Variety is the Spice of Work Life.
Today I’m writing this blog post, yesterday I attended a sales meeting with a prospective client, and the day before I launched a new social media campaign. Variety like this keeps me engaged and happy to get to work each day. However, the same cannot be said for the majority of my generation. In fact, according to a recent PricewaterhouseCoopers' (PwC) CEO's report, 55% of Millennials are disengaged at work.
I’m fortunate to work at a growing tech company, in which my role almost resembles that of a freelancer, constantly moving between projects that match my interests and skill sets. This can be harder to come by at large, established (often non-tech) companies that aren’t as well set up to accommodate internal mobility. With the next generation seeking even greater variety and customization at work, as discussed by Scott Burns in Two Things I’ve Learned about Gen Z from the Gurus, companies like these will need to make some changes in order to retain young employees.
Internal Mobility: “Gig Economy” Style
By now, most people have heard of the gig economy, associated with companies like Uber, Airbnb, Etsy, and Amazon Flex that seem to be taking the world by storm. Research shows, 53% of those who take on gig work see it as a secondary source of income. Aside from monetary reasons, many choose to partake in the gig economy because of the variety of projects they have access to. Instead of the same predictable responsibilities day in and day out, they are able to choose which tasks to dedicate time towards based on alignment with personal interests. This is especially true of certain types of freelance work, which can serve as a creative outlet. Circling back to the idea that both Millennials and Gen Zers value variety and customization in the workplace, it’s no surprise that individuals representing these generations are the most likely to freelance and also hire freelancers.
Most enterprises match employees with assignments based on factors such as experience level or job title. In order to better accommodate employee interests and skills, organizations can take an approach that Dan Pontefract dubs the “talent-gig relationship.” This is how most gig platforms (such as UpWork or Fiverr) match individuals with specific skills to open tasks or projects. By using this approach, enterprises essentially create their own internal talent marketplaces. Though setting this up will take some serious effort on behalf of an organization, it’s well worth it, considering approximately two-thirds of companies have stated a desire to increase internal talent mobility, according to Josh Bersin’s HR Tech Market 2019 report.
Bringing the Gig Economy into the Enterprise
In order to successfully launch an internal gig economy model, an organization has to increase visibility into the individual skill sets and interests of its employees, similar to the way that Upwork (image above) allows freelancers to do so. This is where technology comes into play.
Using Structural, for example, employees are able to include skills, interests, experiences, and even personality data on their individual profiles. These profiles are entirely searchable by everyone in the organization. As such, if an operations team within Kelly’s organization is feeling particularly slammed this month and could use some extra help on projects, a member of the team can easily search for employees with interest in operations and advanced Excel skills. That teammate would add these filters and come up with a list of individuals including Kelly, who could be chosen to help out. Kelly isn’t limited by her job title as an Administrative Assistant, though she may have been if her interests and skills weren’t available for everyone to see.
If internal mobility for Kelly looks more like getting involved in company volunteer events or finding a great mentor, she can easily search Structural for groups that align with these interests or search for individuals to connect with. There are endless ways for employees to use the platform for internal mobility and career development.
Change isn’t easy, especially for large, established organizations. Today’s workforce, however, is entirely different than it was even 10 years ago. The new generations of workers have high expectations in terms of internal mobility and role diversity. The enterprises that choose to adapt and meet these expectations will have the best chance of retaining talent and continuing to thrive for years to come. Establishing a customized version of the internal gig economy can propel these enterprises in the right direction.
Kaitlin Nottestad is a member of the Structural team based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She lives in Minneapolis and loves to explore all that the Twin Cities has to offer, although she will always be a Wisconsinite at heart!