Gig-workers provide cross-fertilisation of knowledge in the larger ecosystem. 

A job for life is one of the last things millennials and Generation Z are looking for. Today’s youth want to see their own values and standards reflected in their work. As well as young people largely redrawing the future of work, we are seeing the ever-growing freelance and gig economy having an ever – increasing influence.

The gig-economy represents a free market system in which organizations and independent workers make short-term work arrangements in which they both add value to the growth of themselves and the entire ecosystem.  The meteoric rise of this gig-economy has been driven in part by the digital age, which is disrupting labour markets and changing skills needs. Technological advances through automation, AI and other emerging technologies are impacting the nature of work and employment.

The big rise in the gig-economy, like that of young people, is reflected in the search for purpose. Participating in this new economy means looking for a job that fits their personality, interests and family situation. Authenticity is central here. A job that is an extension of themselve and what they stand for.

These new jobs, or Gig-jobs, are often more cognitively complex, more collaborative, more dependent on technological competence, more mobile and less dependent on geography, and are greatly influenced by the platformisation of work. This means that in the Gig-economy, jobs are often chosen on an ad-hoc basis via online platforms based on one’s own knowledge, competencies, skills and timeframe in which the job must take place.

That the Gig-economy will make no small contribution to the Future of Work can be seen from the figures that have been growing exponentially worldwide in recent years.  According to a study by Mastercard in 2019, the total global Gig-economy will reach 347 billion dollars by 2021.  Within this growth we find ,without surprise, that the majority of this contribution is made in transportation-based services (TRNS) such as Uber and asset-sharing platforms (ASSET) such as Air-bnb. Both amount to $115.8 and $68.1 respectively or a whopping 57.8% and 30 .3% of the total.   A much slammer segment is found in the sector of Handmade Goods,Household & Miscellaneous(HGHM) now still account for 16.7$ or 8.2%. 

For now, the smallest segment is that of professional services (PRFS), accounting for USD 7.7 billion or 3.8% of the total. It should come as no surprise that this latter segment still has a lot of growth potential due to the digital age and the need for new skills. The freelance and gig economy in relation to professional service providers is gaining momentum, with a compound annual growth rate of no less than 17.4% by 2023. This latter group in the knowledge-intensive industries and creative professions would also be the largest and fastest growing segment in the overall freelance economy, according to McKinsey.

This fast-growing group seeking self-development also recognises that there are many personal, social and economic anxieties without the cover and support of a traditional employer. Yet, for them, independence and the benefits are more decisive than the worries of unpredictable schedules and finances.

People who are not in permanent employment find that they have accumulated more courage and live a richer life than their colleagues in the corporate world. Independent of managers and corporate norms, freelancers can choose assignments that make the most of their talents and reflect their true interests. They feel ownership over what they produce and over their entire professional life, which is reflected in their personal well-being.

“A plant needs roots in order to grow. With man it is the other way around: only when he grows does he have roots and feels at home in the world.”

Eric Hoffer

The price of this freedom, however, is an insecurity that does not seem to disappear over time. Even the most successful, established people still worry about money and reputation and sometimes feel that their identity is at stake.  As a writer, of course, I can empathise with that. After all, you become your job and the day you can no longer produce new material, you are suddenly a nobody, even as a person. For many freelancers and gig-workers, discipline is a skill that allows you to stand out from those who fail. 

Another motivation of freelancers that I recognise is that we can work where and when we want. Moreover, we feel that we are always doing something that has a positive impact on the ecosystem we are part of.  According to a survey by HBR , for the vast majority of respondents, purpose is one of the most important motives for taking on a project. This purpose would be the bridge between their personal interests and motivations and a need in the world. 

Yet there is a paradox at the heart of a freelancer’s life. We all want to maintain our independence and in many cases even our restlessness, because that restlessness is what drives us to keep looking for added value to keep our edge, and sharing knowledge is what gives us the oxygen to keep going.

This bridge between personal interests and motivations and the fulfilment of a need in the world, goes hand in hand with discipline and the restlessness that also drives us to embrace lifelong learning. And that is an enormous added value for the organisations that employ temporary workers.  From the many different projects and knowledge that these employees gain on the many projects, they always bring new knowledge for the next assignment.   That is why gig-workers and freelancers provide cross-fertilisation that connects different organisations in the larger ecosystem. 

Inspired by An De Boelpaep and Beeto.be


Curious how gig-workers and freelancers can bring added value to your organisation by implementing new learning strategies? Katja@habitofimprovement

Published by Katja Habit Of Improvement

Lifelong learning and an unstoppable drive for innovation, creativity, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. Katja Schipperheijn is a digital learning strategist and internationally recognized consultant and keynote speaker on learning and engagement in the connected world. Her area of expertise focuses on the interaction of people and technology to achieve sustainable growth based on commitment and well-being. She has worked for more than 15 years with tech companies and learning organizations and holds a Master Degree in Economical Science, an Executive MBA from the Antwerp Management School and Digital Learning Strategy from MITSloan

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