He was well dressed, polite and his car well maintained. As we neared our destination, in answer to my question, he revealed the secret was the training he had received from the ride-hailing company when he had signed up, and which he kept receiving at regular intervals.
This was a clear case of an employer with a big stake in how his gig employee behaved and, therefore, invested in training to instill and maintain that behavior.
According to an estimate, about 57 million Americans (36% of the country’s workforce) are members of the gig economy. Does every employer of gig players have enough riding on them to invest in their training? Or is it the responsibility of the worker (talent?) to acquire training and remain topped up?
Use and throw or train and stow?
An Uber would prefer to invest in training because a disgruntled customer will be dropping not the driver but the company. However, what if the gig worker was, say, a designer? The employer has every opportunity to assess the output before it is used. If the designer is just not getting it, simply get another.
What if the designer was a delight? And your customer loved the work. You might still bid bye to the designer when the project ends. However, the next time you need a designer, whom are you likely to call first?
Extend the same scenario and think that the designer needs to learn a custom software exclusively used by your company. Would you be willing to invest in training the designer on that software between projects? Will the designer be willing and able to spare time from other projects to learn? If both are willing, what kind of delivery would work best here? It must be something that does not burden your resources. Nor should it choke the talent’s cash flow.
What if you are willing, like WNS, to let your regular employees dip into the gig economy as long as it does not interfere with your work? How will this color your decision to train them? Would you train them only for what you need? Or would you go by what they are good at and what they aspire for?
Must guests learn the family values?
When your gig picks need to work with your employees for a long time, is it your responsibility to train the former in the corporate values that bind your team? Will that help everyone bond better and be more productive?
How will it affect the permanent employees if their new friends whom they were just beginning to get comfortable with walk away unexpectedly, breaking the workflow and, perhaps, feelings? Is cultural integration of a gig worker worth the effort? On the other hand, without this integration, will you be compromising the opportunity to get the best out of the worker?
Simultaneously, will you need to teach your permanent employees how to work with gig workers and how to adjust to a different ethos?
You must have arrived at a learning methodology that is best suited to your culture and the work your people do. You may soon discover that the gig workers are a different species when it comes to L&D. They must reach the required competency level fast. They tend to be more “distracted” because they are handling multiple projects from different companies. They are likely to use their downtime to catch up on the learning you want them to do. So, you will need to develop flexible, bite-size modules that they can consume just when you need them to. Also, unless it is engaging, they might quickly switch channels.
That makes it imperative for you to train your managers who oversee the gig workers to assess the training content and measure its impact, while keeping their morale high.
Has the virus changed the gig?
Like some other issues brought into the limelight by the global Covid churn, the gig economy predates the virus. Digital advances made it easy for those who put a sense of accomplishment before regular pay to board the gig bandwagon. It suited many employers too, who were not too keen on adding to their overheads.
The debate continues about how the gig economy will fare in the post-Covid world. When thousands of regulars have lost their jobs, who needs gig workers? That is countered by another question. When you are likely to remain lean for some time while you replot your route, why not go for gig workers to keep the engine running?
As a gig worker, if you are good at what you do, should you really worry at all, except for keeping yourself sharp and current? Your cash flow might take a hit for a while. Should you panic and teach yourself what you think is in demand? Or stick to your guns and keep learning to get even better at it?
So, who trains the gig workers?
The virus has apparently boosted the demand for learning according to a LinkedIn survey.
“Sixty-four percent of L&D pros say reskilling the current workforce to fill skills gaps is more of a priority now than ever before.” Also, 60% of L&D pros “expect to spend more on online learning than they did in 2019, and the majority feel much more pressure and urgency to launch learning programs….” As companies gear up to tackle the virus-induced recession, “there is a heightened focus on internal mobility to carry the business toward the next phase of growth. Reskilling current employees for different, more business-critical roles creates a huge competitive advantage.”
Does this new wave of learning cover gig workers? In this gloomy phase of uncertainty, do smart entrepreneurs invest more in gig players? And train them? Or cherry pick those who come with the skill and experience to do the job?
Yes, the economy is here to stay. As to the issue of investing in the training of its denizens, it would appear that at least for now there are more questions than answers. You might do well to sit down with your L&D provider and figure out how best to use your training budget. If that is the best way to reach your outcome, you will want to spend on training both the designer and the driver.