The advent of new and disruptive technology is influencing a shift in the way we work. Boardroom discussions are now increasingly focused on how companies must keep pace with these changes by reconfiguring their present business models in a digital-savvy world where a lot of work can be done from anywhere, at anytime.

The meaning of the word “job" is clearly evolving. If we want to stay relevant and agile, we must adapt to new ways of working in order to grow. One of the ways organizations are adjusting to the changing nature of work is by embracing the gig economy, “characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts as opposed to permanent jobs". Both organizations and individuals are now realizing that the gig economy is as relevant as any other type of employment. Hiring gig workers, therefore, is no longer restricted to start-ups. In fact, well-established firms are also moving towards a gig economy model because professionals now seek more flexible models of working.

A recent report by EY (formerly known as Ernst & Young), published in collaboration with Nasscom and Ficci, titled “Future Of Jobs In India: A 2022 Perspective", reveals that Indian freelancers hold a 24% share of the global online gig economy. The report also says India is the third largest online labour market.

This is a significant development and can also be credited to the entrance of millennials, who tend to switch jobs quickly, into the workforce. In addition to providing the freedom of choosing who to work for and for how long, the gig economy model can be great for women who may take a break from a regular 9-to-5 job to raise a child. This model can help keep them engaged during a phase when they are unable to return to work fully.

At EY, we believe in being future-ready. And so, we have launched GigNow—an innovative digital platform that allows contractors to access EY’s contract opportunities and find an assignment that allows them to have flexibility, and get the experience they need.

As for the impact of the gig economy on organizations, we must consider how it empowers organizations with the ability to hire someone with a specialized skill set for the duration of the project that requires it. Contingent workers also help employers control labour costs and save on resources such as office space or even training. Additionally, this business model has a wider reach as organizations can share contractual opportunities with experts who were earlier presenting a cost constraint when being considered for a full-time role.

Advantages aside, the gig economy poses challenges too. A short-term contract may not provide some of the benefits full-time employees get. But people who do take up freelancing do so to take charge of their own careers and have freedom over their work hours. Speaking of companies, their recruitment and leadership teams must be judicious in their use of these skilled workers while ensuring the critical roles are kept in-house so the permanent employees do not feel threatened.

I strongly believe that hiring gig workers is yet another way to embed diversity and inclusion within an organization. After all, respecting differences in backgrounds, thoughts and opinions also applies to contractual workers who must feel just as included and important.

Sandeep Kohli is a partner and talent leader at EY and tweets at @_sandeepkohli.

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