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The future is here and it’s the flexible workforce

(BUSINESS NEWS) Technology has changed everything, including how the workforce spends their day, where they report from, and how “on demand” gig workers are today.

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flexible workforce

Everyone is connected, all of the time. We’ve got our phones inches away, our televisions are smart, and we can even get emails on our fridges. Because of this hyper-connectivity, it’s changed how we’re working, how we collaborate, and how transparent teams have become.

Back in the day, most folks worked from 9-5. Today, we’re not exactly all rushing into the office by 9am sharp thanks to advances with technology as simple as sending a text message or email to the whole staff. We’ve become more flexible.

Businesses have shifted their methods of how work gets done, what can be achieved, despite teammates not sitting next to one another in an office. The workforce is getting younger, more technology-driven and because of this, flexibility has become a throughline for many successful teams. Whereas in the past, time off or working from home were “nice to have,” they’re now one of the first things a business has to discuss in the interviewing process.

But, what’s happening because of the inverse of services like Uber, Lyft, Favor, and Instacart, the gig economy is coming on strong. Everything is changing. What was once considered a role that’s full-time can now be done on an “as-needed” basis and the results are getting wild.

The Aspen Institute’s Workforce of the Future recently dropped a study citing that 60% of companies are using on-demand workers. The data also shows that 70% of companies are looking to hire more of a gig-based workforce in the future.

What exactly is a flexible workforce?

The definition of “flexible” is evolving because people want to work for themselves rather than punch a clock for someone else. The work can be a variety of project-based, seasonal, contracted, event-based, or even remotely.

Think of people who are:

  • Freelancers
  • Contingent workers
  • Part-time employees
  • Independent contractors
  • Gig workers

A whopping 36% of the U.S. workforce is involved in the gig economy – that’s 57 MILLION people, who are earning over a trillion dollars from gigs like delivering groceries, delivering food, working a specific event, or just testing out some software for an afternoon.

Why would anyone want to change up their business model and hire some flexible workers? Well, there are plenty of reasons.

Talent access

Depending on the community and work type, some companies choose to hire out contractors or freelancers because telecommuting is easier. By hiring for a one-time design or to get some copy written by using services like Upwork or Fivver, this allows creatives and corresponding managers to break traditional geographic constraints. This also means that niche professionals have broader access to companies who may need someone for a particular project that would usually disrupt the work of regular staff. The same thing could go for events and staffing a game when it comes to security or maybe a certain kind of bartender.

It’s cheaper

Let’s say you’re running a store in the French Quarter and every Mardi Gras and Jazz Fest the influx of tourists cripples your shop. There are people everywhere, and you need security, an extra register person and at least one other person on the floor to help customers. But, every other time of the year business is slower and manageable. A short-term worker would be able to come in just for these times with a clear understanding of the expectations as well the length of the work. This is cheaper than hiring someone part-time and keeping them on the fringes only for a few times a year.

Different people want different things

The makeup of the gig economy isn’t always who you think it is. While yes, there’s a large contingency that’s centered on Millennials and their constant search for work that’s meaningful, there are plenty of boomers who are working for something to do as retirement isn’t as fun as they expected. But, that also lends itself to those decades of experience, too. Generation X is looking for work-life balance and doesn’t want to be at work all of the time, so all three of these age segments offer a variety of worker types, all which can be used to fill different roles.

They’re available right now

Remember that instantaneous technology? A sector of the staffing and recruiting world has developed apps and platforms to meet the need for speed. Companies looking to get a job done right now have access to qualified workers who can do just that. Scalability and effectiveness have become the name of the game. Some companies (kinda like us) can even handle the paperwork and all of the details so a boss can put together their ask via their iPhone and get qualified leads back by lunch.

It’s beneficial for the long-term employees

Hiring someone for the short-term works to one huge benefit: it helps with employee burnout. By bringing in some folks to take care of a specific project or do something your regular employees just don’t have the time for, it improves morale. Plus, if someone does an incredible job at their temporary work, it might open the door to a conversation about longer-term employment – but on the company’s terms.

On-demand work is the fastest growing segment of the new workforce. People are picking up gigs everywhere. This is the model for the future, and it’s only going to continue to diversify. If you’ve got a project in mind that you’ve been casting off for months, getting the job done might be easier than you think. The technology is there.

Robert Dean is a writer at Adia and The American Genius. He is a writer, journalist, and cynic. His most recent novel, The Red Seven is in stores. Currently, he’s working on his newest novel, Tragedy Wish Me Luck. He also likes ice cream and panda bears. He currently lives in Austin. Stalk him on Twitter.

Business News

Big retailers are opting for refunds instead of returns

(BUSINESS NEWS) Due to increased shipping costs, big companies like Amazon and Walmart are opting to give out a refund rather than accepting small items returned.

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Package delivery people holding deliveries. Refund instead of returns are common now.

The holidays are over, and now some people are ready to return an item that didn’t quite work out or wasn’t on their Christmas list. Whatever the reason, some retailers are giving customers a refund and letting them keep the product, too.

When Vancouver, Washington resident, Lorie Anderson, tried returning makeup from Target and batteries from Walmart she had purchased online, the retailers told her she could keep or donate the products. “They were inexpensive, and it wouldn’t make much financial sense to return them by mail,” said Ms. Anderson, 38. “It’s a hassle to pack up the box and drop it at the post office or UPS. This was one less thing I had to worry about.”

Amazon.com Inc., Walmart Inc., and other companies are changing the way they handle returns this year, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal (WSJ). The companies are using artificial intelligence (AI) to weigh the costs of processing physical returns versus just issuing a refund and having customers keep the item.

For instance, if it costs more to ship an inexpensive or larger item than it is to refund the purchase price, companies are giving customers a refund and telling them to keep the products also. Due to an increase in online shopping, it makes sense for companies to change how they manage returns.

Locus Robotics chief executive Rick Faulk told the Journal that the biggest expense when it comes to processing returns is shipping costs. “Returning to a store is significantly cheaper because the retailer can save the freight, which can run 15% to 20% of the cost,” Faulk said.

But, returning products to physical stores isn’t something a lot of people are wanting to do. According to the return processing firm Narvar, online returns increased by 70% in 2020. With people still hunkered down because of the pandemic, changing how to handle returns is a good thing for companies to consider to reduce shipping expenses.

While it might be nice to keep the makeup or batteries for free, don’t expect to return that new PS5 and get to keep it for free, too. According to WSJ, a Walmart spokesperson said the company lets someone keep a refunded item only if the company doesn’t plan on reselling it. And, besides taking the economic costs into consideration, the companies look at the customer’s purchase history as well.

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Business News

Google workers have formed company’s first labor union

(BUSINESS NEWS) A number of Google employees have agreed to commit 1% of their salary to labor union dues to support employee activism and fight workplace discrimination.

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Google complex with human sized chessboard, where a labor union has been formed.

On Monday morning, Google workers announced that they have formed a union with the support of the Communications Workers of America (CWA), the largest communications and media labor union in the U.S.

The new union, Alphabet Workers Union (AWU) was organized in secret for about a year and formed to support employee activism, and fight discrimination and unfairness in the workplace.

“From fighting the ‘real names’ policy, to opposing Project Maven, to protesting the egregious, multi-million dollar payouts that have been given to executives who’ve committed sexual harassment, we’ve seen first-hand that Alphabet responds when we act collectively. Our new union provides a sustainable structure to ensure that our shared values as Alphabet employees are respected even after the headlines fade,” stated Program Manager Nicki Anselmo in a press release.

AWU is the first union in the company’s history, and it is open to all employees and contractors at any Alphabet company in the United States and Canada. The cost of membership is 1% of an employee’s total compensation, and the money collected will be used to fund the union organization.

In a response to the announcement, Google’s Director of People Operations, Kara Silverstein, said, “We’ve always worked hard to create a supportive and rewarding workplace for our workforce. Of course, our employees have protected labor rights that we support. But as we’ve always done, we’ll continue engaging directly with all our employees.”

Unlike other labor unions, the AWU is considered a “Minority Union”. This means it doesn’t need formal recognition from the National Labor Relations Board. However, it also means Alphabet can’t be forced to meet the union’s demands until a majority of employees support it.

So far, the number of members in the union represents a very small portion of Google’s workforce, but it’s growing every day. When the news of the union was first announced on Monday, roughly 230 employees made up the union. Less than 24 hours later, there were 400 employees in the union, and now that number jumped to over 500 employees.

Unions among Silicon Valley’s tech giants are rare, but labor activism is slowly picking up speed, especially with more workers speaking out and organizing.

“The Alphabet Workers Union will be the structure that ensures Google workers can actively push for real changes at the company, from the kinds of contracts Google accepts to employee classification to wage and compensation issues. All issues relevant to Google as a workplace will be the purview of the union and its members,” stated the AWU in a press release.

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Business News

Ticketmaster caught red-handed hacking, hit with major fines

(BUSINESS NEWS) Ticketmaster has agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after hacking into a competitor’s network specifically to sabotage.

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Person open on hacking computer screen, typing on keyboard.

Live Nation’s Ticketmaster agreed to pay $10 million to resolve criminal charges after admitting to hacking into a competitor’s network and scheming to “choke off” the ticket seller company and “cut [victim company] off at the knees”.

Ticketmaster admitted hiring former employee, Stephen Mead, from startup rival CrowdSurge (which merged with Songkick) in 2013. In 2012, Mead signed a separation agreement to keep his previous company’s information confidential. When he joined Live Nation, Mead provided that confidential information to the former head of the Artist Services division, Zeeshan Zaidi, and other Ticketmaster employees. The hacking information shared with the company included usernames, passwords, data analytics, and other insider secrets.

“When employees walk out of one company and into another, it’s illegal for them to take proprietary information with them. Ticketmaster used stolen information to gain an advantage over its competition, and then promoted the employees who broke the law. This investigation is a perfect example of why these laws exist – to protect consumers from being cheated in what should be a fair market place,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Sweeney.

In January 2014, Mead gave a Ticketmaster executive multiple sets of login information to Toolboxes, the competitor’s password-protected app that provides real-time data about tickets sold through the company. Later, at an Artists Services Summit, Mead logged into a Toolbox and demonstrated the product to Live Nation and Ticketmaster employees. Information collected from the Toolboxes were used to “benchmark” Ticketmaster’s offerings against the competitor.

“Ticketmaster employees repeatedly – and illegally – accessed a competitor’s computers without authorization using stolen passwords to unlawfully collect business intelligence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DuCharme in a statement. “Further, Ticketmaster’s employees brazenly held a division-wide ‘summit’ at which the stolen passwords were used to access the victim company’s computers, as if that were an appropriate business tactic.”

The hacking violations were first reported in 2017 when CrowdSurge sued Live Nation for antitrust violations. A spokesperson told The Verge, “Ticketmaster terminated both Zaidi and Mead in 2017, after their conduct came to light. Their actions violated our corporate policies and were inconsistent with our values. We are pleased that this matter is now resolved.”

To resolve the case, Ticketmaster will pay a $10 million criminal penalty, create a compliance and ethics program, and report to the United States Attorney’s Office annually during a three-year term. If the agreement is breached, Ticketmaster will be charged with: “One count of conspiracy to commit computer intrusions, one count of computer intrusion for commercial advantage, one count of computer intrusion in furtherance of fraud, one count of wire fraud conspiracy and one count of wire fraud.”

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