Accenture published  the results of its 2016 US College Graduate Employment Study in a report entitled, “The Gig Experience; Unleashing the potential of your Talent and your Business.” Accenture-Strategy-2016-Grad-Research-Gig-Experience The report contained some interesting data about work market preferences as well as some provocative suggestions for organizations. The bottom line of the latter is that there are more to gigs than meet the eye.

Last year was the fourth year Accenture conducted its study of recent graduate workplace perceptions, a testament in a sense to the conundrum corporate America faces as they seek to engage the Millennials. This newest cohort into the workforce is known for its idealism but also its independent tendencies which often translate to short-term employment horizons and a focus on personal growth. As the saying goes, “they work to live”. The Accenture data supports and refutes these findings.  74% want to work for an enterprise that is socially responsible but 69% fully expect to stay in their jobs for more than 3 years, a statistic which belies the current practice.gig workers

The problem that can derail these ambitions is the meaningfulness of the work.  51% of recent grads last year, more than any other year of the survey, felt underemployed in their company roles. The study authors believed that it is this sense of diminished impact that makes recent grads skeptical of big companies; they do not want to be lost in the crowd. “They are concerned their individual needs and talents will be neither noticed nor nurtured. They are looking for more of a “me” experience where their passions will be acknowledged and their career path customized to their interests.”

The solution, the authors posit, may lie in making the workplace of especially larger companies more like gigs. In my book, Thriving in the Gig Economy, I discuss how the corporate ladder is being replaced by the corporate step stool.  Accenture suggests it should be replaced by a corporate jungle gym, offering many different ways to get to the top.

The corporate jungle gym should offer project based work, training opportunities and robust feedback loops. For these digital natives, connections to the company mission and purpose need to be palpable.  Similarly, the connections to others in the organization that can facilitate personal development need to be well articulated, simple and plentiful.

As a student of the gig economy, I find these recommendations powerful, because I believe companies need to educate new hires in how to succeed in a gig-based world. The study maintains that most of the participants want regular” jobs, rather than a freelance lifestyle.  Nonetheless, Millennials are now the fastest growing cohort in the Gig Economy.  Not unsurprisingly, they are not the most satisfied. In the 2016 MBO Partners State of Independence in America study 2016 MBO Partners State of Independence in America study , 53% of Millennials were highly satisfied with their work life vs. 72% of all independent workers.   In the grand scheme of things it is because these younger workers  operate in the low skilled end of the gig economy; as new entrants to the workforce, they do not have the skills to play in the upper echelon of independent work. As such, it is harder for them to build a pipeline and get professional level work.

However, they will gain that subject matter expertise in time.  What is often harder to learn are  gig or consultative skills, like  how to successfully maneuver on a project or manage a client when an issue arises. Training too, especially in soft skills,like leadership development,  is a key need for young professionals of all disciplines.  The Boomer generation enjoyed access to such programs in spades, but subsequent generations have not been so lucky.

Creating the gig experience in a company will facilitate the learning experience of how to thrive in a project based world. If you believe the trend is bound to continue, as I do, these are skills that will be essential for all workers.  Companies need to train their employees to be excellent, consultative gig workers.  In time these employees will move on to independent work, but they are likely to cycle back as an employee or a consultant in the new world of work.  They will cycle back to companies they know excel at project based work structures. Creating the gig experience could become an attraction and retention tool, as individuals recognize the value of this training.  For companies, it will also render them a client of choice, which could become a competitive advantage in the evolving world of work.

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