The working world is changing. Flexible hours are replacing the nine-to-five routine across industries, and easy access to information is giving rise to what is being referred to as a ‘remote workforce’. In fact, the very term ‘job’ is not what it used to be; instead, another term is doing the rounds: the small but now popular word ‘gig’.
What is the gig economy?
Simply put, a gig is a short-term project that’s meant to be a source of added income. In other words, it’s freelance employment: a form of employment that’s now more widespread than ever before because of the impact of technology on the way people work. This shift from steady jobs to freelancing has created the phenomenon of the ‘gig economy’ — an on-demand, job-to-job (or project-to-project) form of self-employment that is especially popular among millennials.
What is the impact on the field service industry?
As the globe’s workforce witnesses this shift and even gets swept up in it in pockets, what about the field service industry? Not surprisingly, it is one of the many sectors to adopt the gig way of working and is doing so in a big way. In fact, a study conducted all the way back in 2016, found that nearly 70% of all the field service organisations operating at the time were using some freelancer management system or other for staffing purposes. And indeed, the field service industry is going the gig way in terms of talent acquisition.
Given that the field service market has changed tremendously — as a result of new technologies, economic ups and downs, and a growing emphasis on skills — workforce management, especially in field services, is not as simple or straightforward as it used to be. Managing an internal workforce is a struggle with the current cost-sensitive and hyper-responsive state of the service market. This has led numerous field service organisations to rely on freelance management systems (FMS) and gig platforms to ease the hiring process. These systems and platforms — including Freelancer, Upwork, Airtasker, Uber, Taxify, and others — offer solutions across staffing and other major workforce management processes in the space, right from recruitment to reporting.
So it’s no wonder that, according to The Australian Bureau of Statistics, approximately 2.5 million Australians are now employed on freelance or casual bases. This is over a quarter of the entire workforce. And as Angela Knox, Associate Professor of the University of Sydney Business School, points out, this mass movement toward gig platforms is causing “secure employment to be reduced at an unprecedented rate”. She adds: “Businesses are increasingly opting out of contracts of employment because employment regulation takes wages out of competition, but the gig economy puts them back in play and allows a race to the bottom, that we are already seeing.”
But given its flexibility — both in pay and in hours — the variety it offers, the cost saving involved, and the growth possibilities that come with it, it’s clear to see why the gig culture is enjoying a growing success rate, particularly in field service.
What can we expect in 2019 and beyond?
2019 is here, and so is the gig economy; in fact, the latter has been around for a while and looks to be here for the long haul. So, what is the future of the gig culture in field service? 2019 may see entrepreneurship take a brand-new turn; we could see more ‘solopreneurs’ emerge as increasing numbers of field workers choose to freelance or look for project-based employment via digital platforms. This is especially likely because technology continues to grow, with digital being one of the fastest-growing channels. We may even see laws (like this one, which was passed in New York City) come into effect to support gig workers, giving the culture more weight and bigger boosts than ever before.
The gig economy is carving a significant space for itself in the field service industry so it will be interesting to see what happens next as the two worlds continue to intersect.