The future of hiring in the gig economy

By Darren H. Burton

I was struck recently by the lead paragraph of an article in the New York Times which said, “You can see the gig economy everywhere but in the statistics.” After all, we hear so much nowadays about how the gig economy is transforming the way people work, driven by the rise of Uber, TaskRabbit, and other services. However, a study released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that as a whole, the gig economy isn’t growing and that traditional jobs remain king. So, what exactly does this mean for a firm like KPMG as we make human resources decisions?

In the professional services industry, at least, the macro trends in the BLS report may not tell the full story. It’s worth looking deeper. According to the data, “management, business, and financial operations occupations” comprise nearly 24% of the independent contractor workforce — a labor pool of nearly 2.5 million individuals. The New York Times article further notes that the number of independent contractors in the “professional and business services” sector has grown approximately 50% since 2005. This is a sizeable labor pool that is expanding at a rapid rate — one that is likely to continue, given current economic and political trends.

 

Most organizations, regardless of industry or strategic objectives, can benefit from the contingent labor market by applying many of the same principles that guide their day-to-day people decisions, but in new ways. By meeting talent where it exists, we can help our organizations grow and serve our clients and stakeholders better.

We don’t need a perfectly polished crystal ball to build an HR strategy around contingent labor. Whether you work in an industry with rapid increases in the number of independent contractors, or one with slower growth, there are some basic principles to keep in mind when seeking to attract and engage contingent talent.

  • Approach contingent labor as part of a larger talent ecosystem. Contingent workers come from a variety of sources — talent networks, staffing agencies, recruiters, direct channels, alumni, and even outsourcers. So we need to set aside any preconceived notions of where to source talent and start eliminating barriers to hiring. While the question for us five years ago might have been, “How do we tap into the right parts of the labor market for the right opportunities?” today’s question becomes, “How do we engage the best candidates quickly, regardless of the source and location?”
  • Roll out the welcome mat for contingent workers. What does your organization’s “front door” look like for one of these 2.5 million workers? Is it more of a side door than a welcoming grand entrance? Many organizations still source contingent labor in a fragmented way, usually through different staffing agencies, so there’s no single place individuals can go to learn about opportunities. If workers can’t easily find opportunities that have your organization’s valuable brand attached, hiring managers may have to spend more time than is ideal to find talented candidates.
  • Improve the ramp-up to productivity. Once a hiring manager has engaged with a contingent worker, are the right support and onboarding systems in place to quickly facilitate productivity? Or is valuable time being spent tracking down laptops, telephone connectivity, security badges, etc.? Fixing this usually takes collaboration among HR, procurement, IT, facilities/real estate, finance, and business stakeholders. Within KPMG’s HR organization, we recently formed a contingent workforce center of excellence to help orchestrate the firmwide effort needed to improve our processes, and we look forward to seeing how these efforts bear fruit.

Most organizations, regardless of industry or strategic objectives, can benefit from the contingent labor market by applying many of the same principles that guide their day-to-day people decisions, but in new ways. By meeting talent where it exists, we can help our organizations grow and serve our clients and stakeholders better.

For additional perspectives on the future of the contingent workforce, read KPMG’s report, Ready for a Boundaryless Workforce?

Darren H. Burton is Vice Chair, Human Resources, for KPMG.

 

Other articles by Darren H. Burton

Darren Burton

Darren Burton

Vice Chair, Human Resources, KPMG (US)

+1 201-307-8212


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Matt Caruso

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