By Aldona Limani
The rise of the gig economy continues apace. According to a study by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) and the University of Hertfordshire, the gig economy has more than doubled over the last three years and now accounts for one in 10 workers in the UK.
As the TUC highlights in its study, when an increasing proportion of the workforce operates on flexible contracts, there are upsides and downsides for both the business and the worker. While there has certainly been abuse of the system to the detriment of workers at times—and a corresponding and much-needed call for better protections—for many tech platforms, the arrangement has suited both workers and the company.
That said, it arguably becomes imperative for companies to offer a differentiating experience to contractors. Especially where the barrier to entry is coding a mobile app, competition is fierce and the labor market tight.
Certain benefits simply cannot be made available to non-employees without defining the relationship in such a way as would class contractors actually as employees. However, one area in which gig economy companies can engender greater trust with their contractors is by offering tools that can help make their day to day jobs easier and also to provide opportunities to develop their skills.
Training gig economy workers
A big challenge faced by gig economy tech companies is helping contractors make the most of their opportunity working for the platform, and also boosting the customer experience, through effective training.
Classroom style training is out of reach for most gig economy contractors. They are not centralized. It would also not be cost-effective given that the tech companies operating apps that rely on flexible contractors do not have the office space to accommodate training in this format for non-employees.
Fortunately, mobile learning has come on leaps and bounds with the realization that this is the dominant form factor for many deskless workers. It is now possible for flexible workers to enjoy a frictionless, uninterrupted training experience and to get up to speed quickly when taking on a new role. This can enable a vastly better experience for workers and customers of the service in question.
Another avenue is to introduce the concept of social learning. As a community grows up more and more around gig economy workers for specific services, there is an opportunity to harness the collective wisdom of the crowd and capture tips and tricks videos from contractors to share with people new to the platform. This can help create a collegiate feel, build trust and raise the bar for all new workers.
Helping contractors upskill
With the threat of automation taking jobs, more needs to be done to safeguard the future of our human workforce, and this is particularly important where workers are making their living outside of traditional employment arrangements. In a world where skills needs are evolving at an increasingly rapid pace, and the gig economy is on the rise, tech companies can make a valuable contribution by providing a platform that enables contractors to upskill for the benefit of their own career during their downtime.
In between orders and pickups, contractors can be given an opportunity to take courses and develop skills that may help them transition into other careers should that be an aspiration. While flexible work can suit companies and individuals at different times, it can benefit companies to help.
Furthermore, the course content on offer does not necessarily need to be vocational to be rewarding for workers. It can be about developing practical everyday skills or even just general interest.
As automation increases and – based on the more utopian predictions – we are able to work less, people will begin to think more about learning both from a vocational and personal growth point of view.
Companies that rely on flexible labor have an opportunity to help their contractors in ways that do not blur the lines of employment and can, in fact, help make this less structured form of employment be more rewarding. Learning opportunities can be a major part of that.
Aldona Limani is a Market Development Manager at Docebo