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Short-term internal assignments: Gig Economy – with people in mind!

The “Gig Economy” has a bad reputation: the US company Uber is on a suing spree, AirBnB has made it necessary to create new rental laws, delivery services and platforms for creative services are under fire. Ok, hold on, Gig Economy – what was that again? – The analogy to the musical gig actually fits quite well. Similar to artists struggling from performance to performance until the big breakthrough comes, freelancers and self-employed people work themselves from job to job, with the big difference that for them there is no prospect of a big breakthrough. That is because these brokering platforms – Uber, AirBnB, 99designs, etc. – claim these for themselves. They are often worth billions, while the actual workers are working under bad, sometimes even illegal conditions.

So, what exactly is desirable about that? 

As with many new concepts – political, social, economic – the original idea was great and still is, but the implementation is proving difficult. The Gig Economy is ultimately an expression of our changing work and life goals, characterized by digitalization.

Where long-term strategies no longer work, where needs can change within a few days, where a critical social media post can rock entire organizations to the core from one moment to the next, flexible structures and small work packages are needed that can be assigned at short notice to people with the right skills and free capacities. Therefore, traditional companies can learn a lot from the platforms, especially in terms of flexibility, while remaining connected to the individual people behind the work package. In other words, companies have the opportunity to take advantage of the benefits of the Gig Economy and skip what goes wrong.

How can that be successful?

Projects vs. Short Assignments: Differnt ways to deal with the crisis

Up to now, projects are usually the smallest, most flexible units in companies. Tasks that require working in new ways and not according to existing processes, that require free space and interdisciplinarity, are handed over to project teams. With an emphasis on “teams”, because projects usually require a number of very different skills that come together for the duration of the project.

More closely related to the “gig” are the so-called “SAs”, short for “Short Assignments”. In contrast to projects, Short Assignments often only require a very specific skill set, which can be found in one or, at the most, two people. In the spirit of a more humane alternative to the platform economy, however, companies do not assign their SAs to outside contractors via an anonymous intermediary, but rather become a marketplace of skills themselves and search for suitable candidates within their own workforce. Especially in times of crisis, when hiring is suspended, SAs are a wonderful opportunity to entrust employees with tasks that prepare the company for the time after the crisis. A good example is digitization concepts, which are likely to be at the top of the agenda for many companies right now. With the help of new HR tools, qualified employees can be found for the “gig” with just a few clicks. Companies benefit in five ways, because:

  1. They entrust someone with a task, who is already familiar with the company, its culture and its products.
  2. They promote the personal and professional development of their employees.
  3. They discover competences within the organization that they were not aware of.
  4. They motivate employees to get involved outside of their area of expertise.
  5. And last but not least they save valuable time and money.

Short Assignments and New Work

Short assignments as a new form of work in future-oriented companies are based on two things that are at the core of the “New Work” idea: Trust and freedom. By intentionally assigning responsible tasks internally rather than externally, organizations display confidence in the abilities of their employees. At the same time, they enable colleagues to gain new experiences in a completely different environment, where they can act independently of known structures and set completely new impulses. This strengthens their self-efficacy, their entrepreneurial thinking and ultimately brings new, valuable impulses back into their familiar environment.

In conclusion: What the “Gig Economy” failed to achieve, companies can now do much better with internal “gigs”: establish structures that help their employees achieve major breakthroughs – maximum creative power, maximum motivation, and maximum fulfillment through their own work.

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