Will the Pandemic Push Knowledge Work into the Gig Economy?
Article by : Sameer Hasija , V. “Paddy” Padmanabhan and Prashant Rampal, Harvard Business Review
Posted on : 1 Jun 2020
Full Article : https://hbr.org/2020/06/will-the-pandemic-push-knowledge-work-into-the-gig-economy
The doubt of replacing white collar/knowledge based jobs with Gig Economy workers?
“The received wisdom of the time was that the gig economy would redefine white-collar jobs and call into question the very existence of professional service firms: Why would you need to hire a data analytics firm for a project when you could have unrestricted access to a bunch of experts, connected by a digital platform with global reach, who could work together for you?”
Gig Economy (currently) only thrived in low-skilled jobs
“There has been tremendous growth in the gig economy, but most of it can be attributed to unskilled work such as driving (Lyft and Uber), delivering (food, parcels, etc. through DoorDash, Postmates), and doing simple errands (TaskRabbit)…if the work is simple, repeatable, standardized, easily measurable, and controllable, these costs will be low, which explains the success of gig platforms concentrating on work such as ride-sharing, accommodation, and deliveries, largely at the expense of the firms that used to perform these services.”
Why it haven’t work for white-collar based jobs?
“Gig workers in the knowledge economy will have to work with… values, incentives, practices, and preferences. But they do not assimilate easily into these organizations (unless they join them)… and are seen by people in the organizations as outsiders — or even threats —impeding effective cooperation and creating the potential for conflict.”
“Knowledge work is not uniform… a given “unit” of knowledge work is itself highly complex. A university, for example, educates students for degrees. A unit, therefore, could be the degree that a student comes out with. But a lot of very different tasks go into creating that unit. So what does “gigification” mean in this context?”
How can “Gigication” works for knowledge based jobs?
“knowledge-based work can be unpacked into a set of different tasks… we need to analyze things at the task level rather than at the work level. We have found the simple process chart shown below to be extremely useful in figuring out which kinds of tasks are amenable to gigification. It involves asking these three basic questions about each knowledge-intensive task involved in delivering a product or service.
Test 1 : Codification (to arrange systematically) Tasks
“distinguish between structured tasks that can be easily specified and measured more objectively, and unstructured tasks that can’t be.”
Test 2 : The timing of the value Created and Consumed
“value creation and consumption need to be simultaneous… If such a task is customer facing, it is a big risk to “gigify” it, as these tasks have no possibility of quality checks and re-work…tasks there is — or can be — a gap between creation and consumption of value… it provides a window of opportunity to insert a quality check process…having such a delay makes it possible for the workflow to follow a more modular design, reducing the need for collaboration”
Test 3 : Can it be done remotely?
Before the pandemic, outside of the software industry, firms like GitLab were few and far between…But the Covid-19 crisis has forced businesses in industries previously impervious to remote working to reengineer their work processes…provide a good starting point to firms contemplating a switch to the gig economy model
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