Project-Based Gig Work Is Fulfilling for More People Than You Think

Rob Biederman

In a recent HBR article, EY’s David Jolley explores a few myths related to the gig economy. He makes some great points, highlighting that the gig economy enables fast-moving startups to secure talent on demand, which helps them “stay lean and mean.”

One of the myths Jolley dispels is that gig work is unfulfilling. This is a largely discredited myth brandished by varying opponents of the gig economy — and perhaps the future of work in general. As he notes, “there’s a perception that gig jobs are dead-end jobs.” But, indeed, this is not the case at all. Talented folks across multiple industries are increasingly choosing to work as independent professionals, or “gig workers” — transforming their skills and expertise into new ventures — specifically because it is fulfilling.

At Catalant, we host more than 50,000 independent consultants and thousands of boutique firms in our expert marketplace. These independent professionals come from all over the world, in a diverse array of unique functions, from management consulting to finance and operations. The high-end freelance economy truly runs the gamut of business strategy services. We observe that these people enjoy having the opportunity to grow professionally by exercising their problem solving, creativity, and entrepreneurial muscles as solo practitioners and owners of boutique firms.

Let’s Hear It From Real People

A few independent professionals, including Carlos Castelan, Managing Director at The Navio Group and Peter Mahoney, Founder & CEO of Plannuh, recently spoke on a panel at Catalant’s recent Reimagining Work Summit. They both identify as part of the gig economy, and elaborated on how it has given them the chance to work on innovative and mission critical projects at top companies around the world.

Catalant also interviewed Gavin Payne on a recent episode of the Radically Agile podcast. Gavin is the founder and CEO of independent consulting firm Payne Enterprises, and in the interview, he discusses his choice to leave a lucrative consulting position at Bain & Company and launch his own firm. As he explains it, working at Bain left him feeling unfulfilled, while launching his own business gave him the autonomy and independence he was looking for, in addition to the opportunity to grow as a business leader.

Benefits for Internal and Alumni Networks

The flexibility to work on a project basis allows people to choose which projects to work on and with whom, which is an increasingly important desire among top talent. While the high-end freelance gig economy gives rise to a plethora of opportunities for full-time professionals to launch their own firms, it’s also a way for businesses to tap into their alumni networks. This can also include populations like retirees, who want to stay active in their industries, as well as new parents, who are ready to rejoin the workforce after having a child.

But project-based work can translate far beyond external contract workers, and into a new way of working for internal, full-time staff as well. By breaking up large initiatives into smaller project-based work streams, businesses can facilitate “gig work” for internal employees. This replicates many of the normal “gig” benefits but leverages an additional (existing) talent pool.

Supported by broader cultural shifts, businesses can leverage AI-powered technology to create a database of project-based initiatives, track internal employee skills and expertise, and dynamically match those skills to the projects. Business leaders can then create fluid teams to tackle the projects, which encourages cross-collaboration and cross-functional work among employees beyond the boundaries of specific departments.

This kind of agile approach to work empowers employees to try their hands at tasks outside of their job descriptions and work with people on different teams — a surefire way to engage employees in new, innovative ways and cultivate overall satisfaction and fulfillment in their everyday work lives.

Benefits for Companies’ Larger Strategic Goals

Technology serves as a highly effective knowledge management tool, granting access to high-end talent across multiple human capital portfolios and ensuring work streams are tied directly to strategic initiatives.

Adopting an agile approach to working, or an agile operating model, enables companies to stay nimble and react instantly to strategic shifts. Smart business leaders know that having the ability to pivot in an instant is vital to long-term success in today’s competitive business landscape.

With the rapidly evolving market and employee demands, business leaders have been given no choice but to rethink the role of talent and embrace the future. You need to move your organization towards a more agile operating model to survive — so, if not now, then when?

Want to talk more about the evolving freelance gig economy? Send Catalant a note.

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