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Getting the gig economy up to speed

19

Sep 2019

Getting the gig economy up to speed

Podcast and audio recordings

Using the contingent workforce data from the Learning Insights research, the Kineo team look at the challenges organisations face when employing and developing a contingent workforce.

Andy Costello
Hello everybody, welcome to Kineo's Stream of Thought. Today we are diving into the second part of our 2019 Learning Insights Report, where we spoke to 8000 people over 30 markets, employers and employees to find out what's really going on with workplace learning. 

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Andy Costello
Today, it's about the gig economy and the changing face of the workforce. My name is Andy Costello, Head of Customer Solutions, and I am joined by:
 
Hannah Wysome
Hannah Wysome, Learning and Development manager. 
 
Robin Beck
Robin Beck, Solutions Architect. 
 
Ben Borin
Ben Borin, Global Head of Sitepass. 
 
Andy Costello
Welcome everybody. Thank you very much for joining us today. So we mentioned earlier on that we are talking with the Gig economy today and more importantly, the changing face of the workforce. Now, I know this is pretty bad because I should know this, I had to Google just to be sure what gig economy meant. And if you do that, the gig economy is a free market system in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short term engagements. Did you all know that?
 
Hannah Wysome
Yeah. 
 
Andy Costello
Say no, and make me feel better. But we're really talking about what that means for the workforce and for people within it. So we're talking about an explosion of contingent contracts, the temporary workforce, which is changing the face of the global working people. And that's what we found in our report. So I'm going to put it out there. Anybody, please feel free to go for this one. Contingent workers - is this a good thing for employers? 
 
Hannah Wysome
I think it's a necessary thing for employers. I think in today's world where everything changes at such a pace, it's unrealistic to expect to have all of the skills that you need under one roof at any one time. So I think, particularly if you're looking at expanding into a new market or trying out new product or trying a new way of coding, for example. It makes perfect sense to get people in on a short term basis with the skills that you need to do that, just to test to see if it works. And then if it does, that's when you can make a decision as to whether actually you need to strengthen your workforce with a specific skill.
 
Andy Costello
Thank you very much.
 
Robin Beck
Yeah. And I think there's a certain inevitability about it in terms of the way that society is changing and people's work life patterns are changing. I think ultimately as we see that develop,  this is just going to keep growing and growing and really employers do need to embrace it now if they're going to get the best out of their workers. I think you can notice trends in the amount of time that people spend in a job. I've been at this job for 10 years, but other people I know are constantly moving jobs and that's becoming more regular. So whether we're talking about contingent workers or just the workforce in general, it's becoming a more and more fluid place. And I think that that's something that's going to continue into the future. 
 
Andy Costello
So we saw in our report, Ben, that 50 percent of employers that were interviewed say that they're going to see an increase, they're going to use more and more contingent workforce as time moves on. So what's the advantage for the employer? Why is it a good thing to have temporary workers or contracts?
 
Ben Borin
Well, I think the main advantage is really the ability to scale as needed. So as a particular organization takes on different types of projects or requires different types of skill sets, it allows them to get access to that skill set without having to directly employ that person. So if it was a short term project and they needed programmers for example, they could use the outsourcing model of sourcing contractors to then be able to resource for that particular project. And then on the reverse side of that, once their project does scale back, they have the freedom and flexibility to reduce their workforce to accommodate the changes in that project. So I think flexibility is ultimately the main benefit the employee will gain from leveraging contingent workers. 
 
Andy Costello
Okay. So putting this out there, what sort of message does that send? Do you think, to non contingent worker? That potentially they're more happy not to invest in the learning and development of people they've got, but actually utilize something that's a bit more agile and flexible? Is that not a bit of a risk? 
 
Robin Beck
I would go back to my earlier point about employees, and I think actually that it's attractive to become a  freelancer and I think more and more people will be interested in doing that. And so if there are companies that are willing to invest in not only their internal workforce, but their contingent workers, I think is a positive thing. And I think it allows people the opportunity to perhaps have a more flexible working style. 
 
Hannah Wysome
Yeah. I think picking up on that, the work life balance piece in general that you're talking about and we're looking at flexible working a lot at the moment in the industry, I think is a fundamental part of this. And I think sometimes it's easy to look at contingent workers as people that don't want a proper job. But actually that's really not the case at all. It might be people who have got specialist skills who want to spend six months in the year doing something else and this is sustainable to go from there. I think just going back to your point about what does it feel like for an employee, who's maybe sat there thinking, well, who are all these people coming in, with skills I could have been trained on. I think there has to be an element of pragmatism about that really. You've been employed to do a particular job, but if your organization is moving in a different direction and you just don't have the skills for that because you've not needed them for that stage, then there's a catalyst for you to think, well, actually, if I'm interested in that, then I reach out and I take control of where I want to go in my career and if those are the skills that I'm interested in, you put your hand up and you say you want to go for that. I think as an employer there is a big piece of work around that future state competency piece for you as an organization. So if you recognize that three months down the line, you're going to be doing something completely different, you then need to look at, well, is three months enough time to train the people that you've already got, do you need to bring in contingent workers, or do we do a combination of the two so that that can be a knowledge share piece going on across that? But I don't think it's something to be frightened of, I think it's something that just opens another line of inquiry. 
 
Andy Costello
That's a really good point. And for the contingent employee, there are advantages obviously. So from a personal perspective, there's agility, flexibility, the work life balance. I suppose there's also a degree of professional exposure you can get working within different organizations, different cultures over a shorter period of time. So those are the plus points, what about the risks for the employer, what are the potential risks for employing maybe a larger contingent workforce than you'd expected? 
 
Ben Borin
When you look at employers that focus on high risk work like construction or agriculture, then  the main risk that comes from that is, are those individuals going to follow their corporate policies, procedures, work instructions? How deeply ingrained are they within that organization to then understand the culture and the way that that organization works? So in a high risk area, that does lead to potential for safety issues that can occur on the worksite. So that's probably the main issue that those organizations are facing is the management and control of the risk around safety of the people and making sure that those people understand and follow their procedures. And there's quite a bit of a complexity in the way in which that is managed and coordinated within those very complex large organizations. 
 
Andy Costello
I think that's a really good point. And to your point Hannah as well, there could be an assumption that contingent workers therefore don't need any training because they are coming to do their job. And the whole point, surely, is because you are acquiring a skill set that already says you don't have to train them. But I think there is also a feeling amongst contingent workers, certainly we've seen in our 2019 report, that they're expected to learn on the job. So I suppose the question is, in our experience, are organizations training them? Is there a training provision, learning and development provision for contractors out there? What do we think? 
 
Hannah Wysome
I think it's a really interesting question. And I think the answer depends a little bit on what those contingent workers are being brought in to do and what the timescales are on it. So I think if we think of a digital agency, for example, if you know that you need somebody to do some programming for two weeks and you know that they've got the skill to do it, I would suggest that it's unlikely that you take them through some kind of onboarding programme, aside from showing them where the files and how to get on with it. If you are bringing in a whole load of workers to work as assessors or customer service advisors for a certain amount of time, then you do need to take them through an onboarding process into how do we speak about the company, what's the shared language, what are our behaviour expectations for you as a representative of our organization? So I think I would hold my hands up and say that it's something that needs more attention. And I think it's very, very easy to take people for granted. And I think that's another risk that I see as well. I think one of the biggest lessons I have learned much earlier in my career when I was working with a charity that did projects with members of the homeless community, is that we had what we could term as contingent workers who were volunteers, in addition, who could come in and they could lead sessions. And a lot of these people had come through the programme as participants themselves. And I remember taking one guy just so much for granted, thinking, well, he's not a permanent member of staff and he didn't have this training. But, you know, he could do that. I would just ask him to do stuff at short notice and not give him the credit that he deserved for it. And he called me out on it. And while I was so appalled at myself, actually, that I'd just taken somebody with excellent skills, who was making a massive impact, who wasn't 'contractually one of us' for granted. And that's just really made me check myself and think just because this is somebody that's not, you know, part of the the inner sanctum, you know, they're not contractually obliged to be with us at the time. We might not see them all the time, which I think is the case for a lot of contingent workers who work from home, is to acknowledge that they are also a person and they need to be aligned to shared values and they need to feel part of a team. If that's what we've brought somebody into an organization to do, they need to be a proper, valid and valuable member of that team and you need to look at that side of onboarding and welcoming somebody into a company as well as an actual training need per se. 
 
Andy Costello
Which is educating those people that may feel nervous and anxious about somebody new coming in, who you know, is doing the job that they could've been trained to do back to your point. What on earth did you ask them to do? Get them to go and make the tea or something? 
 
Hannah Wysome
They were a backup workshop leader doing a brilliant job. So they were doing a job on par with the person who's being paid to do it properly. But because they were an 'extra', I didn't have the proper visibility of who they were and how valuable they were. So I learnt that at a very early age and tried to take that forward.
 
Andy Costello
Okay. I think back to your point Ben as well, there are different sort of levels of requirement that aren't necessary depending on the organization, the industry. So some could be quite literally about life and death. Somebody comes onto a site in a construction site, a huge amount of contingency workers and contractors work for building organizations, yet they all need to demonstrate that they have the sufficient qualifications and regs and short of bringing their certificates with them, which might be quite a cumbersome thing to do, every time you're changing contracts, they still need to prove that they are legally compliant. So what can we do as an industry to help that? Because these are serious matters aren't they? 
 
Ben Borin
The tendency generally happens where it's an afterthought. And so we've seen from many of our clients, there's an unfortunate incident where someone's been killed or something's happened with someone on one of their job sites and that then forces them to change the attitude of their business, to then focus on solutions to manage their contractors. And we see that quite often with a lot of the clients that use our services, that something's happened and then they need to then rectify that either there is a enforceable undertaking or they failed an audit or as I mentioned before, someone's actually died and then that's led to drastic changes within the organization. So it's unfortunate that these companies are reactive rather than being proactive in managing their contractors. And probably take for granted that in some ways by using contractors or using contingent workers is meant to reduce the effort they put into those people or those organizations. But actually, they need to do equal to the same as what they do to their own staff, because the risks can be just as high if they don't do that properly. 
 
Andy Costello
So what are the barriers to that? You know, obviously with permanent staff, you have your permanent record. Within H.R., there'll be a system that everything's logged in and presumably progress and learning, for example, will be tracked. Straightaway, that seems to me an immediate barrier. Are you going to log every contingent worker through the same kind of system and the same processes? 
 
Ben Borin
Yes, it really depends on the organisation. There's probably three parts that make up the change that a business needs to go through in order to manage their contractors. Systems are one of those, and it doesn't have to be a software system. It could be processes, procedures or anything around the management of those people. But where we've seen those systems fail is that the organization doesn't have the right attitude within their business or against those contractors. And then also the right culture to then enforce the changes that those systems bring into that business. So all those three areas need to be working in unison. So we offer systems as systems through training and other mechanisms. But if the company and their people's attitude towards what they mean and the culture isn't right, then we do see that those systems do fail. And those three things need to be working together to have success with managing that. 
 
Robin Beck
Yes, I agree. I think that the area around changing attitudes is a really important thing and it's something that I experience in certain sectors is that there is a reluctance to invest in training for a contingent worker, on the thought that then another company within the same sector will benefit from them training. And so I have experience in some people actively not wanting contingent workers to be able to evidence the training that they've completed for them when they go to another organization and kind of holding that information back. And I think there's an important piece around educating organizations and wider sectors around the benefits that cause short-termism of trying to restrict the training that they provide just to their organization and understand the benefits as across the sector. 
 
Andy Costello
So how on earth do we change these attitudes, then? Is it a case of, you know as Ben was talking about until it's too late. Do we have to wait for something bad to happen before we all go 'oh'? 
 
Robin Beck
I think that's where, you know, in those sectors where there is an obvious incident that happens that then people have to react to, they seem to be more open to the idea of shared learning and evidencing training and working as a sector. But I think it's more difficult to rationalize that to an organization when they've got a certain amount of money to spend, who don't necessarily have those kind of high risk incidents, but there are obvious benefits to working collectively and having a high skill workforce. It's just that they aren't quite as obvious as a kind of, you know, accident or incident. 
 
Hannah Wysome
Yeah, I think as an employer, you have a responsibility to make sure that the compliance piece is there whatever. So, in a case of construction, you don't go on site until you've proven that you've done the relative pieces of training and got the right certifications. I think throwing it out there in terms of where the training responsibility lies, if you are bringing in a contingent worker with specialist skills that you don't have as an organization, I would argue that it's not the organization's responsibility to train you further in terms of your own mastery of those skills. So if I wanted to bring in an art director, for example, I wouldn't be expecting to pay for them to learn Photoshop. I don't think that is where the responsibility lies. But I would look at training them as to how do we need to use that in the context of our business. And so if I was going to be investing in skills that are tailoring that person's abilities to benefit our business, I'm not too worried if they go somewhere else, because actually a lot of those things are very specific to my business. And so it's not like we've lost anything from virtue of that. We will have gained from leveraging the expertise that they brought in for being one of our contingent workers. 
 
Andy Costello
And there's always risk to some degree, right? It doesn't have to be life or death risk or accidents or even business critical risks where a law case may come in because somebody said something wrong to a customer. There's also, you know, being able to come into an organization and understand how they do things, understand how to use social media correctly or, you know, all sorts of things which could still get their organizations into trouble. So there has to be a degree of training provision, I suppose, in those sort of areas and every kind of area that it's within the organization's interest to make sure the risk is minimized. And so surely some kind of training provision to contingent workforce will mitigate those risks? 
 
Hannah Wysome
I think so. But also, I would say that that risk exists regardless of whether you're putting contingent workers on a project or whether it's somebody already within your business. I think some of the biggest issues I've had where contingent workers have been involved is when we have recruited to fill a headcount. But we haven't looked at either the cultural fit with us as an organization or the cultural fit with our clients. And that's sometimes where we've had a mismatch. Actually, I think it all comes down to the employer's responsibility to find the right people, whether they are contingent or not. And I think sometimes as a client, I don't know within a project team who's a permanent member of staff and who isn't. It shouldn't actually matter as a client. What you want is the right people working with you in the right way.  And that's just people regardless of what contract they're on.
 
Andy Costello
And that must be common, musn't it? I suppose the reason for a lot of organizations, certainly within our industry let's say of learning and development, where it's fast moving and project based, recruiting contingent workforce to fill gaps with a staff turnover or we suddenly get very busy etc, so you can see that things may slip through the gaps in those instances, I suppose. Just back to the attitude piece, so again maybe one for Ben and Robin, we talked about this. It's about, you know, not leaving it too late till something bad happens and it's an educational piece of people to realize these risks and what the values are and the importance of training them. What can we do to help educate to change those attitudes so people aren't leaving it until, you know, there's a legal case or God forbid, a casualty or a fatality on site?
 
Ben Borin
I think it stems first by the client itself or the organization really understanding what type of culture they want to have. It's the culture that sort of festers the attitude around how they manage those contractors and how integrated those contractors or contingent workers would be within their organization. So if the culture of the company sees them as separate to their employees then naturally they're going to be treated separately and they're not  gonna be integrated and they're going to be trained very much separately. But if their culture sees them as equal to and the only difference is their contract terms, then ideally they would be integrated and trained through as a part of the same organization. And I think that will then fester a change in the attitude both at the individual level because they feel as though they're part of the same company but then across the organization they will then treat those individuals as part of the same process and then culturally that should then lead to better outcomes, safer outcomes for those people as well.
 
Andy Costello
So presuming we've got the educational piece right but employers don't want to manage their contingent workforce, their learning and development for example, through the same channels as their permanent workforce (nothing more or less professional than either workforce) are their solutions or platforms in place designed to look after the contingent worker?
 
Robin Beck
Yeah there are lots of different solutions I think out there. At Kineo we have a number of different platforms that could potentially be utilized for both the contingent and the permanent workforce. Sitepass being one, which I think has got a lot of traction in areas of high risk and when you're engaging with suppliers. In terms of engaging with freelancers, there are lots of different options as well. So a Totara platform could be utilized as an extended enterprise platform and to bring more people onto that system and provide them with the same level of training that you provide, the same kind of learning experience you provide to a permanent member of staff. 
 
Andy Costello
Thank you, Robin. But this not being a sales channel for our products (I'm being trite, of course) but there are other solutions out there of course as well?
 
Hannah Wysome
Yeah, definitely and I think you can adapt a lot of the systems that you've already got in place for doing that. I mean, if you've got some kind of learning system, what I see quite commonly is people just setting up a dashboard for contingent workers that's maybe got two compliance courses on that everybody needs to do and then you can just run a report off the back of that and that can be enough in terms of looking at those mandatory requirements. I think looking at some of the behavioural requirements that we've looked at is more difficult. It's always difficult to to measure things that are happening on and off the job. I think one of the big risks for a contingent worker, just coming back to that topic very briefly, is that if you're not the right fit, you won't have another chance. And so that's a really difficult one to come to. 
 
Ben Borin
So when you look at the management of a contractor, there is a defined end-to-end process. That sort of map defines the process of how you manage that contracter. It starts really all the way from procurement, through to risk classification of that individual or that organization, through to supplier pre-qualification, individual worker onboarding, training delivery, capturing records, all the way through to site access. So when they actually physically come to that location, how do you track their access to that location? And when they leave? There's other things around the management of those people, such as incident reporting risk, then identifying hazards and other things that are present at a particular location. And then finally leading into the performance management of both the company that you engage with and the individual, which then flows all the way back into re-engagement. So if they're not performing to the level that you need them to perform at, then obviously how do you manage that as part of future projects or further engage with that? So when you break down the full end to end process, there's many different parts that make up that. Sitepass is one that fits across the full process to some extent but there are many other systems out there that can deliver different parts of that in different ways. It really depends on the type of organization, the type of work that they take, the risk component of that organization and the work they take. So you really need to break it down to then work out exactly what systems or solutions or processes may be suitable. For example, is online training definitely the best way to deliver training to those people? In some cases it is. But in some cases it's probably not and more traditional toolbox meetings or face to face training is probably a better solution. So there's a lot of variances there, to understand exactly what the best solution is across that. But what clients need to do is really understand the end to end process and understand what parts of that process really they want to focus on to solve their problems.
 
Hannah Wysome
I think what you said there Ben, is it opens up a really big line of questioning for H.R. departments in general around that performance management piece. And I think it's very easy to look at contingent workers as being people that if they're not doing what you want them to do, you can get rid of them very quickly but actually, what does that say about how we treat people in general, in an organization? If just like a permanent employee, that person has got 90 percent of what we're looking for, we then need to look at better performance management processes for contingent workers. And then I think that opens up a question from the contingent workers perspective as well - am I in this for that kind of support or actually am I not here for that? And if I'm not here for that, then you as a contingent worker can think well this isn't the right fit for me, I'm going to move on. But you could then actually see that as a real opportunity for improving your skills whilst you're working under contract for somebody else. 
 
Andy Costello
Thank you. There's some really good points there and I think as well as the challenges that employees have, there's the whole point about embracing the change that this is happening now and contingent workforces are rising globally. But there's a responsibility that comes with that. And the thing that really stood out for me as well, rather than just about finding the right solution to manage them and to track behaviour as well as performance to make sure they are legally compliant on the job. It's a whole attitudinal piece. It's not just the attitude that is required, or the changing attitude, to provide this training and to be a responsible employer. But there's also, you know, the attitude of employees to also support and treat contingent workers as equals, as team players, as part of the team and that goes for everybody, doesn't it? So I think that's a really important piece as an educational piece there, potentially. But with the rise of it or did we say earlier on, 50 percent of employers are now seeing I'm going to be using more and more contingent workforce over the next three to five years. It isn't just about finding the technology. It's about finding the right mindset and the culture and perhaps the change that's required to embrace this change. 
 
Andy Costello
Thank you, everybody. If you want to find out more about some of the products and solutions that we could talk about, not just our own, but anything that's out there in the industry, you could find out more on the Learning Insights Report, which is available on our website, which is www.kineo.com. Thank you very much. And see you next month. 
 

Speakers

    Andy Costello

    As Head of Customer Solutions, Andy leads the Kineo EMEA sales team and brings a 20-year industry track record of Learning Technology expertise. Andy is passionate about driving exceptional customer service and develops close partnerships with clients, ensuring they achieve success not only for standalone projects but long-term strategic goals. Andy also plays a key role in consulting on projects and account relationships across Kineo, is regularly featured on our podcasts, and is a sought after speaker at industry events.

    Ben Borin

    Ben is the Global Head of Sitepass Contractor Management System platform at Sitepass. Helping customers streamline their workforce to gain complete transparency over risk and compliance. With expert systems and technical knowledge, Ben is Sitepass' global product manager. 

    Hannah Wysome

    Based in Sheffield, Hannah is one of our most experienced team members, specialising in highly creative, quick turnaround projects that meet clients’ expectations. Now a solutions consultant, Hannah works closely with clients to get to the heart of their learning needs. Hannah is an experienced user trial facilitator and has expertise in scripting audio and video for elearning.

    Robin Beck

    Robin has recently joined the Sales Bid Team as a Solutions Designer and is the Regional Product Representative for Sitepass; Kineo’s Contractor Management System. Prior to joining the Bid Team, Robin has had a range of roles supporting the implementation of platform products, as well as the delivery of our Kineo Courses library.

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