Be A Pioneer And Embrace America’s Work Revolution

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Not too long ago, the notion of work generally meant a very regimented 40-hour workweek with a payday every two weeks. Whether you worked in an office or a grocery store, the onus was on you to figure out how to balance your personal spending based on the salary you received. In terms of flexibility, there was little that could be done if you weren’t able to pay bills. You either looked for a higher-paying job or part-time work to supplement your income.

Then, the Great Recession of 2008 happened. Millions of jobs were lost, companies folded and retirement accounts dwindled. American households lost a staggering $19 trillion as the stock market nosedived. Out of the ashes of this economic calamity came what we know today broadly as the gig economy.

Fueled by innovations in consumer technology with new apps available on your phone, the American workforce found new opportunities in jobs that disrupted staid industries from car service to food delivery. Uber, DoorDash and TaskRabbit are all examples of businesses that showcase the marriage between technological innovation and work evolution.

How The Gig Economy Changed Work

Suddenly, workers had this newfound flexibility to work when, where and how often it best suited their lifestyle. This was empowering, but also challenging. Instead of figuring out how to stretch one paycheck to make ends meet, people had three different jobs and multiple sources of income to tackle those monthly expenses. This new balancing act extends to managing multiple pay cycles that often don’t align. For instance, one job may pay biweekly on Fridays, while another follows a bank schedule and pays on the 15th and 30th of each month. But when urgent bills come due, finding a way to cover them becomes a priority.

To further this development, following the passage of the Affordable Care Act, many companies shifted to hiring employees part time to save on health benefits costs. According to the Cato Institute’s research, the ACA led to an increase in low‐​hour, involuntary part-time employment in retail, accommodations and food services.

The impact was real. Workers had to get creative to make ends meet, finding multiple income streams wherever they could. According to Upwork’s 2022 Freelance Forward report, 39% of the American workforce did some sort of freelance work—up 3 percentage points from 2021. The report also showed that freelancers contributed $1.35 trillion to the economy in annual earnings in 2022.

Modern employment looks vastly different than it did two decades ago. Full-time employment in many fields is contracting. Work is getting done, but differently. Even with the shift, as of February 2024, there were around 131 million full-time employees in the United States. So the question is, how do you maintain your staff when many opt for multiple jobs to pay the bills?

Understanding Your Workers’ Needs

To build a more engaged and productive workforce, we need to understand how our workers are getting by each month. The challenge for human resources leaders is to meet modern employees where they are today and acknowledge the difficulties they’re facing. We must also acknowledge the opportunities they have for quick liquidity through gig/part-time work.

For those with businesses that rely on full-time workers, the difficulties in recruiting and retaining employees often will come down to the ability to provide flexibility to your workforce. How can you mirror what the gig economy affords workers? What can you provide what they cannot get from driving for Uber or delivering for DoorDash?

A great place to start is providing benefits that can have a meaningful impact on workers’ lives, such as healthcare, 401(k), tuition reimbursement or earned wage access. These can all have a transformational impact on a worker. A whopping 80% of employees would choose additional benefits over a pay raise, as highlighted by the Harvard Business Review. While they still might take those additional side jobs to make ends meet, leveraging the right benefits package can help build employee loyalty and tenure.

For instance, without having to pay expensive health benefits, someone might not need that weekend gig job anymore. With tuition reimbursement, they might only now have to drive an Uber on weekends to help pay for that continuing education class. With employer-sponsored earned wage access, workers can access their earned pay at the end of every shift, similar to the flexibility offered in many gig jobs.

Work has evolved, and we have to evolve with it. By understanding the needs of employees and changing with their expectations, we can build a strong and productive workforce. By empowering employees and providing them with the tools to succeed, we can help them bridge their finances and begin a path toward financial stability and security and a brighter future.

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