THE BLOG
06/06/2016 03:44 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Create a Gig Economy Culture In an Organization to Attract and Retain Millennial Talent

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During a recent Uber ride in Chicago my forty-something aged driver enthusiastically shared why he loves his contract work career. He creates his own hours, has total flexibility, and can control how he earns money based on how much he works. The "Gig Economy" represents those who make their living in a non-traditional way. They are not limited to a classic 9-5 work scenario and have more control in how they pursue work on a freelance basis.

This autonomy also means saying goodbye to salaries and company benefits like retirement, health insurance, and paid vacation days. It's a personal choice and a study from Intuit predicts that by 2020, 40 percent of US workers will fall into this category. Older workers (Gen X and Baby Boomers) are especially interesting in gigging, whether they are in transition to retirement, reinventing their first career, or wanting to earn additional income from freelance ventures.

While company loyalty to employees has almost become extinct in corporate America, some progressive organizations are trying to capitalize on acquiring the millennial generation of talent in the workforce to create an internal gig experience.

Accenture Strategy released a 2016 U.S. College Graduate Employment Study that indicates only 1 in 7 college graduates want to work for a large company. They fear they will be lost in the labyrinth of large company politics and advancement. The study also shows that after only 2 years in the work force, many new professionals felt disillusioned, underemployed, and undervalued.

The Accenture Strategy Study revealed that the newest generation of workers has distinctive needs and expectations from the organizations where they work. They want a more personalized employee experience, an open and engaging company culture, and meaningful work. If large companies expect to attract and retain the best and the brightest talent, they need to offer a distinctively different employee experience.

"Just as organizations have focused intensely on creating tailored customer experiences to attract and retain customers, employers need to focus on creating personalized employee experiences that attract and retain recent graduates," according to Janice Simmons, Principal Director at Accenture Strategy. "Recent grads want a chance to work on projects they are passionate about, with real-time learning, immediate feedback, and many paths to advancement. Employers who create this environment may be more attractive to recent graduates who are prepared, passionate, and willing to work hard." Janice Simmons

Understanding Millennials at Work

The Class of 2016 chose majors and academic degrees at university based on a passion for an area(s) of study. Accenture Strategy reported that only 23 percent of 2016 graduates in the study chose a major based on how much money they would make.

The widespread belief that millennials are serial job hoppers is also inaccurate since 69 percent of this year's grads expect to stay with their first job for at least 3 years. One third indicated they would stay for 5 years or longer.

The newly minted Class of 2016 is eager to work hard, too. More than half in the Accenture Strategy Study are willing to work beyond the traditional business day, during the evenings, or weekends. But, corporate culture matters. So much so, that 70 percent of new grads and 74 percent of recent grads would choose to work in an engaging, positive social atmosphere - even if it meant accepting a lower salary.

Social responsibility tops the charts with 92 percent of 2016 graduates wanting to work in an organization that makes a difference in the world or a community and provides meaningful work.

Redefining Talent Management

With the widespread disillusionment of the workplace for new grads, many feel the proverbial large company is the culprit. In their quest to find the "Me" experience, new grads want to work for either medium sized business or small, start-up ventures. They are looking for a place where their passions will be acknowledged and their career paths can be customized to their strengths and interests.

It's clear that in order to attract and retain top millennial talent, organizations of all sizes must provide multiple career paths and varied, engaging experiences. The linear career trajectory of upward mobility via the archaic ladder is no longer the only option. New talent is more interested in trying new things until they find the best fit. In the best-case scenario they want the opportunity to be flexible and grow within their chosen organization.

Companies like Deloitte have replaced the one-size-fits-all approach of a corporate ladder with the corporate lattice that is more adaptive and well suited to align with the changing needs of modern day professionals and their organizations.

Corporate Race for Relevance

In 2020, millennials will comprise 50 percent of the workforce so companies of all sizes must adapt in order to attract and retain top talent. Let's not forget this generation is the succession plan for the retiring workforce and represent today's emerging leaders.

While the Gig Economy may be very attractive to some, 55 percent of new grads, according to the Accenture Strategy Study are looking for stability and a long-term commitment from their employer. They want the company benefits of insurance, retirement, and paid time off. They also want opportunities to advance within the organization.

Talent Management in organizations hiring new grads must be savvy and ready to offer on-the-job experiences, coaching, collaboration and self-directed learning to attract this pool of candidates.

Create an Internal Gig Experience

The Accenture Strategy Study created tips for organizations that want to design company cultures that accelerate growth and fulfill the passions of young professionals, while meeting the demands of complex businesses.

The study offers insight into creating project and team-based work to provide more flexibility and opportunities to work across different roles and environments. Large companies can achieve a small company feel by creating eco-systems and communities within that reflect opportunity and meaningful work.

Tips from the Accenture Strategy Study to Create an Internal Gig Experience:

Hyper-Personalize Your Strategy - customize talent strategy based on an individualized approach.
Orient employee value proposition, hiring, and career paths towards a dynamic work environment - create a more agile workforce by being flexible with different roles and experiences.
Connect employees' work to the purpose of the organization - offer a more fulfilling employee experience.
Re-imagine the learning and development experience - support talent with coaching and developmental opportunities that are more frequent, informal and experiential.
Think "agile" - talent strategy must be flexible and nimble to pivot based on need and problem solving.
Provide a small-team feel - create a sense of ownership and empowerment with personal attention.

While Uber and other contract work opportunities may be attractive to some, the largest generation is about to be 50 percent of the workforce in 2020 and they are more interested in company loyalty and long-term career development than a contract gig.

Companies need to provide a culture and opportunities that are attractive to digital natives. This generation of talent seeks organizations that offer challenging and meaningful work with a commitment to social responsibility, ongoing learning, and a fun workplace culture.

To gig, or not to gig? While that may be an essential question in the global workplace economy, in order for large corporate entities to thrive in the years to come, they must adapt to the changing needs and desires of the youngest candidate pool. No matter how old you are, the internal gig experience can benefit you as well.

Caroline Dowd-Higgins authored the book "This Is Not the Career I Ordered" now in the 2nd edition, and maintains the career reinvention blog of the same name. She is Executive Director of Career & Professional Development at the Indiana University Alumni Association and contributes to Huffington Post, AOL Jobs, Ellevate Network, and The Chronicle newspaper in Indiana. She hosts and produces an online show called: Thrive! about career & life empowerment for women on YouTube. Caroline also hosts the international podcast series Your Working Life - on iTunes. Follow her on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, and Twitter.