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Learning in the gig economy

Imagine a world where the only full-time employee in a company is the CEO. A world of empowered entrepreneurs, self-employed individuals and freelancers who compete against each other for the next exciting new endeavour. A world where relationships are totally transactional and employer rights are non-existent.

Welcome to the gig economy – a highly competitive, on-demand freelance labour market that offers a wealth of independent contract work. This world poses a number of organisational challenges.

The gig world requires us to not only reconsider how we source talent, but what it means for the ways we develop our people. Because technically, they wouldn’t be ‘our people’. If everyone is a self-employed professional, moving from contract to contract, would we really want to invest in their learning and career development for them to leave the company in six months? Probably not.

As we move towards a gig economy, some serious questions are being raised for learning and development. And whilst it’s too soon to call the demise of the function, there are three important areas that need to be brought into the spotlight.

Refresh your onboarding programme

With the increase in portfolio careers, workers won’t have the luxury of a three to six month ‘settling in’ period. The expectation will be to hit the ground running, work fast and integrate quickly. Organisations need to make sure their onboarding is efficient, effective and won’t derail or slow down existing teams within the company. Digital will also play a big role here. Digital channels, portals and apps will need to provide accessible information to new joiners when they need it.

For example, we worked with a large global financial services organisation to develop a fully responsive website, available as a WebApp, branded as ‘People Management Essentials’. This new digital learning website supports employees transitioning into a leadership position, providing them with ‘just-in-time support’ on great people management, therefore enabling them to transition smoothly and hit the ground running.

How well is your organisation set up to integrate new joiners?

Rethink how you can retain knowledge in a fluid and flexible world

We’ve all experienced the pain and frustration of long-standing employees leaving an organisation with all the knowledge, information and experience in their heads. We need to start thinking about how we can better retain knowledge because there are going to be a lot of movers in the gig world. And the answer to this can’t just be a centralised document management system. For one, in the highly-competitive nature of the gig world, people will be reluctant to share their IP and upload their knowledge onto a system where they have no control over who will have access to it. Also, it’s not just the written content that needs to be retained. We need to capture the experiences, failures and mistakes from over the years. It’s this institutional knowledge, built up over time, that’s integral to an organisation’s survival.

How well do you retain knowledge in your organisation? Do you just rely on document management systems which take a lot of effort to maintain, are pretty rubbish at retrieving information and people never use? Or are you considering other, more innovative ways of creating a knowledge economy?

Take big data seriously

In the gig world, the focus of employee data will change. It will no longer be held on central HR or learning management systems. Instead, people will hold their own information and records of achievement. They will have a TripAdvisor-like profile with the most in-depth data ranging from experience and skills, to feedback, successes, and failures. With every completed project, they will receive feedback and ratings from peers that will be uploaded to their profile and visible to all. Learning and development functions need to take full advantage of this data – using advanced analytics to review existing capabilities at the click of a button. But our research shows only four per cent of organisations have any embedded talent metrics. Where metrics exist, organisations often only use them to look back at what has happened in the past and fail to use them to predict what’s likely to happen in the future.

How well are you mining employee data? Does LinkedIn know more about your employees than you do?

Whether or not the gig economy comes into full fruition, we know that this type of work is increasingly attractive to young people. One in four people aged 16-30 say they would consider some form of gig working in the future. Organisations need to start asking whether they’re set up to deal with an influx of contingent workers.

Read our first blog in the series 'Are you ready for the future of work?'.



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