The Gig Economy is horrible… Long live the Gig Economy

The poor gig economy has gotten a lot of bad press recently… Apparently, companies like Uber use video game inspired shenanigans to get people to work more for less money. And, Air BnB is really just enriching the wealthy as opposed to fulfilling on its promise to enrich all those with a spare room. So, many people view gig economy platforms as a tool to exploit workers and deny them benefits.

Gosh, perhaps we should just scrap this gig economy stuff and all get full-time jobs…

…except that we can’t. Sorry, you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. The gig economy is here for a reason. We now have the technology to connect buyers of services directly to service providers. And, warts and all, it makes a difference for people. Being able to drive for Uber was a godsend for a friend when he lost his job. But, there is something else going on that goes way beyond the digital transformation of supply and demand of services… the economy is just moving faster and business requires a more adaptable workforce.

All this talk about the gig economy “not working” reminds me complaints of the hippies I hung out with in my youth complaining about the evils of capitalism. Like capitalism, the gig economy is just a structure and displays all of the moral choices we bring to it. There is nothing inherent in the structure of the gig economy that causes us to mistreat workers. As always, that remains a choice – do we treat our workforce as people or product. Is our labor (who interacts with our customers most frequently) a stakeholder in our business or a cost center to be managed and pushed around? There is nothing new about companies mistreating employees, but the evidence is clear – companies who treat their employees well are just more profitable.

So, how do we make the gig economy work for everyone?

First and foremost – I think it is important to recognize that just because an employee has access to health benefits it does not mean she is being treated with dignity and respect. The inverse is also true. No doubt about it – health and vacation benefits are important (and are provided for Spartoi Consultants) but there are other parts of the pie that are equally important. Does the opportunity offer a challenging experience that nourishes an employee’s goals and vision for their career? This is an important first step when engaging a consultant for a project – ask yourself what opportunities would be offered to the person who engages in this project and find people who are looking for those prospects. Alignment of goals is the first step to creating a positive “gig” relationship. When you know what motivates a consultant and what their goals are, you can provide opportunities that will satisfy these goals making a win-win relationship. At all cost, avoid people who don’t share the goals inherent in the project. It is also important not to expect someone’s loyalty outside of mutually aligned goals.

Compensation is another important consideration – if you are paying the lowest possible rate the market will endure chances are that you are not going to have a great engagement. Remember that you will (most likely) need to pay a little more to account for the temporary nature of your need. Access to benefits are a consideration – if you can’t provide them make sure you can point people in the right direction where they can.

It is also important to recognize that the workplace is not immune to conflict. It is essential that, before each engagement, you are clear on your expectations, that you address what pitfalls your consultant needs to be aware of and that you detail the behaviors that work for you (as well as the ones that drive you nuts.) You should take some time and learn the same about your consultant. Set an expectation that you will preemptively address conflict (before things get tricky) and set an openness for your consultant to do the same. Remember, most people avoid conflict like the plague but we all know what a cancer it is to let thing fester… don’t do it.

After all, looking at what can be done to create a win-win consulting relationship takes a bit of work at the beginning of a relationship but the benefits are well worth the investment.

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