The gig economy has become a catchall phrase to describe the growing number of freelance and temporary workers pursuing ‘gigs’ or temporary projects.
Companies like Uber, AirBnB and Task Rabbit have catapulted the gig economy into the spotlight and prompted questions regarding the employment rights of gig workers. But aside from class action cases that are keeping parts of the profession busy, the gig economy could represent a far bigger opportunity for the legal sector. It could be the answer to finding talent in a market plagued by a skills shortage.
UK employers expect at least 20% of their workforce to be employed in this way by 2020 with some suggesting this could be as high as 33% by 2021. So how can the legal sector embrace the value of gig workers?
To begin with we should be clear about which part of the gig economy we’re talking about. In this context we’re talking about those workers that might be termed free agents – people who choose jobs and contracts and derive their primary income from that work, rather than casual labour or those on zero hours contracts.
The answer to deriving value from the gig economy lies in realising both the opportunities and risks that gig workers present. For legal practices the use of gig workers can unlock specialist skills, expertise and skills when it’s needed, rather than being a fixed cost. For full time employees it creates the opportunity to work alongside specialists, hone new skills and be exposed to different ways of working. But while there’s plenty of skills and financial benefit to be had, there are some risks and concerns that must be considered too. It pays to consider the following:
Gig-workers are representatives of your business.
In the same way that you’d view permanent recruitment you need to make sure you’re getting the best people with the right skills, not just making a decision based on low price. Brand reputation is hard earned, but can be easily lost.
Gig workers must be treated like any other member of staff.
Failure to treat gig workers fairly and in the same way as other employees will erode trust and happiness within your permanent workforce and damage brand value and your position as a desirable employer. Induct gig workers into your working practices and environment and make them feel part of your team as you would a permanent member. This is important in order to derive the best value from them.
Consider how you will accommodate their needs.
If they are working remotely do you and they have the right collaboration technologies to ensure smooth and efficient working? If they’re coming into your office, can they get easy access to your facilities, is there somewhere for them to work and will they feel integrated with the rest of your team? Law firms are increasingly investing in dynamic workplaces in order to unlock the benefits of agile working and to present engaging, stimulating places where people want to work. These workspaces are best suited for gig workers as they are typically designed with mobility and transience in mind.
The arrival of the gig economy denotes the changing world of work and a new set of rules governing the relationships between employers and employers. The proliferation of technology has empowered workers to choose how they earn their money and sell their services and has given employers the ability to access labour as and when it’s needed.
PWC is one of the first monoliths of the knowledge economy to tap into the gig economy with the launch of Talent Exchange – an online platform that matches independent freelance professionals with PWC teams. Other professions are bound to follow suit soon as the opportunity is clear – gig workers can strengthen practice expertise and service capabilities, help to up skill teams and provide capacity and flexibility to aid business growth. Why wouldn’t you give it a try?