The Gig route for a CxO: A changing dynamic for corporates

Vineet Arya | Updated on July 12, 2021

The trend of temp CXO is catching up   -  istock.com/Rawpixel

A CxO in a gig role offers his/her services to several companies together in contractual roles

The Gig CxO concept is slowly gathering momentum where corporates are on the lookout for ‘specialists’ for considering a job quickly, expertly and most importantly, at lower costs. In sectors like Fintech, EdTech, Constructions, Digitization and Regulatory Approvals, corporates are starting to prefer a specialist (a temp CxO) over a full-time role.

The concept of a Gig CxO or temp CxO quickly rose amid the pandemic, when many tech companies chose to grow their management vertically. According to a Times of India report, a Gig CxO is normally above 50 years of age. He/She has wealthy work expertise, isn’t hung up on designations and carries out a project as an undertaking lead or an adviser. The article includes several examples of why some corporates moved to temp CxOs over hiring someone full time — especial for the role of a financial analyst. But the term is not limited to industry leaders who are about to retire.

The Gig CxO concept

The gig economy refers to short-term contract work and freelance projects. A CxO in a gig role offers his/her services to several companies together in contractual roles with specific NDAs. Since the salaries paid at CxO levels are hefty, a corporate saves cost as well retains expertise with a gig CxO. For a gig CxO, this is an opportunity to work on his/her own time, retire at their own time, and serve with no strings attached.

The idea of a Gig CxO has spawned a conflicting interest among top executives. A recent Money Control report stated that some 5,000 to 6,000 companies, particularly small and medium enterprises are hiring CxOs on a gig basis; especially in logistics, financial, retail and tech front.

So many start-ups these days are spearheaded by relatively young people. They have quite fleeting experience in key areas and thus, a gig CxO, an industry veteran can help steer a budding organisation on the path of success. India Inc is focusing on entrepreneurship, and every corporate — big or small — requires expertise.

Vandana Kaku, Customer Engagement Manager at Jaipur Rugs, in a LinkedIn thread, on the matter of Gig CxOs, opines, “CxO’s role in start-ups and for that matter, even in well-established businesses is underrated. I feel hiring a CxO for a gig role is almost like hiring an outside consultant. An advantage of hiring a CxO over an outside consultant is that CxOs can easily transition to C-suite marketing or CEO role if the need be. CXO, being a senior position, attracts talent with vast experience and a good understanding of the business ecosystem, stakeholder value, and strategic perspective on top-line growth. While CXO gig role won’t be a fixed cost for an organisation, CXO would sure help nurture the business, make crucial manoeuvres in the way a business operates.”

In the same thread, Amit Pamnani, Chief Investment Officer at Swastika Investmart, said that he believes Gig CxOs are not a legitimate idea due to different school of thoughts. He said, “Policy and action plans chalked out by [Gig] CxOs may not be taken confidently by other downline or parallel leaders. During this succinct period, temp CXOs may not have much time to modify the plan and switch to plan B.” Instead, he believed hiring a consultant suits him better for such purposes. On a similar line, Uday Panchpor, COO, MKCL, underlined that a temp CxO can only work for compliance, and is not good for the long-term goals of a company.

Corporates catching up on the trend of a Temp CxO

Let’s take up a very pandemic example when God forbid a family member faces a lowered oxygen level. In that case, we would start searching for oxygen beds in hospitals, and as a temporary solution, buy an oxygen cylinder for home. Say, the oxygen cylinder satisfactorily levels up the oxygen level, would you still prefer going for an oxygen bed?

Similarly, when a corporate need a task done, a Temp CxO provides a level-up. It helps the organisation leverage the freedom and exposure of a Gig CxO without incurring the costs involved in engaging a full-time CxO. It also helps the corporate build a flexible culture that can easily turn into a full-time role when needed.

Yet, as Anand correctly pointed out, corporates considering a Gig C-level professional is still a grey area — mainly due to legacy mindsets, inadequate awareness of gig concepts, misinterpreted possibilities and risks of unconventional hirings, and very often, letting go of well-established hiring practices. For example, any company that hires a top-level manager aims to make them in charge of the day-to-day operations of the business vertical. They take their time to choose the right candidate who fits the bill and spend a lot on hiring them, and then, their salaries.

But, in the New Normal and Industry 4.0, businesses are growing horizontally, and efficiency is no longer a conversation of who gets the window office and whose team has the most members. Corporates are increasingly moving on outsourcing business process to ensure specialisation and the right talent working on the job. According to the 2021 Deloitte Global Resilience Report leaders recognised the importance of having versatile employees, especially after a year like 2020.

“To that end, flexibility/adaptability was, by far, the workforce trait CxOs said was most critical to their organizations’ futures,” the report noted. Moreover, the report suggested that corporates have indicated the importance of collaboration within their organisations; that, it sped decision-making, mitigated risk, and led to more innovation.

A wrap-up

While the trend of Temp or Gig CxOs has only begun, written material supports that organizations are slowly warming up to the concept. Further, experts in their domain areas are letting go of the vertical climb up the corporate ladder, and job satisfaction has taken the front seat.

An expert in their domain can hit the ground running and later transform into a full-time role if needed. Thus, we can easily say that businesses are no longer restricting themselves to brick-and-mortar legacies and are going beyond onboarding external executive hires for “perm” roles.

Looking to hire an expert in a gig role? You can now hire a CxO to mitigate specific pain points in your business as a project. COHIRE makes this possible.

The writer is Founder — COHIRE in Business World

Published on July 12, 2021

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