By Nick Horney, Ph.D.
The Gig Economy is a Digital Disruption Challenge for CHROs
The era of digital disruption for Chief Human Resource Officers (CHROs) is often referred
to as the Gig Economy (AKA -- contingent work, sharing economy, agile talent, non-traditional
work relationships, or alternate forms of employment) where Uber and Airbnb have received
most of the attention from the press. Other Gig Economy “digital disruptors” include
Lyft (ride sharing), UpCounsel (legal experts), Instacart (shopping and delivery),
and TaskRabbit (odd jobs).
The rapidly accelerating growth of the Gig Economy represents one of the most significant
and all-encompassing challenges faced by human resources professionals. The fundamental
question is whether human resources can demonstrate the agility to lead the change
in culture, programs, processes, and policies originally designed for work completed
by full-time employees to a new era when more of the work is being completed by a
talent portfolio increasingly represented by contingent workers (AKA -- gigsters,
free agents, contingent workers, temporary help agency workers, on-call workers, contract
workers, independent contractors or freelancers).
Technology-enabled Talent Platforms
Technology-enabled talent platforms are accelerating the disruption of the status
quo for CHROs and creating a new era of business turbulence, often referred to as
VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). Illustrations of these talent
platforms include Tongal, Topcoder and Mechanical Turk (which the author has used).
These talent platforms better enable people to have more control over how they work—whether
that’s better balance between work and home, choosing passion-driven projects, or
being their own boss. The Gig Economy makes all those things possible on a scale like
As a CHRO, will you leverage these and other talent platforms to successfully manage
your entire talent portfolio, or will you leave that responsibility to the hiring
departments or procurement?
Transformation Opportunity for CHROs
Companies transforming to the new challenges of the Gig Economy realize that they
must act in new ways about accessing and leveraging key talent and filling critical
gaps in core capabilities. Although most executives want to get the most value possible
from external talent, their organizations are not set up for it. They know that they
must act, but it is not clear to them what needs to be done.
So how can CHROs navigate this turbulent VUCA environment and help their management
colleagues and HR team anticipate and act on the changes being driven by the Gig Economy
on the policies, processes, programs and culture impacting their talent portfolio?
How fit is your HR team and organization to address those challenges that were created
primarily for a workforce composed of full-time employees, not contingent workers?
Transformations like this led by CHROs are by no means easy to achieve, but for many
firms, they are a competitive necessity. CHROs have the opportunity to drive the agility
and rapid innovation necessary to compete in the Gig Economy and demonstrate the change
readiness in Human Resources which impact the entire organization. The Agility Audit
framework illustrated below helps guide the choices that CHROs must make to help transform
their organizations in the face of the Gig Economy challenges.
About the Author
Nick Horney, Ph.D. is The Agility Doc. He first discovered the value of agility during his 23 years of service as a special operations naval officer responsible for diving and explosive ordnance disposal teams. In these rapidly unfolding and changing circumstances--and now, as an organizational psychologist--Nick discovered that the key ingredient separating good leaders from best leaders is agility. After serving in a senior role at the Center for Creative Leadership, he founded Agility Consulting and Training in 2001. Learn more about Nick at www.nickhorney.com.