It was the B-School campus presentation of a large pharma company. The learning and development head eloquently presented a three-year career plan at his firm. At the end of it, one of the students asked, “Can you specify what happens in the first year? Three years is too long a time to think through.” A couple of his friends nodded in acknowledgement. As it turned out, none of those three students attended the interviews with the company the next day.
“It’s hardly six months since you joined us, you are exceptional, but you have so much more to learn. It’s too early to change your job. Moreover, the start-up world is volatile,” an aggrieved manager told a young engineer who had quit to join a start-up for 50 per cent higher pay. “If I spend the same time there, I can pay off the entire loan amount of my new race bike,” the IT engineer retorted.
In the new age of gig work, there is a perspective mismatch between senior leaders of enterprises and employees when it comes to roles and returns.
For the longest time, most of us chose our career path based on Brand, Role, Industry and Money; let us call this BRIM. We were told when we were young that it was only natural to be confused about BRIM and that we would eventually settle down to a specific ‘role’ and ‘industry’. The brand and the money we wanted to work for were relatively easy to change, and many of us did that based on the opportunities that came along.
Employers too used the BRIM template while hiring. They chose new employees who were doing similar Roles, working for great Brands, mainly in a similar Industry and offered the Money they could afford. But over the last 18 months, the great resignation churned many organisations, and many felt the massive attrition was due to the Money and the young workforce.
However, as a recent study of CXO movements shows, many leaders just like their younger colleagues, also have an average tenure of less than three years.
So, the question is: are new jobseekers no longer picking roles and brands with tenure in mind? Can enterprises continue to sell the long-term role of growth over immediate gratification?
Role vs Gig
With such high churn and decreasing tenures in the modern era, should organisations construct their world of work differently? Instead of hiring someone for a role, should they now structure the roles like a gig? As data suggests, most entry to junior level roles is already seeing shorter tenures. In the technology industry, attrition and new hires have ensured that 40 per cent of the organisation is in transition.
So in a way, enterprises have already started working with this new reality. However, we also know that top talent always gets poached fast. So why not work in a way that allows specific short-term goals to be executed that impact the organisation rather than working with a stretched settling-in period for employees?
The transition to hiring such employees shouldn’t be a problem as, during job interviews, most of us assess candidates on skills. The two most asked questions are “what have you done” and “how did you do it”. The former points to the gig, and the latter the person who did it. Both are crucial inputs for recruiting talent. However, while the hiring part is easy, for Enterprises to transition towards creating structures to execute gig-based roles would require transformation.
Gig of a role
A 2022 HBR article by Jane McConnel talks about how the pharmaceutical major Sanofi brought the learn/apply/share model to bring the gig mindset to a role. They went on to say Sanofi was even able to retain top talent by offering them the internal gig model. All enterprises have an annual calendar with specific tasks or mapped initiatives for the year.
That being the case, can organisations construct a few high-impacting gigs every year which allow them to hire specific talent for the Gig or assign someone internally for the same? Some gigs can be new product launches, overseas expansions, M&As, or implementations of specific technologies or processes. Every organisation has attrition and must make stop-gap arrangements to manage certain vital tasks.
Instead of praying for a recession to retain or hire top talent, can the annual gig-based roles become a strategy for enterprises? Instead of hiring someone for a role, can enterprises structure the roles like a series / chain of gigs?
“Instead of praying for a recession to retain or hire top talent, can the annual gig-based roles become a strategy for enterprises? Instead of hiring someone for a role, can enterprises structure the roles like a series/chain of gigs?”
Yes, we need to let go of some of our current role-based frameworks and processes. But, with talent seeking increased flexibility in their job engagement, can enterprises also bring new models to get the best out of the talent who definitely will continue to hop, skip and jump through their employment? Can we think of introducing annual gigs rather than continue to romanticise long-term careers? To make a start, enterprises should rewrite job descriptions and make them gig-able.