Gig Economy

By: Sam Darwish

The landscape of our business economy has changed drastically over the last decade and even more so in the last few months. After millions of layoffs and many brick and mortar establishments at risk of bankruptcy, it might be time to shift our focus to what lies ahead. People across the globe are asking themselves where they fit in and businesses are sure to follow suit.

Those who once believed they would work with the same company or industry for the entirety of their career now have the opportunity to reevaluate. What we know is, automation is coming. One might ask themself what they can offer that cannot be automated. While no one ever wants to find themself unemployed or on the verge of closing shop, both parties can decide, moving forward, what they have to offer in this new wave of economic shifts.

Part of the shift we will see is the growth of what some are calling a 'gig economy'. A gig is defined as a short or long-term job that lasts until the task or project is complete. It's not permanent employment, its contract work. This new employment model is redefining how companies engage with both employees and customers.

This model brings with it an endless opportunity with new platforms popping up left and right seeking people to engage in freelance work on many different levels. These people can choose to do it as little or as often as suits their needs and even treat it like a full-time job, filling their schedules with a few hours of work from different companies. Think of companies like Uber and Lyft where a person can work for both on the same day; earning their money once individual transports are completed. Gad Allon, the director of the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology at the University of Pennsylvania, estimates this economy to grow to $2.7 trillion by 2025.

Previously the employment model looked like this: Constant employment where you interview for a job, get hired, show up, and work as they laid out in their expectations. This is contract work in extended form. But as we stated before, the traditional models are shifting. We are all familiar with companies like Uber, Lyft, and GrubHub. When consumers use these companies they are essentially renting assets owned by the contractor. They pay for a one time service and the contractor gets paid for the task.

This new model of employment covers many kinds of jobs, from plumbing to mechanical work to babysitting. People with specific skill sets may find themselves working for multiple company's at the same time and these companies don't have to pay employees benefits like health insurance. Furthermore, as we move toward a world where more things are becoming automated, businesses will be seeking those who can do what computers cannot; without needing to employ them full-time.

Just how big will this shift to a gig-economy really be? It's hard to say. Matthew Bidwell, a Wharton management professor recently stated in a New York Times article, "The future is likely to be somewhat different to how it is now, but there is no clear trend at the moment that I think tells us how work will play out in the futureā€¦I don't think that the gig economy is the future of work," Bidwell adds. "It is a vibrant niche in the economy and will likely continue to be one but I believe it will not grow to dominate the economy. Most companies need some stability in their workforce. There is value to having the same people show up every day, who know each other, know the company, and how to do the work. Many employees also value the stability of a regular, full-time job."

It's probably safe to assume that the future of work will be a mixture of both models of employment; permanent and contract. The good news is, any increase in the gig economy also impacts earning potential for so many people who have recently found themselves unemployed during this economic standstill. "The gig economy can be a great thing for giving people more flexibility and options to make money," notes Bidwell.

And in fact, we already see many businesses are using a hybrid model; where they have their full-time 'permanent' employees and utilize contractors simultaneously with more and more businesses moving towards the contact model. Because of this, they will likely start looking for updated ways to manage these types of employees.

Let's paint a picture. Everyone relies on the services of some kind. Now, more than ever those services are often delivered in the field (aka, brought to our home). When you order something from Whole Foods, the person delivering the groceries is not likely a Whole Foods employee. You would also be safe to assume that even the software used to place and manage that order is not part of Whole Foods infrastructure. It's likely a third party supplying the software and another separate entity making the physical delivery.

As more and more companies shift to this type of operation, they will want to ensure customer satisfaction and overhead costs are not sacrificed. One way to do this is by building their own software to manage things like field service productivity, asset and project management, preferred contractors, etc. Companies like ServiceDemand offer cloud-based software that helps companies link team members, customers, and projects together. With custom dashboards to optimize workforce, ServiceDemand assists in automation to sell more goods and services as well as to measure success.

An ability to monitor and streamline so many moving parts will be imperative to the survival of their infrastructure and efficiency. Watch carefully as the economy shifts this direction, we can expect to see an increase in automated Field Service Management as well.

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