April 21, 2020
Topics: Employee Experience

Gigs: How Teams Can Counter Crisis with Transformation [Podcast]

Organizations are transforming rapidly in response to the social and economic changes that have resulted from COVID-19. By leveraging gig work, HR can help counter crisis, quickly mobilize teams to meet the immediate needs of the business, and upskill existing employees.

In this podcast episode, we welcome our first guest, Sumita Mehta, Sr. Product Manager at Phenom, to talk about how organizations and managers can leverage gigs to engage, enrich, and upskill employees. Here's what we covered:

  • What is a gig? What is an internal talent marketplace?
  • How can a gig program increase organizational agility?
  • What are some ways gigs are relevant as companies embrace remote working?
  • What is the future of gig work for traditional businesses?

Want to learn more? Devin and Sumita are hosting a webinar on Thursday, April 23rd at 2pm ET. Check out the session live, or on-demand if you're reading this in the future: Got Gigs? Discovering Untapped Skills Within Your Teams.

Subscribe to the show using your favorite podcast listening app or platform (including Spotify, Apple podcasts and Google Play) and stay tuned for future episodes! We'll be diving into talent experience management and the end-to-end talent journey with the greatest in HR, recruiting, talent acquisition, and management.

Podcast Transcript

Devin Foster: Welcome to The Talent Experience Show—your look at what's happening right now in recruitment, talent acquisition, talent management, and of course, our favorite, HR tech. I'm Devin Foster.

Tom Tate: And I'm Tom Tate, and we are on the marketing team at Phenom. And Devin, I'm not gonna spend a ton of time paying the bills today as you'd like to say. We're very fortunate and excited to have our first guest on the show, Sumita Mehta. She is a senior product manager here at Phenom—she works on our suite of employee experience tools, which is a very awesome portion of our product. That specific area helps managers engage their teams, scale their workforce, promote internal mobility, and a ton more. Sumita, welcome to the show.

Sumita Mehta: Thank you, Tom.

Tom: So one of the questions I have just to kick things off, I'm really curious, if you want to quickly share what excites you specifically about working on the employee experience side of things. I know that we have a lot of product managers working on the candidate experience. Is there something that drew you to it, or something that excites you about that area of the product?

Sumita: So, I really enjoy working on the employee experience. It's something that has gained a lot of traction over the last, I would say, 12 to 18 months. There's been such a big focus on the employee experience, because there have been a lot of studies that say happy employees make happy customers. So there's been a lot of focus. There's so much work going on in the HR industry about that. And the best part I like is that there's a lot that goes into the employee experience, such as as employee engagement. There's internal mobility, there's learning, there's career pathing. But what I like is that we're constantly driving the employee and giving them tools where they can take their careers into their own hands, and really become a better version of themselves and grow in their career. So I find that growth aspect, that continuous learning aspect really, really exciting to me.

Tom: That's awesome. There is a ton of value from our employee experience— the platform side of things—but one thing you didn't mention is the growth is gigs, right? And today, we're talking all about gigs and how they can be leveraged to transform your workplace or workforce, especially during times of crisis and uncertainty.

When most people hear gigs or think of gigs, they think about musicians playing Friday nights at your local watering hole. Or they think of Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Instacart. A lot of these services—where someone does a small job for you to kind of get a little bit of extra pay or income on the side, a side hustle, if you will—I think these are a lot of the things that people have have talked about when they talk about gigs. But Sumita, for HR and internal teams, how would you define a gig and an internal talent marketplace?

Sumita: So, when I think of a gig, it's just like you said, we think of all these companies like Doordash and Uber that have all of these little jobs to do. So an internal gig is similar. We see companies moving from a very hierarchical kind of network to more project-based entities. So at a very basic level, a gig is a project or a task that needs to get done, and every single manager, every single company has a bunch of these tasks that that are not full-time positions that are needed to get done, but they don't have someone dedicated to do it. So, how can companies really leverage the talent that they already have within their companies in order to do this? That's how I would define a gig.

Tom: Yeah, I think that's that's a great kind of setup for how valuable a gig and internal talent marketplace can be for an organization. So I think, Devin, you know, we've talked about this a lot over the past couple of episodes. Organizations are transforming so fast right now in response to COVID-19 and economic changes. So what we're seeing is that the gigs of yesterday are much different than the gigs of today, and the gigs of tomorrow. So the projects, the important work that needs to get done is constantly being reevaluated and constantly shifting. So how do you get that work to the people who need to the people who actually need to execute that work.

I listened to a podcast with Donald Miller. He's a marketer and a writer that I follow. And he had this great quote he shared with his team, "We're no longer playing chess, we're playing tennis." So the game has changed. So whereas organizations could do long-term strategic planning. The ball is just coming at us so quickly, the best we can do is swing and hope that we make contact in the right way. I think that that's a great metaphor for how things are moving. And as managers in any organization, they need to be able to make sure that we're coordinated and intentional with our swinging.

So as the ball is coming at us, they need to be able to identify what swing do we need to do, and how do we get that racket into the right hands? So Sumita, how can a gig program quickly mobilize a team, and really make sure that they're aligned with the right work that needs to get done? And then how do they they get access to it?

Sumita: One of the things we learned in our research—we did talk to a number of companies— is that they might have a program like gigs kind of happening unofficially, or they might have homegrown solutions for it. It becomes even more relevant in the current context, where we have so many employees working from home and lots of companies, reallocating their resources to really make their workforce as agile as possible.

So, they might be projects that have been on the backburner. And some employees have a lot of extra time and we might have a lot of other projects that might now really critical for the company. So, really using a gig program can help with this pivoting in the HR strategy because now companies and management leaders can really create these gigs based on the new projects that they want to focus their efforts on, and really highlight the skills that they need for these projects. And then employees can go out, seek those projects, be matched with some of those projects, apply to them, and start using that free time they might have because their primary projects have been put on hold.

The other way we can do that is by really giving managers or leaders who need some workforce, we can show them who in their workforce is best suited to do these gigs. So it's it's two sided—it's not only showing employees what gigs would be really beneficial to them, it's also showing gig managers who are the right people for them to use. And they can seek those out instead waiting for applications. So that's a good way for companies to quickly move resources around based on availability based on skills, and based on what they need to get done.

Devin Foster: Tom, that tennis analogy from Donald Miller is the perfect example. And the reason for that is one thing Sumita mentioned was work from home, and tennis is almost the perfect sport for social distancing. We are at least 10 to 12 feet apart from the person you're playing against. Unless of course, you're playing doubles. And that's a whole other can of worms that I don't want to get into. But a lot of organizations that have shifted to this work from home environment now have a new can of worms, a new set of problems. There are a number of workers in every organization, they're typically on location or frontline workers, right? They can't do their usual jobs now because they're at home, like everyone should be staying safe watching Netflix catching up on Tiger King, whatever it may be.

And perhaps these individuals are looking externally for gig work, they may be using Uber, they may be picking up some things from Instacart, whatever it is, but how do you shift them to doing internal gigs for your organization? So while large portions of the workforce find themselves working remotely, how can managers also use gig work as a way to rescale or upskill employees? And who knows, maybe many of these organizations don't fully migrate back to the office at the flip of a switch—they may have to embrace this transformation, and how are they going to leverage gig work during this transition?

Sumita: So, I think managers are probably the key. Making sure any kind of gig platform gets adopted and is most useful and helpful to companies, because they know their employees, and they know their employees' skills, as well as what needs to get done. So I think it's two different things managers can do.

One is they can highlight to their employees certain jobs that might use the same skills that they already have. So if an employee has a skill, which they're not currently using, but then there's a related transferable skill that can be put in a different context, they can really highlight those. And the second thing that employees and managers can do is they can really help employees understand what are good skills to learn while they're going through this process so they can highlight those skills. That'll help them get to the next level and help them re-skill.

Tom: And I think we're going to see that rescaling play an important factor. A lot of companies are talking about how do you "survive and thrive." And I think when you move from survival mode to thriving mode, it's going to be all about how well you can really tap into your existing workforce, and how you can increase that productivity. And sometimes that means unlocking those new skills, and making sure that the right people are learning the right things to do the right job.

So we're going to keep this specific episode on the short side, but I'm going to explain why in just a minute. But I do hope that this conversation will help you rethink just the different ways that you can keep your employees engaged, and unlock this productivity potential of your team. And if you're not a manager, and you're listening, think about this in terms of how can you keep yourself active and engaged and moving in the right direction.

If you are an employee who happens to be home with less work on your hands, you know, maybe in the absence of a formal gig program at your organization, can you pick up some projects or ask, "what can I do to pick up new skills?" There's a lot that you can be doing right now.

But if you don't have a formal gig program, I am super excited to share that Devin and Sumita are going to be live in just a few days on a webinar that's going to go much deeper into gigs, and how you can leverage them at your organization.

We'll talk about some of the topics we talked about in the podcast, but we're going to go much deeper. We're going to have some real examples of companies that are engaging in this rescaling effort, especially as we move from in-office work to remote work, and then demo how the internal talent marketplace at Phenom works.

So you really can't see that on a podcast, but you'll be able to see that on a webinar which is super cool. So that's gonna be on Thursday, April 23, at 2pm Eastern. And if you're not listening to this podcast in real time you're listening to it in the future, you can catch that webinar replay. So if you want to catch it live or you want to catch the replay, it will be the same link and I will have that link in the show notes. Or you can head on over to our resources at phenom.com. Head on over to our blog or our resources page, you'll see this webinar and all the upcoming webinars we have.

So we're gonna wrap things up. Sumita, thank you so much for joining us.

Sumita: You're welcome. This is always fun.

Devin: Thanks so much, Sumita. Thank you, Tom. I think you tricked us all. You saved the "bill pay" for the end, but I am going to call you Tom, the accountant tape from now on because you do always pay the bills. And that's one thing that I really appreciate and love about you. But thanks, everyone for joining us today on The Talent Experience Show. Head over to Spotify, Apple podcasts, Google Play, wherever you get your podcast consumption. And don't forget to hit subscribe so that you are notified when every episode comes out. And as always, stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong. We'll catch you next week on the talent experience show. Thanks everybody.

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