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Maintaining a coherent organisational culture in the gig economy

Source | | Dr. Pavan Soni

Organisations are increasingly facing an interesting conundrum. At one hand there is a growing need for cultural cohesion as firms span geographical boundaries, employee demographics, economic and social strata, and on other hand the workforce is increasingly becoming mobile, dispersed, and largely “gig”. The term “gig economy” was coined by the former New Yorker editor Tina Brown, who defined it as “a bunch of free-floating projects, consultancies, and part-time bits and pieces while they transacted in a digital marketplace.” The term has come to stand for freelancers, piece workers, project-based talent, on-demand workers, consultants, and independent contractors who would trade their scarce talent with time and freedom. 

The growth of creative content in jobs, strain and friction in the traditional job markets, democratization of talent and ideas, and the pervasive Internet has pushed large, well established organisations to look beyond the traditional employee-employer engagements. Part time roles are no longer limited to the lower end of the value chain or for the startups or small enterprises that can’t afford full time talent, rather such engagements have become a necessity to maintain agility in the face of uncertainty. Companies like Nestle, Netflix, Nike, and Porsche, regarded as innovators in their fields, regularly engage temporary technology staff in product development and IT services functions. 

According to research by Braintrust, some of the emergent locations for supplying top-end freelancers and digital nomads are off-beat places such as Canggu in Bali, Chiang Mai in Thailand, and Kraków in Poland, and talent there is competing with that from New York City and Berlin. There is a whole new argument how the gig workforce and empowered freelances can create a more inclusive and sustainable capitalism. Further, according to urban theorist Richard Florida those who belong to the “creative class” are more adept at mixing and matching their income sources to make through difficult times, such as those induced by COVID-19. A whole array of artists, technologists, designers, researchers, teachers, and writers are adopting the model which traditionally dominated by the blue-collar workforce.  

With a myriad of options on talent and engagement models organisations can’t afford the mis out on alternate employment options, especially the white-collar gig economy. However, such engagements can’t come at the cost of a coherent organisational culture, else the very premise of a firm becomes fractured. It is a real stretch between integrity of culture versus value creation by talent, however disperse, incoherent it may be. There is even a debate whether traditional offices are relevant anymore? I think, if designed well, adaptive organisations can bring the best out of the gig workforce. 

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