The Gig Economy: An HR Agility Fitness Challenge

March 8, 2016

The Gig Economy: An HR Agility Fitness Challenge

This is the era of Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and Handy. All of these firms are examples of the “gig economy,” and human resources professionals are being pressed to update their approach to talent management as a result. 

The gig economy will continue placing pressure on HR leaders, HR policies and HR processes to become more agile so that they can accommodate the kind of turbulence now being created by contingent workers as a growing element of their talent pool. 

The word “gig” has its origins in the music industry and now can be applied to all sorts of part-time employment: adjunct professors, management consultants, lawyers, doctors, farm managers, architects, street vendors, barbers, auto mechanics, landscapers, cab drivers, caregivers, truck drivers and more.
Most organizations have embraced the need to effectively identify their key talent who will enable them to thrive into the future.  Many conferences, articles and books have been focused on the contribution of key talent identified and developed through a rigorous process of talent management. 

Since 2001, I’ve had the opportunity within my firm, Agility Consulting, to explore solutions in this space. Specifically, we’ve found that combining scenario planning with talent management to be an effective approach. It helps leaders to consider alternative scenarios when an organization executes its talent review process.  We refer to that process as Talent Management Agility™, reflecting its foundation in the fundamental principles of agility as they apply to the talent review process. 

Those agility principles are presented in The AGILE Model and include the 5 major drivers of agility:

  1. Anticipate Change
  2. Generate Confidence
  3. Initiate Action
  4. Liberate Thinking
  5. Evaluate Results

All five of these principles should help guide an organization’s talent management process, especially now as the gig economy expands its impact on all organizations. Now more than ever before, organizations need to proactively manage their talent pools with the realization that talent includes a portfolio of workers who are not all full-time employees. 

As HR professionals scan the business environment to anticipate change, they will find that many millennials enjoy the diversity of work that they can have through contingent work arrangements at multiple organizations.  When HR looks internally at its workforce, it will most likely find more contingent workers in technology-related functions than ever before. 

How HR becomes more agile and helps its organization’s management to become more agile will be one of the key challenges presented by the gig economy during the next decade. 
HR professionals can apply The AGILE Model to help build a talent management process that is characterized by agility in this gig economy. Here are some concrete ways to go about doing that:

  1. Identify the current talent portfolio, being sure to include both your full-time and contingent workers.
  2. Collaborate with internal organizational leaders to determine the talent portfolio that will be demanded under a number of business scenarios.
  3. Modify current HR programs, processes, or policies to be more agile to adjust and adapt to the demands of the gig economy and other aspects of the volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) business environment.
  4. Select and develop high-potential talent, regardless of whether a full-time employee or contingent worker.
  5. Build project management agility into the set of core competencies of leaders and workers.

This list is not, of course, all inclusive. But The AGILE Model provides a framework through which leaders can start thinking about making their talent management functions more agile.

The gig economy is one major element of the VUCA business environment impacting CHROs and their teams.  Join us at the 2016 HR People + Strategy Annual Conference in Scottsdale, Ariz., April 10-13 where we'll take a deep dive into The New Talent Ecosystem ( Participate in our facilitated discussion on April 12 on The Gig Economy:  A Human Resource Agility Fitness Challenge. CHROs who proactively consider disruptive trends like those posed by the gig economy and take preemptive action will be the ones who thrive. 

Please take our preconference survey on the gig economy.

The Authors: 

Nick Horney, Ph.D., is The Agility Doc. He first discovered the value of agility during his 23 years of service as a special operations naval officer responsible for diving and explosive ordnance disposal teams. In these rapidly unfolding and changing circumstances--and now, as an organizational psychologist--Nick discovered that the key ingredient separating good leaders from best leaders is agility. After serving in a senior role at the Center for Creative Leadership, he founded Agility Consulting and Training in 2001. Learn more about Nick at