Here’s a mind-blowing statistic for you to chew on: In 2023, the projected gross volume of the gig economy is expected to reach $455.2 billion. Yes, that’s billions. The rise of the gig economy — ushered into modern society by the 2008 economic crisis that forced people to find extra streams of income — has been on a fast and ferocious takeover, showing an unprecedented ability to disrupt even the most long-standing industries.
As the gig economy ecosystem continues its torrid ascent and more players enter the fray, success will not only rely on product and service differentiation but a steadfast dedication to training that puts people (i.e., contractors) in the best position to succeed.
What's the Gig Economy?
The gig economy — also called the sharing economy — is characterized by flexible, temporary or freelance jobs often involving tech-enabled platforms that connect workers, freelancers, contractors with people needing specific services such as transportation and grocery delivery. Popular companies in the gig economy includes Uber, Lyft, Instacart, Fiverr, DoorDash, Airbnb, Hello Alfred, Puls, BabyQuip, Havenly and Capify.
The gig economy is booming due to its flexible working conditions that allow people to work whenever and wherever they want. Gig economy contractors are generally not employed by the company itself. Instead, they’re simply end-users who leverage the platforms to find on-demand work.
Gig Economy Statistics and the Need for Training in 2022
The gig economy is shining right now and shifting how we live and work. But the pressing question for companies looking to break into the industry is: Is it here to stay? We think these stats speak for themselves.
The gig economy grew 33% in 2020 to more than $1.6T. While many industries struggled to stay afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gig economy thrived.
These stats paint a picture illustrating the profound impact the gig economy has on every aspect of life. So, will it be around in the future? Absolutely. The benefits are far too great to ignore.
Despite the benefits, however, there’s a pretty big challenge for companies in the gig economy — one that no company before them had to deal with: a distributed workforce.
The value prop of gig economy jobs is that people can work on their terms, whenever and wherever they want. As a result, the people that make these companies run (and profitable) are often located in different places and operating on different schedules—a logistical nightmare.
Despite the differences, these contractors still need to learn — just like a new employee at a traditional company needs to be onboarded when they start a new job.
Would a new DoorDash driver be successful if no one taught them how to use the app to find people looking for a ride? No.
Would someone delivering for Instacart keep working if they didn’t know how to transfer funds to their bank account? Nope.
Would an Airbnb host be satisfied if they got banned because they broke community guidelines — the ones no one showed them? Probably not.
Would someone using Alfred keep using it if the company’s Support team failed to help them resolve their challenges and disputes with customers? Uh, no.
In a traditional workplace, these companies could gather new workers and give them the knowledge to succeed. Lyft could show all new drivers how to use the app. Alfred could do the same to show people how to reach out to its Support team.
Given the distributed nature of the gig economy, this isn’t logistically impossible. But it can be a reality with a well-thought-out gig economy training program. Here’s how you can make that happen, fast.
For better or worse, high ROI initiatives are often associated with long rollout timelines and complex processes requiring a big lift from many people. In turn, these high-impact initiatives can get placed on the backburner. Thankfully, starting a gig economy training program is the furthest thing from complex. Starting an impactful program is something you can do quickly.
Step #1: Set Goals
Any successful training initiative starts with goals. Gig economy training is no different. To that end, your first step is to set specific goals with every level of your company. Start at the top and work your way down.
Sit down with the company’s leaders and talk to them about which metrics they use to make strategic decisions that impact the greater company (e.g., driver retention, acquisition, lifetime value (LTV), etc.) Most of the time, this means the C-suite, but you can also include the Board of Directors if applicable. This is a great time to build a relationship with an executive sponsor.
Since your training program will likely impact multiple departments, including Sales, Marketing and Support, it’s vital that you also understand their proxies for success. For the Support team, this could be a decrease in support tickets, while for Marketing, it could revolve around cost per lead.
Team goals are all about you. What, specifically, is your training program trying to accomplish and more importantly, how will you measure success. These will most likely be engagement metrics like course competitions and comparing the revenue generated of someone who’s gone through the training against someone who hasn’t.
If you take one learning away from this step, make it this: Different levels and departments of your company measure success differently, but that doesn’t mean your training program can or should operate in a silo. Everything you do should be tied back to the company and every team it impacts; this is the only way to grow and prove value.
Step #2: Build Your Team
Building and maintaining an impactful gig economy training program is no small feat and will likely require expertise and resources from people from different domains. Any gig economy training team should reflect this.
Here’s whom you should look to add either at the beginning or as you scale over time:
Gig Economy Training Lead
The big boss. This person is your spokesperson and guiding light, tasked with keeping everyone honest and on track. While this could be anyone passionate about learning, this individual will have the most impact if they’re intimately attached to the overall training program’s goals. For example, if the program’s objective is to speed up onboarding and decrease time-to-value, it’d make sense for the person leading the external workforce to steer the ship. If you’re trying to improve proficiency with your app, your Head of Product probably makes the most sense.
Gig Economy Expert (Subject Matter Expert)
The brains. This person will be your go-to resource for all things related to the gig economy. You’ll rely on this person to help create informative content that’ll help you and your learners achieve their goals.
The course mastermind. This person works with your subject matter expert to turn their knowledge into engaging and impactful courses. In addition to the instructional designer, it’d be a plus to have a graphic designer (a double plus if they have video experience) to help them bring everything together into a stunning visual reality.
The behind-the-scenes wizard. The technical lead is responsible for making sure everything is running smoothly. They’re also the superhero that swoops in to save the day when there’s a glitch.
If you’re lucky, you’ll have the resources at the beginning of your quest to create your training program, but that might not be the reality. If it’s not, don’t fret. Build the team you can, prove value along the way and then grow when everyone else starts reaping the benefits.
Step #3: Allocate Resources and Create Content
With your sights set and your team ready to rumble, it’s time to allocate resources and create content.
First, assess what’s readily available. Even if you’re starting from the absolute ground floor, there are likely some resources out there. Find those and use them as a foundation.
From there, you’ll likely find yourself scrambling for more, overwhelmed by the fact that you don’t immediately have what you need to prove value. That’s ok. If this happens, reframe your thought process and push forward.
Focus on Immediate Gains and Impact
It’s great to have a dream state and a wish list a mile long. You’ll get there. But only focusing on what could be will keep you (and your learners) from realizing the immediate benefits of the training. To that end, ask yourself where you can make the most immediate impact. Can you build one course? Produce one video? Onboard a handful of contractors? It doesn’t matter what it is. Find a place to start and build from there. Rome wasn’t built in one night.
If you want to expedite the process of building your program but literally can’t find the resources on your own, ask around and see if another team has expendable resources you can use for some time. Maybe the Marketing team has an intern with video experience or your Sales team has a good writer who can help draft some content.
Despite the rise of all things digital, the spoken word still has unbelievable sway. So, climb to the top of your company’s mountain and tell everyone what you’re doing and why it’s essential to the company. Eventually, this increased visibility trickles down and creates momentum.
Remember that building any learning program is an interactive process and there will always be something out of reach. That’s normal. Do what you can at that moment and use it as a stepping stone to reach the summit of gig economy training.
Step #4: Listen, Understand, Guide
Overnight success doesn’t exist in gig economy training and starting under that assumption is a risky move that could diminish the impact of your program long term. Instead of going in and thinking everything will go perfectly, expect speedbumps, but also expect to navigate them with your learners. Doing so will require you to keep your door open for feedback and make adjustments based on what they tell you. Always remember that gig economy training is an iterative process.