May 2020
A boss in the Gig Economy

An increasing number of younger managers choose temporary managerial assignments. What are they powered by? And what does this mean for the employer and the organization?

Suddenly we read about the gig economy everywhere. That more and more young people choose flexibility and freedom over permanent employment. We read about their driving forces, lifestyle and values. About the emergence of networks for digital nomads. But also, about how employers need to think about how to attract gig workers, and to give them reasonable conditions regarding insurance and pensions.

How should we think about recruiting managers? Are gig managers just a new word for interim managers, an arrangement for time-limited jobs that have been around and worked for decades? It was one of the areas of our recent conference in the INAC network. It became clear that we, across offices in the different parts of the world, share the same picture; now more and more young managers are choosing to form their own company and take temporary managerial assignments – and the development is fast.

From mainly being about senior executives bridging a vacancy or running a specific change project, and not always being completely self-elected but an opportunity towards the end of a long managerial career, we now meet more and more young executives who refuse to accept permanent employment. “If your client is looking to drive this change with full force for a year, I am interested in taking it as a limited time assignment. If they want to hire someone, I’m not the right person”.

Who are the gig managers?

Those we meet are driven by a clear mission where they can use their skills and power to deliver visible results in a short time. They get the energy out of working with change. They are curious and interested in working in different organizations and cultures. They want to feel free, engage in their own or others’ projects for periods of time, or have simply found their way to create a balance between work, family and home time.

What do they add?

After discussing with clients who have tried young gig managers, we get mixed conclusions. Several says that “they come in with energy and power and start their change mission without starting distance”. They bring new perspectives and other experiences of everything from technical solutions to work procedures and methods.

Some say that “they become like a management consultant on the inside, they are part of the organization the time they are here”. Since they do not already have relationships and loyalties in the organization, they experience great freedom of movement internally; they can tear apart invisible structures and bridge old barriers. We also hear that “they make clear demands on their employees and they make people talk to each other and move forward”.

And the downside?

Lack of continuity and long-term view is – not surprisingly – what first comes up in our conversations. They do not have the time to create an overall picture of the business and the organization and they do not have the prerequisites to foresee the consequences of their actions. A common reflection is that “what gives a positive effect in the short term may have downsides that need to be taken care of later – when they are long gone”.

Our clients also agree on the downside from the employees’ perspective. They are energized and challenged by their gig manager, but they lack a manager with longer perspectives on their development and they lack the sense of security and belonging that comes with a longer working relationship with their manager.

“Certainly a gig manager, but not several in a row!”

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