Is the ‘Gig Economy’ just a gear going nowhere?

CapturePeter Cappelli thinks employers’ fascination over the “Gig Economy” is an illusion. He believes they are forgetting that workers who choose to work ‘on-demand’ are actually living ‘on-call’ and the number willing or wanting to do so is more limited than the pundits’ dreams of a workforce that shows up only when you need them and stays home, unpaid and w/o benefits when you don’t.

His column this month, “Controlling the Workforce Like a Faucet?” is spot-on detailing the unintended consequences for individual engagement, retention, company performance, and rising costs.

While he accurately takes on the clueless leaders (who are unlikely to get any help soon from their HR counterparts), he also surprisingly does little to connect the changing forces in our society that are (cost of affordable health care, $15/hour minimum wages, new overtime rules , etc) keeping employers up at night and causing some to turn back the clock to the piece-rate mentality of the industrial revolution. It is true that work needs to be redesigned and classes of worker will certainly shift from embedded

While it is true that work,  organizational structures, and jobs need  to be redesigned. Classes of worker will surely shift from embedded F/T salary men and women w benefits to new models but, the benefits for both employer and worker will need to be more deeply thought through and better balanced.

Gerry Crispin

Gerry co-authored eight books on the evolution of staffing and has written 100s of articles and whitepapers on similar topics during a career in Human Resources that spans more than 40 years from HR leadership positions at Johnson and Johnson; to boutique Executive Search firms; a Career Services Director at the University where he received his Engineering and 2 advanced degrees in Organizational/Industrial Behavior; and, GM of a major recruitment advertising firm even as he launched CareerXroads 20 years ago.


  1. I actually disagree (respectfully) with Peter. The gig economy is here to stay. If done right, the gig economy is a win-win-win for the gig-worker, the company and the customer.
    The problem is, we have no classification for this type of worker, and instead of recognizing this as a rising global phenomenon, we are trying to stick gig-workers into temp or IC contracting buckets which were classified 25+ years ago (who remembers the famous Microsoft permatemp case which changed the landscape of temp and IC worker conditions?)
    I am advocating for a new classification which will provide gig-workers more protection, but allow the flexibility for them and for their companies. The gig economy is a good thing – it enables more people to get into the workforce, it provides students with well-paying part-time jobs, it provides mothers/fathers with flexibility, it provides an income when unemployed, and who knows… it may even provide a lifetime career for others?

  2. lol. I think respectfully is the best way to disagree with Peter… and Paul and Mary… I do agree with you that the ‘gig’ economy done well will benefit all. There are potential pitfalls where it is not in the best interest to go back to that mythical piece rate model found at the beginning of the Industrial Revolution where the worker could barely make a living wage and only then by being pitted against fellow workers’ performance to exceed unrealistic standards hour after hour, day after day.
    Today, a quality worker making a living/market wage doing something they are proud to do well and avoiding the BS of F/T clocking in, political schmoozing etc. would be productive. I see numerous platforms making the connections and serving both needs of the employer as well as the contingent worker equally. I do think one of the keys is to rethink class of worker totally. We seem limited by our geography, history, reward and performance models and especially by our reluctance to break work into manageable chunks that AI rather than ‘management’ should be able to stitch together. Wouldn’t it be interesting to curate a list of every employee classification- definition, limitation, advantage, typical useage, approximate 3s or %s and country(ies) associatede with its use. Might be a great show and tell for our Int’l in Madrid.

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