Trend-Spotting – The rise of the “Executive Gig Economy”

By Pat Lynes 11/12/2017

The corporate ladder dream is dying and people are starting to vote with their feet.

The trend for excellent people coming into their prime and wanting a different relationship with their work is on the rise.  I speak to at least five people a week who want me to help them make that jump to interim, portfolio or a senior gig career. These people at the top of their professions are coming to me in droves, telling me they would like to be released from the shackles of politics, functional management, pay rolling, updating details on SAP, appraisals, and so on and so forth.

They want to use their IP; to maximise their strengths and abilities; to be pro-active. They want to use their experience (their scar tissue) and harness their way of doing things on an interim basis to deliver something, to deliver value and have a focus. Doing so gives them the opportunity to focus on delivering an objective; delivering something of real value and getting the passion back into their work.

The traditional relationship between employer and employee is shifting. Top quality executives are now favoring the option to work with more than one employer, either by taking on freelance gigs that flow back-to-back, by taking on consultancy roles, working in an advisory and interim capacity simultaneously, as well as other executive portfolio activities, like investing, taking on Non-Executive-Directorships or partnering with private equity and VC firms.

This sits well alongside the well-documented rise of the executive gig economy, which is seeing more and more talented people leaving the shackles of full time work to use their intellectual capital in a different place at a different pace. I noticed that flexibility and agility have become buzz words, and that control over work-life balance is becoming the driving force.

Moreover, clients seem to be happy with this change. It enables them to cast a wider net to secure a more effective breadth of top talent from a pool of people they would not have been able to afford to hire in a full-time capacity. It also provides the dual benefit of both a value-added and cost-effective solution, as management consulting fatigue continues to prevail. Given the mounting pressure to deliver increased efficiency rather than pay people a fixed salary, why not pay people when they provide an answer to a problem or solution to a series of problems.

Furthermore, candidates reported feeling more engaged in this interim flexible world of work and clients reported improved results from hiring the best of the best; people who were focused during the project period, who then left much of their knowledge behind with the permanent staff. This was being recognised as a powerful way to tap into talent and get the most from that talent for your incumbent permanent talent. True talent optimisation.

I soon realised that this trend should be encouraged. For this is a way to enable and empower great people in their prime to make a difference, manage change, maximise their effectiveness and, in doing so, enable and empower companies to thrive and inspire the future of work.

Indeed- collaboration is now coming to the fore. The gig economy may well be transitional and is currently largely transactional. Yet, as it develops, research is pointing towards collaboration as a means of developing sustained business relationships. For example, the formation of work-group enabled gig teams can tackle a series of problems rather than a solitary issue. My view is the executive gig economy will evolve towards sustained teams of gigsters, therefore organisations need to evolve with it as we enter a more collaborative gig economy. Meanwhile, I can also see all around me that offshoring, on-shoring, outsourcing, agency contractors, permanent drives, PSL's (Preferred Supplier Lists) and RPO's (Recruitment Process Outsourcers) are just not cutting it like they once did.

I realise now that we are on the tipping point of the enterprise wanting to try something new. And, whilst I know this was unlikely to happen overnight, the stats around the rising failure of change programmes and even higher failure of digital transformation programmes, demonstrates that past practices are no longer going to help companies succeed. My recent journey is focused around how we can lean into this change, rather than tie ourselves up in knots and use past practices that were fine getting people to 2017, but not to 2027.

Twitter: @patlynes