Economic crises promote freelancing and project work – that has always been the case. But even regardless of pandemic circumstances, the gig economy is on the rise. The concept can also be applied to the internal talent market. Here we explain how companies can benefit from an Internal Gig Economy not only in times of crisis but in the long term.
Idle or bottleneck – flexibility is required
Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures, they say. The Corona pandemic is without question an extraordinary challenge for companies as well as for every single employee. The standstill imposed by common sense and politics is slowing down entire industries. In other sectors, however, the crisis is proving to be an economic turbo-booster: online retail, logistics service providers, software providers, the pharmaceutical industry, medical technology or food retail are just a few examples of unplanned covid beneficiaries who can no longer cope with their order situation. But regardless of whether their own employees are overworked or underutilized, companies are forced to (re)act extremely flexibly in any case.
Using your own employees as freelancers
To call Gig Economy an exceptional measure in this context would be an exaggeration. The concept has enjoyed growing popularity for quite some time, even without a virus, but it primarily refers to the demand-oriented short-term use of external freelancers whose services are purchased. In an internal gig economy, on the other hand, the company’s own staff take on the role of freelancers, consultants, or temporary workers. This means that employees if they have free capacities, work company-wide in additional part-time projects and short assignments or help out at short notice where there is a need for their skills. The advantages are obvious, not only with regard to the current exceptional situation caused by the crisis.
Ahead of the competition with true employee mobility
With a functioning internal gig economy, companies change their people management towards true employee mobility and staff optimization, because temporary bottlenecks are cushioned with existing resources. On the whole, the workforce can thus be relocated quickly and efficiently. Through networked, cross-departmental, and cross-project working, the organization as a whole becomes more agile and adaptive. Companies can immediately adapt to changing requirements with highly flexible project staffing and be that important step ahead of the competition. So much for the theory. In practice, however, the desired flexibility is based on the voluntary nature of the employees. After all, they are supposed to contribute to other projects in addition to their job. But who voluntarily works more than they have to?
It’s all a question of motivation
In fact, Internal Gig Economy not only has advantages for the company but also for employees who value self-determined and flexible working. This model gives them the opportunity to shape their own career path. They can decide in which projects they want to gain additional professional experience and expand their know-how. A change of job due to a lack of perspectives and development opportunities should thus be off the table for quite a few. For the employer, this means less fluctuation and stronger employee loyalty. In addition, they can keep valuable knowledge in-house.
Those who always do what they can already do…
Why further education is important Companies do well to offer employees not only projects and vacancies on the internal job market, but also further training and mentoring programs. This means that employees can choose whether they want to use their free capacities for a specific project or for a training measure that matches their professional ambitions. In this way, internal appointments are not only tied to skills that employees already have. They are encouraged to acquire new skills. The ongoing qualification and retraining of the workforce run virtually alongside and out of personal motivation. The employer benefits in the long run from more universally employable workers.
Internal Gig Economy – How to create the right conditions
- Create the right framework conditions: Clear the way for Internal Mobility in general and Gig Economy in particular. Adjust your HR policies to create an open talent market within the organization. And build the right mindset. For example, as long as the supervisor’s approval is needed to change jobs internally, to free up time for a side project, or to participate in training, you will not be able to prevent the hoarding of high performers.
- Rethinking the workflow: A gig economy requires “gigs” or part-time projects. Where it makes sense, previous processes need to be broken down and rethought in terms of projects and short assignments. In the context of internal mobility, collaboration on projects on an hourly basis must be considered in addition to internal job postings.
- Install a platform for Internal Mobility: Use smart technology as the basis for your internal talent market. You need a platform that provides all the necessary information in a centrally accessible way, enables easy applications even for hourly-based project work or short assignments, and possibly even mediates between the needs of companies and employees using AI. However, technology must not become a barrier: Pay attention to transparency, intuitive usability, and smart filter functions. Extensive reporting and analysis functions make sense in order to map the productivity of internal company-wide project work.
- Expand matching: With the goal of expanding knowledge and sharing know-how, the match between supply and demand in the internal talent market should not only be based on skills already acquired. Broaden the matching parameters to include the career goals and training aspirations of your employees. If a controller has the goal of working in corporate strategy at some point, they should be offered opportunities (projects, training, internships) that support this path. In this way, you can retain good employees in your company in the long term.
- Break down barriers: The easier it is for your employees to apply internally for projects, jobs, internships, and the like, the more likely they are to embrace the gig economy and perhaps even anticipate it in their planning, i.e. propose projects. As with any candidate journey, you, therefore, need to remove hurdles and make the application process as easy as possible. Easy Apply on all devices is just as much a part of this as language interoperability (for internationally active companies). Ideally, applying in your native language should not be an obstacle to getting involved in projects that have been advertised in another language.
- Lead by example: Once again, management must be aware of its role as a role model when implementing an internal gig economy. Every department head should use the internal talent market as a matter of course and book staff from other departments for “gigs” when needed. At the same time, they must allow their own team members more autonomy in their personal resource planning and support them in their professional ambitions. Silo thinking and hoarding of talent are poison for a value-adding internal gig economy.
Together through the crisis and much further
Using idle time to overcome bottlenecks: Short-term and crisis-related internal gig economy helps to optimally use existing resources. Employees voluntarily get involved on a project basis, also because it gives them the good feeling of being needed, even if regular tasks are omitted. The confidence to master the crisis together and to emerge stronger is motivating. But even independent of crisis situations, the following applies: in the long run, an Internal Gig Economy will make the company more agile and thus more successful. Not least because employees with a professional perspective are more loyal and committed to their work and, thanks to the sensible use of resources, ultimately also more productive.
Are you interested in Internal Mobility as the basis for an internal Gig Economy? Find out more here.