Why the new gig economy needs more inclusive leaders

5 December, 2016
Fleur Bothwick

I was recently asked to speak at an event about the future of work and my preparation took me down a fascinating journey of discovery.  I’ve obviously been reading about robotics, digital disruption and demographic shifts, but what really struck me during my research was that a lot of the ‘future’ we are talking about is not the future - it’s here now and it has implications for D&I.

Key predictions are that by 2020 there will be a 50% increase in mobility.  By 2020, 7 million jobs could be lost globally with about  4.7m being from office admin and this will impact women more than men.  Already we go in to the bank less often (having the option to set up our own transfers on line) so need less tellers, we operate shop tills ourselves to pay for goods and in fact the bulk of my shopping I now do on line.

The World Economic Forum has published a great paper called the Future of Jobs and they talk about us being in the Fourth Industrial Revolution fuelled by technology, societal and cultural changes.  Organisations will need to think about their employee value proposition (the promise of a fifteen year climb to partner is no longer attractive); how they attract and source talent – graduates are looking for a sense of purpose - 74% of gen z’s agreed that business has a responsibility to create a better working world; how they structure their terms and conditions of employment – temporary staff may not want traditional benefits, but will still want competitive compensation and how they effectively engage their people.

I also started to read a lot about the gig economy which I had to look up!  For those like me that are new to the term ‘gig’, it’s an environment in which temporary positions are common and organisations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements.  Research tells us that 40% of the workers in the US will be independent contractors by 2020 and trust will be even more important as the bedrock of employment relationships.  Here, again, is where you see the value of having inclusive leaders.  Leaders that can leverage talent across locations to maximise the highs and lows of workforce planning needs.  Leaders who can build high performing teams in a virtual, globally connected world.  Leaders who can foster creativity and innovation in their people and gain their trust, regardless of how long they are in the role.

Inclusive leaders are aware of their own styles and preferences and are agile enough to flex them when working with people who have different styles. A lot of current research suggests that there will be more of an onus on ‘softer’ skills – the ability to collaborate virtually, cross cultural competency and social intelligence.   Inclusive leaders can operate in the moment, not distracted by thinking about the next meeting or checking their IPhone.  They are empathetic, having good listening skills and making sure in meetings that everyone has a voice.  They make well informed, relatively bias free decisions and they encourage people to challenge their decisions to avoid group think.

With digital transformation, demographic shifts, global workforces and the aspirations of new generations coming in to the workforce, we are facing seismic changes in our workplace and with these changes comes wonderful opportunities.  We have more choice about who we work for, where we work and for how long and if we are going to thrive, we need to grab those opportunities with both hands and ride the wave of disruption.