COVID-19 poses challenges to businesses; successful management practice will recognise emergent skills for their company’s longer term futures.
Over recent years, disruption from Globalisation and E-commerce has changed societies and economies. Not all aspects of this change were foreseen, prepared for, or initially understood. Ways of doing business have changed and so too have work roles and practices, patterns of employment, career paths, and education. For example: the assumption that a person will spend many years progressing through a single occupation or profession no longer holds true in many economies. Continuous, full-time work with a single employer, from the start of a career to retirement, is declining.
For some years, nearly 60 per cent of the growth in employment across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries has been in jobs that are temporary, part-time, or self-employed. 1 Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower (MOM) states that ‘own-account workers’ or ‘self-employed persons’ with non-continued employment, were approximately 9.3 per cent of the workforce. 2 Many now call this the ‘gig’ economy.
Until recently, the ‘gig’ economy was heralded for providing new career paths, work practices, new forms of business, and emerging new employers, such as Grab. Largely, the ‘gig’ economy has been hailed as a success, with stories of successful entrepreneurs who turned so-called ‘side hustles’ and hobbies into paid work, seemingly making a fortune along the way.
However, one pertinent question now is if the global havoc being caused by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) will utterly devastate the ‘gig’ economy or ‘assist’ it to spread rapidly wholescale through occupations, professions, and commerce? In time, will the COVID-19 pandemic be seen as having forced innovation in business models and organisations as they struggle to remain relevant to their customers and communities?
As governments, communities, and businesses have sought to address the immediate threats to life and health, there has also been discussion and debate about the pathways to economic recovery. The predictions of the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic are mass unemployment and a devastating financial outlook.
Arising from the crisis, there are emerging work practices that will continue, post pandemic. With the rapid uptake of technology to conduct business, existing roles and approaches are developing new skills. Pathways to economic recovery will likely require that these new economic skills be targeted and encouraged.
The COVID-19 disruption to education and training will have an impact of the pipeline of potential employees, which will affect ongoing strategic workforce planning. For many businesses, particularly in services, people are the core asset. Many successful firms have understood the need to invest in a stable workforce with improving organisational and intellectual capital productivity.
One impact of the COVID-19 crisis could possibly be that firms will have developed and become capable in managing new ways of staff working remotely to deal effectively and productively with customers, government, logistical channels, and suppliers. Currently, large sections of many economies are being devasted by the flow-on effects of COVID-19, especially the ‘gig’ economy. However, business survival in these very difficult times seems to be happening via adopting significant aspects of the individual skill set and organisational innovation of the ‘gig’ economy, involving a re-aligned understanding of what are the sources of revenue and what it will take to obtain that revenue.
Aligning market position and understanding current and future client needs will provide a foundation to build a talent pipeline. Agile deployment of resources to compete means that future workforce planning, retention, and development of staff matches market needs and proposed future needs as well as to tie recruitment to those needs.
However, if adoption and deployment of ‘gig’ economy skill sets and organisational structures does continue post-COVID-19, firms will be competing to build a productive and stable digital workforce, based probably on flexibility from having a wide range of external ‘consultants’ who can be called on when the required skill is called upon.
The current COVID-19 pandemic poses challenges to societies and economies as enormous as those experienced in the 20th century Great Depression. However, the personal skill sets and organisational structures that have been emerging in the ‘gig’ economy provide some guidance as to business survival in and growth after COVID-19. Key to this will be leadership in advocating and developing organisational and intellectual capital. Business leaders will need to harness the talent to prevent staff leakage and misaligned training investment into resources. Successful management of this process should mean that a firm is able to tailor itself and its offerings to meet local and global needs.
1 OECD, (2015), In It Together: Why Less Inequality Benefits All, OECD Publishing, Paris
2 Rachel P, 27 January 20, Channel News Asia. Accessed via, https://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/singapore/the-singapore-gig-economy-right-balance-on-regulations-needed-to-12235556
Daryll Cahill is a senior lecturer in the Department of Law and Accounting, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) with research interests in measuring intangibles and intellectual capital.
Louise Robinson is a Fulbright scholar researching 21st century skills and an executive leader within the Technical and Vocational Education & Training sector in Australia. She is currently the Executive Director, Industry & Growth at Victoria University.
Maggie Williams has over 15 years’ experience working in the banking and financial sector, at global institutions, focussing primarily on corporate, financial, and management accounting, as well as risk assessment. She is currently a lecturer at RMIT University Australia.
Copyright © 2020 Singapore Institute of Management