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October 6, 2020

The Gig Economy and What it Means for Staffing

The gig represents the future of work and, in some circles, the death of the staffing industry, but is that really the case? If it is, how did we get here, and what should staffing firms be considering as this movement gains momentum?

Technology has empowered all of us to get what we want when we want it, which has essentially caused the birth of the Gig Economy. While many experts do not believe the staffing industry is going away any time soon, the Gig Economy's influence will change the game forever. 

The demand for things to be easier and faster has led to technology platforms that facilitate just that. This fuels the demand for people to find more efficient ways to make money quickly. In other words, supply and demand are at the core of the Gig Economy. Eliminating the "middleman" in whatever role he or she plays has become the mission. 

More precisely, the mission is to connect supply directly to demand via technology. You can see why the staffing industry is following this so closely, right? 


Now that we’ve laid some groundwork, let’s look at the key driving factors that will influence how you operate your staffing business going forward.


Speed and Convenience

People expect every step of your process to be easy. Look at each step in your hiring process through the eyes of a product manager at Uber. Their philosophy relies heavily on not doing something just because “you’ve always done it.” Challenge yourself and the status quo.

Uber and many others have been successful because they are user-centric. Their product or service is sacred. As a staffing firm, your "process" is your product and is therefore sacred. It must be scrutinized and obsessed over to be improved.


Experience or Die

The Gig Economy is a product of the smartphone revolution. The smartphone, as it relates to gig, has provided us speed, convenience, and, most importantly, a better, more personalized experience. Almost everything we do in our personal and professional lives today has been made easier and more efficient by our phones. We even expect them to solve our problems with just a few touches. 

Your competition, in many staffing verticals, is the cell phone. As an employer, you must adhere to this new norm. Every element of your business must be not only mobile-accessible but also mobile-optimized.


Shifts Versus Placements

One of the more profound influences the Gig Economy will have on staffing is the reduction of supply and demand metrics into smaller units, such as the hour or shift. This allows employers to post requirements around specific shifts or projects.

In the past, staffing firms would need to maintain a surplus of personnel to fill requirements. Now, staffing firms can activate their talent pool immediately via mobile accessibility, meeting client needs at the drop of an open req. 

We have seen staffing firms of all shapes and sizes test out this "app-first" or "Uber" model by launching apps or by spinning out new brands. Keep in mind, having an app doesn’t make you a gig player; the experience you provide does. 

Changing your front-end is not enough; you need to change your entire workflow. Going to a shift-based model will require a firm grasp on supply and demand. No one would use Uber if they weren’t able to get a ride when they needed one. The same goes for drivers—if they clocked in only to never find people in need of lifts, they would stop clocking in.

There is a delicate balance to creating this ecosystem. Too much supply or demand, and you’ll lose the trust of your audience.


Know Your Audience

Depending on your staffing vertical, there are different Gig Economy driving factors. In IT staffing, most candidates have access to a desktop computer where they spend most of their days; whereas, traveling nurses are never at home in front of a PC. In light industrial, some candidates may not have computers or even email addresses. 

Whatever the case, cell phones have become the preferred portal to the web. Therefore, experiences must be 100% designed for these devices.

Take Locum Tenens and per diem staffing, for example. These healthcare staffing models are the closest thing to shift-based gig opportunities. Empowering your talent pool with self-service shift selection in real-time is the only way to stay relevant in this vertical. 

Light industrial is tricky because this talent pool is more likely to look for better opportunities via other nearby staffing firms. Competition is harsh, margins are low, and in many cases, the only way to differentiate your firm is through the candidate experience. Lower-wage, less-skilled workers will always have the option to turn to TaskRabbit or Uber. If your local staffing branch is providing a horrible experience, candidates will bail. Period.


Key Takeaways and Opinions

Your audience is made up of consumers who use their phones for most daily tasks, and now their phones are offering them jobs.

Yes, this should have your attention, but don’t run for the hills.

Understanding how the phone has become a great disruptor will help you build a plan of action to stay engaged and relevant. It is the reason the Gig Economy has succeeded and the reason consumer behavior has changed. The cell phone represents the elimination of the middleman. 


The Gig Economy will force all of us to optimize our business processes. Look at your organization and ask yourself, “If I were one of the gig giants, what would I change to make this the easiest experience possible? Where can I shave clicks, keystrokes, steps, and time?” 

Always take your optimization a step farther. Don’t just digitize your application and onboarding, make it mobile-friendly; don’t just make it mobile-friendly, make it mobile-responsive; don’t just make it mobile-responsive, automate the workflow, and make it intuitive based on the job category. 

Get your process down to the bare minimum and always challenge the status quo. This mindset has led to massive success for companies like Amazon, Google, and Warby Parker, and this drive will evoke the gig traits that will make you stand out. Your firm will look more modern and more attractive as a result.