Three Ways the “Gig Economy” is Changing the Professional Workforce Model

Though traditional employment opportunities still exist, more companies are rethinking how they recruit talent.

A professional services consultant shows a man and a woman something on a rugged tablet screen.
by Eileen Looi
April 12, 2021

The phenomenon of the gig economy has been gaining huge popularity in recent years across the world. Hiring temporary resources in a project-based or on-demand capacity instead of building a workforce solely comprised of permanent employees is proving to offer numerous benefits for both employers and “gig” contractors.

However, there’s a misperception that the gig economy model is driven by simple, transactional workers such as rideshare and food delivery drivers, personal shoppers and freelance taskers. The reality is that skilled consultants with specialized knowledge and skillsets are in equal demand, with Professional Services consulting now one of the fastest growing segments of the gig talent pool. And it makes sense. The gig economy model has matured to a point where it can be applied across all businesses. It’s no longer a proof of concept. So, it seems inevitable for companies to re-evaluate their talent investment and staffing model to have the right talent at the right time.

What All Businesses Stand to Gain from the Gig Economy

Though there are many great benefits of deploying a gig economy business model, one of the most significant is centered on the way resource capacity and scheduling can be managed. For example, companies of all sizes in all sectors can enjoy:

1. On-demand and flexible scheduling options. The ease of engaging and disengaging resources provides flexibility to scale labor in line with seasonal or variable demand. Companies can build teams with the exact talent they need, exactly when they need it, whether in a ramp up or scale down implementation.  

2. Access to a global talent pool. The pace of change in business requires a diverse range of skillsets and experiences which may not be readily available in house. By tapping into a global specialist talent pool, it provides companies access to the sought-after expertise as required to compete in such a dynamic global economy, regardless of geographical coverage.

3. Time and cost efficiencies. The inefficiency of traditional staffing models can be reduced, enabling a quick turnaround time when needing to form the right team of resources to deliver and achieve customers’ desired outcomes.

How the Gig Economy Model Can Be Applied to Professional Services

Some might say the Professional Services sector was implementing a gig economy model before the term “gig economy” was ever uttered. That is because consultants – whether individuals or teams – are typically project-based professionals whose expertise and support is solicited in an “on demand” fashion. But we’re starting to see more formality and acceptance around the widespread use of Professional Services consultants. Companies no longer see this exclusively as an outsourced function that is funded by a discretionary budget line item.

Many consultants are now being integrated as “team members,” if only temporarily, even though on paper they are still technically freelance labor or third-party service providers. In other instances, current talent is being given the opportunity to pick up “gigs” within their own companies but outside their traditional roles.

If your company would like to take advantage of the gig economy model, here are the two different approaches you could take:

1. External gig. Identify the resource requirements of a project that may present a gap – perhaps one difficult to fill internally or better optimized with external expertise. It could require a highly specialized skillset such as resources with knowledge or experience with a new technology or certain market dynamics, languages, and cultures. You may also need someone to provide broader geographical coverage. On the other hand, you might just need resources for simple, transactional, standardized and easily controllable functions where the gig economy model lowers the cost of labor. The identified gap will then be fulfilled through the hiring of contractors with the required skills complementary to the project.

2. Internal gig. Create internal gig opportunities for permanent employees across the company to participate in short-term project assignments. It is highly cost effective to leverage an existing talent pool within the company, and this approach actively promotes cross-team collaboration. It is also a great way to provide career enrichment opportunities for employees who aspire to develop themselves while keeping their core job responsibilities.

From a Professional Services perspective, there is no one specific approach that fits all. The consultative business is very dynamic and, depending on the types of projects and needs, the above gig approaches can be used in combination or individually. The key is to maximize the utilization of the right resources to deliver the best outcomes at the right time.

Think about staffing a complex solution delivery project with a blended team consisting of external experts who possess niche knowledge and experience, low-cost local contractors who perform standard field services, an internal on-demand employee who could help contribute to the project tasks, and last but not least, a core of professional consultants who are best at leveraging their core skillset in driving the overall success of the project! This agile workforce would certainly help companies effectively match their talent investments to business and market demands. Most importantly, end customers would benefit significantly from this optimized delivery approach to achieve a return on investment (ROI) within an accelerated time frame.

The Future of Professional Services as a Gig Economy Offering

It is imminent that the gig economy will be part and parcel of our global economy, and it will continue to grow in the future as it gains traction across all businesses, including the Professional Services segment. While the switch to the gig economy model will have a profound impact on how companies explore talent and build teams, it is equally important for companies to empower and integrate gig resources into their cultures. Delivering excellent customer experiences remains the top priority for all businesses, and we believe that can more easily be fulfilled through a well-structured gig economy setup designed for a Professional Services organization.

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Eileen Looi
Eileen Looi is currently the Lead of Zebra’s Professional and Learning Services business unit in APAC where she is responsible for the delivery of solutions to Zebra’s customers and partners. Eileen has more than 20 years of experience in the technology industry and has led teams within program management, solution delivery, management consulting and software development disciplines at both a regional and global level.