I’ve written a lot about the opportunity for both companies and individuals in the contingent workforce phenomenon known as the “gig economy”. Companies get access to talent and expertise while retaining the flexibility and agility required to remain competitive. Millennials build their resumes while Baby Boomers leverage theirs. I’m excited and passionate about the potential triple win this represents for individuals, companies, and the economy overall. But I am also very concerned.
In the frenzy to capitalize on this trend, technology is rapidly becoming the lead “solution” for connecting freelancers and employers. These online platforms and tools purport to facilitate and accelerate the process for both parties. Every day I see another consulting company touting their “workforce marketplace” or another new entrant into the “Human Cloud” space. In these models, workers are sourced and managed via the internet, with minimal human interaction in the process. The client typically purchases a labor or labor service outcome, and work arrangements are established, completed, and (often) compensated entirely through a digital/online platform. “Matches” are made based on algorithms, reverse auctions, and keywords. Not a lot of thought is going into what this means to the individual, the notion of work as we know it, or how it will impact wages, benefits, and productivity. It’s impersonal at best; demoralizing and ineffectual at worst.