How do You Gigify Your Work?

The financial services and insurance industry could very well be facing its greatest challenge yet: how to survive in the gig economy.

November 16, 2016

The financial services and insurance industry is traditionally known as one of the most conservative and resistant to change. However, in the past eight or nine years since the financial crisis, enterprises have been forced to acknowledge change and adapt accordingly to everything from new regulations to automation to disruptive technologies. And now the industry could very well be facing its greatest challenge yet: how to survive in the gig economy.

An October 2016 report by the McKinsey Global Institute titled “Independent Work: Choice, Necessity, and the Gig Economy” reports that in the U.S. and E.U., between 20 and 30 percent of the working age population are independent workers. Furthermore, 30 percent of those people are free agents by choice. Many of these individuals are highly skilled professionals who choose free agency voluntarily because it gives them the freedom to choose their work on a project-by-project basis. It’s also important to understand that since these professionals are both skilled and experienced, they’re in high demand. Companies that five years ago would never have considered hiring an external worker for an important project now find themselves not only willing to hire independent workers for a limited amount of time, but also to pay top dollar for their services. Talent choices are becoming less focused on individual employees and are instead driven by the need for specific competencies. That means that the choice to hire an independent worker for a limited amount of time isn’t so much motivated by cost, but rather by the predefined period of time a company needs his or her skills.

At the same time, there’s an increased interest from direct hires in project-based work. As a result, enterprises that traditionally have hired primarily full-time employees for specialized jobs are now faced with the challenge of “gigifying” their work.

Before changing any processes, however, enterprises need to first establish a “gig culture.” What I mean by this is a work environment in which employees are encouraged to think on a project-by-project basis, at least for some of their more important tasks. Depending on the company, department, and position, there will always be certain ongoing and recurring tasks. But in addition to these tasks, organizations need to support employees in determining what skills and experience they want to acquire or hone—and match them to project-like work arrangements that allow them to do this.

Gigifying the work itself requires looking at what has to be done as a series of projects that consist of processes. Those processes can be performed by individual workers or teams made up of multiple workers. The projects can be further divided into milestones so that there’s a series of consecutive small projects that together form one larger project.

Of course, making this adaptation will require considerable effort and resources, not only from the various stakeholders, but also in terms of talent management. However, those enterprises that succeed in gigifying their work will be better able to match talent to tasks in a cost-effective and efficient manner.

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