Happy Groundhog Day! Ready for a little deja vu, all over again? In the spirit of this occasion, I invite you to join me as I roll back the #WorkTrends podcast to 2021 for an insightful interview with an expert in workforce technology. Why? Because the topics we explored then are still just as relevant today: remote working, on-demand workers and what we can expect in the future.
Revisiting this conversation can help us gain perspective. It reminds us of how far we have come in these three eventful years. And as Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” So let us once again empathetically repeat this sensational discussion…
Where do on-call workers fit into the current employment system?
Driven by the desire for more flexibility between work and home life, people are increasingly turning to gig work as an important source of income. In fact, just before the pandemic, on-demand work had increased to 43%. Now, ohn-demand workers represent $1 trillion of total U.S. freelance income.
But this new working landscape did not happen overnight. It started more than forty years ago, when the traditional lifelong employment model began to crumble. Since then, several trends have rewritten modern work experiences and expectations:
All these factors indicate that on-demand working is here to stay. And with With 90% of American workers willing to consider an on-call job as a full-time or part-time job, the labor pool appears to be embracing this shift.
But what does this mean for the future of work? Let’s take a closer look from one expert’s perspective…
The end of the jobs: A second look
In early 2021, I was fortunate enough to discuss this topic Jeff WaldFounder of several companies, including Work marketa business platform for on-demand employee management. Jeff is much more than a successful serial entrepreneur. He is also an avid interpreter of employment trends. After ADP acquired Work Market in 2018, he even wrote the popular book: The end of jobs: the rise of on-demand workers and flexible companies.
The insights Jeff shared in this interview were fascinating. And I think you’ll agree: it’s worth another listen…
Innovative technology and the nature of work
What are the pros and cons of a future in which work is even more dependent on technology?
Predicting the future of work is very difficult. Many people assume that if a disruptive technology is introduced, all jobs will disappear. But history shows us that this is almost never the case. So we have to be very careful about drawing simplistic conclusions.
It helps to look at how companies actually engage employees and deploy capital. That gives us an idea of how the 4e The industrial revolution – robots, automation and AI – will impact companies, workers and society.
Labor is so complicated and varied that we have to take it sector by sector and function by function to get an idea of how a specific technology is likely to affect a specific type of job.
How can we renegotiate the social contract to ensure fairness at work, especially in light of the pandemic?
Again, history tells us that when employers gain power, three counterbalancing forces help workers gain more balance:
- Labor unions
- The social safety net
One example: banking technology
What examples illustrate these forces at work?
Here’s an anecdote I like about ATMs – cash machines.
In 1995, ATMs had been around for 25 years, but until that year they were not available in every U.S. bank branch. There were also 500,000 bank tellers in the country at the time.
Every expert said the tellers would disappear. But how many are working in the US now? 600,000. Employment among counter staff has even increased by 20%!
The biggest factor was the regulations that allowed interstate competition among banks. Because while the number of tellers per branch fell by approximately half, the total number of branches doubled.
But again, it’s a complex situation, so we need to be thoughtful when predicting the future of work.
Why on-demand workers matter
So what inspired you to focus on on-call workers in your book: The end of the jobs?
Honestly, an annoyance. In In 2010, people predicted that by 2020, 50% of the labor market would be on-demand. At the time it was 25%, so that meant it would double. No chance.
By 2020, on-demand labor had grown only 3% to 28%. So everyone shifted their predictions to 2030 – saying it would be 50% by then.
Then I decided to develop a framework. We don’t need arbitrary predictions. Instead, we need to look at history and data. We also need to look at how companies are actually engaging employees so we can make informed predictions.
How has the pandemic affected your view on employment trends?
The shift to remote work surprised me. In the pastonly 3% of the workforce worked remotely. This had already doubled between 2010 and 2020 from 1.5% of employees. That kind of growth is unusual for labor statistics.
So if you had asked me before the pandemic, I would have said two huge barriers could keep the 3-4%:
1. Mindset – Managers need to be supportive to make this work. But they tend to think that people need to be present to be productive, otherwise magic happens when people are together.
2. Technology infrastructure, policies and procedures – It’s one thing to say, “Jeff is going to work remotely.” It’s another thing entirely to ensure that Jeff has access to all company systems from outside the company walls and can participate in every meeting remotely.
It amazes me how quickly and effectively companies put everything in place. Because employees have been clamoring for these things for decades, but employers haven’t responded. Then suddenly they made it happen within weeks.
Other comments on the changing nature of work
For additional insights from Jeff, check out these conclusions I found in several articles he’s written:
1. The reality of on-demand labor is now expanding to everyone
On-demand workers experience a world of total responsibility:
- They own their training and development.
- They market their skills and manage their back office.
- They are responsible for covering their health care and pension.
In the future, we see a convergence between on-call and full-time workers, with all employees carrying the same level of responsibility. This includes the need for continuous learning. As the pace of technological change increases, the skills in demand will fade even faster. To stay ahead, individuals will rely more heavily on distance learning, online resources and self-service tools to match their skills with employers’ needs.
2. On-demand workers deserve inclusion
During challenging business times, employers tend to reduce their workforce first. But even though these workers are not ’employees’, it does not take away the social responsibilities of an employer. So keep in mind that on-demand workers are a flexible source of valuable knowledge and skills that contribute to the long-term success of your organization.
Follow these guidelines when managing these extensive employee relationships:
- Communicate early and often. Make sure you include gig workers in company and team communications.
- Respect all agreed payment terms. Pay contractors and gig workers on time, just as you would full-time employees.
- If a project stalls, don’t automatically cancel existing gig contracts. Instead, look for ways to engage team members on custom project plans on-demand.
- When planning employee recognition or bonuses, also consider ways to recognize on-demand contributors.
3. The shift to remote work favors on-demand workers
As full-time employees learn to navigate hybrid and remote work, remember that on-demand workers are often used to contributing as part of a remote team. Typically, they are ready to get started on tasks quickly, adapt easily with minimal on-site manual control, and adapt to variable conditions. This can be particularly valuable as companies and work cultures experience persistent uncertainty.
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more insights about the future and on-demand work, listen to this full podcast episode. And for others #WorkTrends interviews, check out our growing collection of episodes on Apple or Spotify and subscribe!