The way we work is changing. Younger generations no longer want to be tethered to a desk all day, working for the same company for years on end. Millennials and Gen Z – the very people set to dominate the world of work over the next few decades – are more resilient to change and uncertainty. They also crave meaning and ownership in their work – something that is very difficult to find in typical full-time employment.
Gen Z in particular have grown up in a world shaped by the internet and mobile technology, with no connection to a time before it. The chances of this generation embracing a way of working rooted in the twentieth century are virtually nil.
Organisations will have to adapt, too. In the light of constant change, they will be forced to become more flexible, agile and streamlined. Having a large workforce of permanent, full-time employees will make this increasingly difficult.
When you bring all of this together, it’s clear that the gig economy will continue to grow. The next few decades could even see the end of the full-time position as the prevalent mode of employment. Instead, organisations may function on a skeleton staff of decision makers and leaders, dipping in to the global talent pool of gig workers to fill in the gaps. These workers will be drafted in to work on projects, with short-term contracts lasting days, weeks or months. Organisations and workers will develop broad networks of contacts along the way, helping both to shape and sell their brand.
While many will greet the changing nature of work with enthusiasm, others will actively resist the shift away from stability and predictability and towards the relative unknown of gig work. But the time when full-time jobs were secure is now long gone – almost no full-time employee today can guarantee they will be in the same position in a year’s time. Add automation into the mix and you’ve got a job market that is unpredictable and uncertain. For this reason alone, freelance and project work may well be the future for most people – whether they like it or not.
Success in the gig economy – and in the future of work in general – will all come down to having the relevant skills. While there is still a big market for unskilled work today, this will be eroded by automation over time. Jobs like Uber driver will only exist until driverless cars become the norm. In the future, skilled work may well be the only type there is. This will make continuous, life-long learning more important than ever.