The Gig Economy: VUCA and Opportunities for CHROs

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 never before.

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

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