Online scheduling and the contingent workforce is a trend I’ve recently started watching. As workers, many of us have a similar expectation to consumers — that we are able to manage our lives online.
Millions of people buy books and airplane tickets online. They also check the traffic and the weather and their favorite sports scores. We manage our business networks (as I’ve written about Twitter and LinkedIn and Facebook) online.
There is a growing expectation and need for us to manage more of our work lives online. The reason is two-fold: One, many workers are more flexible, or need more flexibility (work-family balance, working mothers, etc). Many workers manage more than one job and there’s tons of data to show that temp and seasonal workers (known as contingent workers) do a lot for the economy. Two, companies can do more when they don’t have all the overhead of permanent employees. I may catch some heat for that comment.
But here’s the thing — as a small biz owner, I need cash-flow breathing room. Here’s part of where it has to do with marketing and research: If I didn’t have to actively manage the shift scheduling of contract projects with contract staff, then I’d have more time for other things — like sales!
Scheduling shifts for my fellow company owners with 50 to 250 employees or staff is an even bigger task. If they could let the workers choose when to work, and I know that seems like a crazy idea, but then, lots of other companies and organizations are allowing bottom up, collaborative problem solving in other areas.
Why not scheduling? Even better, they could schedule shifts online. If the worker could simply see the available times, and select that time easily, it would save a bunch of time and effort. Staffing, healthcare staffing, nurses, contract workers, couriers, police officers, firefighters — all of these types of teams face a scheduling cost in their organizations. Just do some looking around on this topic and you’ll find there’s a lot of contingent workforce, flexible workforce, kinds of conversations going on.
I got hooked into this topic when I was doing work for a client, Shiftboard, a young Seattle company doing online scheduling. And the more I researched some information for them, the more I realized that I would like to be able to schedule my contract workers online and that I wouldn’t mind being able to schedule some of my client projects, with the client, in one place. Online.
It seems relevant to me, given the economy, the future of work, and a host of other things in our work lives that we need more flexibility. And I think there’s a definite expectation on the part of the younger generation (and even the baby boomer) to be able to grab a volunteer shift, to telecommute, to have a measure of a life and not be ALL work.
The marketing point of all this is that we also have to *market* our companies as attractive, healthy, balanced, flexible places to work. Due to this, we as business owners need to be more flexible and recognize how we can attract, retain and incent employees.