Beyond Contracting: How the Gig Economy is Re-Shaping the Future of Work

Fluid workplace structures. Agile workers with flexible roles. Multiple career paths in the same location. A customer-focused experience. All of these elements come together as part of the gig economy to create a recipe for success in the new “corporate world.” While making these ideas a reality may seem like a challenge to us as leaders, businesses like SAP have a unique opportunity to lead the way into this future of work.

The gig economy provides all of us with the space to continuously grow, learn new skills, and apply our unique interests to our professional life. Just as people are now more flexible, businesses have quickly followed by providing individuals with similar opportunities internally. The gig economy is truly re-defining the employee experience and influencing how companies structure their workforce.

New Roles, Better Customer Focus

As these changes begin to take place, we in HR must respond to the needs of our customers: employees. It is becoming increasingly rare for us to stay in one type of role for the entirety of our career; consistent re-evaluation and re-definition of roles is more and more necessary. While it may seem a daunting task at first blush, this new approach to career pathing provides a unique opportunity to bring more of our authentic selves into our professional lives.

Someone in a sales role, for example, doesn’t have to be confined to promoting migration to the cloud. If that person is also passionate about environmentalism, they could partner with and provide support to a sustainability team at their workplace. Over time, that partnership could result in the creation of a new sales sustainability role, dedicated to making customers more aware of environmentally-friendly products or processes.

If you see an opportunity for flexibility within your role, perhaps the next rung on your career ladder is more of a bridge, linking you to new experiences. 

The Career Path Less Traveled

This new agile workforce is not always looking for the next opportunity to “level up.” Our career paths wind through job-sharing or co-management positions, or even see us join a temporary or permanent team for a short period of time to gain new skills. SAP already has a wonderful fellowship program which provides our employees the opportunity to join another team on a short-term basis, bringing the skills they’ve acquired back to their current team at the conclusion of the fellowship.

These concepts are evolving into an opportunity to build skills, allow everyone to explore their passions, and then integrate those skills and passions into meaningful roles. For us as HR leaders, the challenge is creating processes that allow these things to happen in a seamless way – though it may not be as complicated or disruptive as it might seem. Imagine companies offering benefits that include a one-year paid sabbatical after three years of work, or using job sharing to allow employees to explore their passions outside the office! People want to bring their whole selves to work, and SAP is helping its employees do so every day.

The Agile People Pool

The gig economy has also pushed us to reconsider the traditional pool of employees. Transitions such as leadership changes make it critical for us to form new partnerships, and for teams to think about their structure with a more agile mindset. A fluid workforce that forms and re-forms to support different areas and initiatives can make this not only a possibility, but a reality. Those of us in leadership positions will also play a key role; we must be willing to nurture talent, supporting their education and development – even if that means they develop into roles beyond our immediate team. Ultimately, I think this results in even more flexibility throughout an organization’s talent pool, and a more well-rounded workforce.

As the future of work takes shape, we as leaders must be willing to embrace change, addressing challenges that arise with an open and flexible mindset. While not everyone can take the leap in to a contracted position, I know I am grateful for the adaptability that the gig economy provides and am excited to see how it will continue to shape the world of business. This evolution asks us to find comfort in discomfort, but what lies on the other side just might be the flexibility that both business and people need to be successful.

Where do you see the influence of the gig economy and agile workforce in your own role? Share your experience with me in the comments below!