Proportion of gig professionals growing in companies, says Korn Ferry

19 September 2018 3 min. read
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A recent survey of nearly 500 HR and talent acquisition professionals by HR consultancy Korn Ferry finds that the proportion of contingent or ‘gig economy’ professionals working in companies is growing. The reasons for the growing number of gig workers include cost savings and access to high-caliber talent.

60% of HR professionals surveyed by the consulting firm said that gig workers made up a larger percentage of their professional workforce, and 42% plan to hire more contingent workers.

Korn Ferry says that the gig consultant economy won’t, however, replace the traditional work model, at least in higher-skilled arenas. The survey, though, isn’t concerned with underpaid Uber drivers and food couriers, but with in-demand knowledge workers like management consultants, data analysts, and IT specialists. Firms integrating those sorts of gig workers should take a balanced approach to the emerging gig economy, “one that incorporates campus, contingent workers and full-time employees, and one that, in essence, makes the most business sense,” according to Jeanne MacDonald, president of Global Talent Solutions for Korn Ferry’s RPO and Professional Search Business.

Firms’ top two reasons for hiring gig professionals was to staff up for short-term projects and to gain expertise they didn’t have in-house. As such, firms are turning to highly skilled gig professionals to solve problems that often include niche technological or technical skills to complete specific, bounded projects.Proportion of gig professionals growing in companies, says Korn Ferry48% of respondents said gig professionals performed at a higher caliber than specialized full-timers, while 46% said that hiring them saved their firms money. These professionals, however, don’t provide value in lower rates – they will generally be paid more per hour. The value derives from coming in with the specific expertise needed, solving the problem, and then leaving when their specific task is done and their expensive capabilities are no longer needed.

“While they may cost more per hour or per project than your full-time employees, they provide the targeted expertise that can help quickly resolve issues and get results,” said MacDonald.

Gig workers are also easy to manage, according to the survey. 67% of respondents said that they are confident that they know what their gig professionals are doing every day, despite most of them being remote workers. A further 42% said that gig workers were easier to manage than their full-time employees.

Gig work for professionals will continue to be an attractive option for those who want more flexibility in their work arrangements, though many organizations are already looking into providing more flexible work options for their full-timers. In the end, if your skills are in-demand, you can find a work arrangement that works for you, be it stable permanent employment or sporadic gig work. Professionals, ultimately, have some leverage.

The gig economy has been seeing more vocal criticism in the non-professional arena, where firms like Uber and Foodora have been using the work arrangement to pay people ‘by-the-piece’ like early era industrialists. The pros of flexibility and marketing sheen of the word ‘gig’ mask the realities of uncertain paycheques, a lack of benefits and pensions, and no job security. The Archbishop of Canterbury recently remarked that employees are being oppressed by the insecure work arrangements, going so far as to call the gig economy ‘evil.’

Meanwhile, a recent study reported by CNBC has found that about half of Californians working in the gig economy are struggling with poverty; nearly one in 10 adult residents of the Golden State work in the gig economy.