derive the maximum advantage of this new trend and the plethora of opportunities it brings along.

This is part of a series of articles in partnership with the NASSCOM Technology and Leadership Forum 2020, to be held in Mumbai from Feb. 12-14. Read all stories in the series here. We welcome your comments at ideas.india@qz.com.