Written by: Alaine Dehaze, CEO Adecco
Remember life before Uber? Or when Airbnb sounded like a small guesthouse somewhere up a mountain? Well, think again. The “sharing on demand economy” is here to stay.
The previously unimaginable hiring, sharing and communicating businesses now loosely grouped together under that moniker have skyrocketed in value, surging by close to 140% since 2012. Investment has soared 20 fold between 2010 and 2014. The traditional rental market and the sharing economy will be almost head to head in value by 2025, reckons PwC.
The digital transformation and technological convergence that enabled the sharing economy have also disrupted the world of work. So far, businesses like equipment hire, accommodation, car rental and staffing have been most disrupted, But, rest assured, more will come.
How can companies build a consistent workforce in the GIG economy? And how can employees adapt to such radically different ways of working? To cap it all, these challenges are playing out that against an increasingly complex global background, with many major economies remaining shaky, making corporate planning riskier than ever amid continuous and unpredictable change.
The world of work has already shifted as companies have moved from big fixed workforces to a mix of permanent and temporary staff to gain flexibility. To stay competitive in the sharing economy, they will have to become even more flexible and agile.
Uber, Deliveroo and the like all depend on short-term, on demand labour. The individuals who offer them their labour participate as independent contractors, not fixed cost staff. They’re more like the specialist self employed craftsmen who moved from job by job, but grouped in guilds to combine their interests when required. Welcome back to the future!
Today’s labour market increasingly demands such flexibility, and its participants appear broadly willing to adapt. They are more mobile and flexible in their approach to work than my generation. In the US, more than 50 million workers entered the gig economy workforce in 2015, participating in some form of independent work, and it is predicted that by 2020, 43% of American workers would be independent contractors. Rather than a single job for life, they prefer a “multi career” concept, where stability and a regular paycheck are outweighed by the broader and richer prospect of variety and continuous learning through differing jobs and locations. Such characteristics may, in fact, boost youngsters’ employability by helping them gain diverse skills and become more “future-proof.”
That’s because the sharing economy obliges people to embrace experimentation, innovation and rapid change. Likewise, the executives of sharing economy pioneers must think horizontally, beyond conventional silos and sectors.
My advice? Don’t ignore formal qualifications, but bet more on “learning and earning.” Apprentice schemes are one good way there. And never forget education doesn’t stop after school or university. Learning is a lifetime process, especially given how fast things are changing now.
The meteoric rise of the sharing economy also has crucial broader implications. Our whole education systems must adjust to the new requirements. We need primary, secondary, and tertiary educations aligned with real world, 21st century needs. While many countries are churning out record numbers of graduates with impressive qualifications, not all have the right soft skills, like complex problem solving, creative thinking and team spirit, required for the sharing economy. Vocational training and education through new platforms should be encouraged. And politicians and regulators should move fast to relax and simplify industry-specific rules and boost labour market reforms.
As to employers, the sharing economy has changed the rules of the game when it comes to competing for talent. Those wanting to engage and retain the best will need more relaxed and flexible corporate cultures. They’ll also need to hire more internationally and offer greater mobility to meet newcomers’ rising demand to learn fast and gain the widest experience.
Developing a workforce ready for the sharing economy is challenging and demands the right culture and people. It also requires substantial changes. But the rewards are only beginning to be seen.