The current raging pandemic has not just tested organisational resilience to its core, but forced it to innovate, re-pivot and re-position itself for the long haul. The new turbulent competitive environment especially requires a fundamental and rare resource — people who know how to get things done. Employers need talent. Talented individuals displaced due to the turbulence need work.

Building talent vitality . How do organisations build this new vitality in its human resources? With spiralling compensation costs for rare skills and conventional hiring strategies based on academic qualifications rather than necessary skills, out-of-the-box thinking is called for developing and leveraging India’s talent pool. Flexible-working or gig work can be the powerful answer to unleash the powerhouse of underused talent and expertise.

With developed nations increasingly turning protectionist to save jobs for their own people and visa regimes like H-1B volatile and depending on political dispensations of the day, India’s vast untapped/under-leveraged talent pool can be an huge source of skilled labour force in the WFA (work-from-anywhere) model, cutting across national and geographic boundaries.

Ironically, with the acceleration of digital processes and online meetings on video-conferencing channels, jobs in the US are being transferred to India which could become the gig-worker capital of the world. But we need a platform to create the marketplace to align talent with work opportunities, and to provide necessary services such as skills training, insurance and financial support to gig entrepreneurs.

The challenge for the Indian economy is, therefore, to not just produce jobs for our burgeoning educated youth and in-the-prime ‘senior citizens’ but also quality jobs as automation and technology create ever increasing pressure for job-less growth. How can this be done?

Work-from-anywhere : As organisations globally strive hard to build their new ‘future-of-work’ models, the normal options on the table include: (a) when to return to offices; (b) what work can be done permanently from home; (c) cluster-of-offices enabling near-home models ; (d) hybrid work-models that enable and offer staff varying degrees of office presence.

Building organisational resilience : Gig work options enable building greater resilience into your business. Building your talent-force through a thought-through hybrid model of permanent staff and gig staff provides your business the powerful competitive edge. It enables businesses to manage staffing costs prudently, hire the needed workforce just in time but as importantly build specialist capability from a talent-pool across the country.

Growing gig talent: However, these gig talent would need access to specialised skills and training and constant upgradation conventionally expected to be provided by the corporate organisation.

If a gig platform could support an ecosystem of options that include regular assessments, periodic ‘nudges’ towards professional advancement through training programmes and certification in technical, functional and managerial competencies, provide ‘trust-badges’ to communicate professional credibility and advancement, the gig model would be well served.

Enabling technologies: For a country that developed in 1997, today’s technologies provide all the capabilities to support your business with the gig resilience needed. Newer capabilities supported by AI and advanced matching algorithms can provide the platform that gig workers and organisations seek to provide that rich pipeline of exciting jobs and dream assignments along with prospective candidate with the right skill-profile.

Experience of global markets : With pandemic driven job losses across markets, the gig economy has done well in somewhat cushioning citizens from harsh unemployment. While the gig work was popular in Singapore even before the pandemic with upwards of 10 per cent of all employed residents, this has seen a steady increase. Many professionals are turning to freelance work while waiting for full-time employment.

In the US, according to Freelancers Unions, there are upwards of 50 million freelancers which makes up almost 35 per cent of the entire workforce. In India, there is a growing demand for skilled freelancers in areas such as healthcare, customer services, IT, data security and e-marketing. The time to pivot is clearly now!

Swaminathan is a Founder Director of GigVistas, and Srivastava is the Novartis Professor of Marketing Strategy and Innovation at ISB