Why the go-gig mantra could work for white collar too

At a virtual meeting of C level team members of a startup, let’s call it ‘A’, the air crackles with the excitement of an ‘aha’ moment. Soon the reason for the upbeat mood becomes apparent. A marketing strategy that seemed like a shot in the dark initially, is beginning to take tangible shape and size, as revealed by their brand performance metrics. It is only a matter of time before it starts showing positively in the company’s balance sheet. The brain behind the strategy is the company‘s CMO, let’s call him X, who is donning the quiet smile of self-vindicated victory.

Not only is his out-of-box thinking paying off, but his unconventional induction into the company’s core group is also starting to bear fruit. It seems like a win-win situation for all. Well the fact is that, while X is part of the company management team in a functional sense, he is really not part of the company’s salaried ranks. He is in fact an ‘Outsourced CMO’.

When the bootstrapped startup was feeling the pinch of having no senior marketing professional in place to take its product to market, it chanced upon the model of outsourcing a CMO. The model implied that the company could hire a senior marketing professional on a ‘co-hiring ‘ basis, meaning it could share the professional with other non-competing organizations and thus save money spent on hiring a full-time C level employee.

The hiring model thus came with significant cost benefits, but with access to professional expertise and experience in a secure eco-system. With budgetary constraints on one hand and the imminent need to go to market on the other, the company quite happily grabbed the opportunity. The CMO for his part was free to utilize his time and resources in a manner he saw fit, not being bogged down by a full-time commitment. The flexible and agility inherent in the working model seemed to reflect in the company’s performance one year later.

This is a classic case of the positive side of the gig economy principles at work, but in a white collar job scenario. The gig economy by itself is nothing new, although it has traditionally been practiced in the blue collar job segment. The concept of gig economy in fact goes far back, the very term ‘gig’ being coined in the second decade of the 1900s by jazz musicians who regularly performed in jazz clubs. By the 1930s, with the sweep of the Great Depression, many were thrown out of work and forced to take up ‘gigs’ or temporary jobs.

By the 1940s, the first temp agency was reportedly opened, providing typists and other clerically trained staff on a temporary basis to various companies. Over a period of time, gig became a way of life for many. During the 1990s, 10% of the US workforce was reportedly employed as contractors or temporary and soon enough it became a matter of choice for many organizations and individuals.

According to a report of a 2018 survey of 6,000 US workers by Upwork and Freelancers Union cited by Entrepreneur.com, there are 56.7 million freelancers in the United States and freelancers represent one in three U.S. workers (35 percent); with their numbers having increased by 3.7 million over five years. Also, the Gig Worker’s size is reportedly 20% to 30% of the economically active population in the United States and Europe. Cut to India, the gig workforce is growing and reportedly estimated to take over 25 to 30 % of the job market by 2022.

Well, it is only a matter of time before the dynamics of the gig economy start working in the white collar jobs segment too. Adapting to lean, agile and flexible business models has emerged to be an inevitability in recent times. With Covid-19, the need to adapt has attained never-before proportions. Moving forward in a post Covid world would mean adapting to survive and sustain. For enterprises grappling with both business continuity and manpower challenges, or even for those charting long terms, a gig approach to on-boarding their C level manpower, could be another way of successfully adapting to a redefined economy.

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