Is an on-demand workforce heading to retail’s selling floors?
Retailers have used a wide variety of on-demand delivery services to support online delivery, but an article in The Washington Post, “Now hiring for one day: Retailers are embracing the gig economy,” implies the practice of using on-demand employment is much more widespread.
Five Guys, McDonald’s and Papa John’s Pizza were establishments mentioned in the article. The downside of using temps as fill-in employees was noted. A manager at a Five Guys said, “On the whole, it’s way better if you can hire someone who’s always there when you need them.”
But with U.S. unemployment hitting a 17-year low, rising health care costs and the flexibility appealing to employees, on-demand work is promising to become more common.
For workers, the negatives of working on an on-call or temp basis include concerns about the lack of steady employment and health insurance benefits and fewer work-place protections. But many have little choice as they face a marketplace characterized by stagnant wages, income inequality and a lack of job security fed by the Great Recession.
On the plus side, temp workers may gain more flexibility in their work-life balance and some appreciate tackling new tasks on a regular basis versus getting “stuck” in the same everyday routine. That’s leading to predictions such as one from the Intuit “2020 Report” that contingent workers would exceed 40 percent of the workforce by 2020.
For employers, temp hires can mitigate staffing problems caused by low unemployment rates. A number of online services, such as Snag Work, Wonolo and AllWork, make gig hiring less expensive and more efficient than traditional temp-hiring agencies. The services vet temps through interviews and background checks. Employers are asked to rate the performance of each employee after each work session, providing an incentive for the temp to perform at a high level.
Using temps also takes a permanent employee off the books and eliminates the need to cover their increasing insurance expenses.
“By contracting directly with a business or through an agency, these contract workers increase business efficiency, agility and flexibility,” Intuit’s report stated. “They also cost less and turn employment expenses into variable costs.”
- Now hiring for one day: Retailers are embracing the gig economy – The Washington Post
- Intuit 2020 Report – Intuit
- Gig Work, Online Selling and Home Sharing – Pew Research Center
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Should retailers embrace the flexibility and the cost savings of an on-demand workforce? How will the trend affect the quality of store operations and customer service? How do you see the ratio of full-time, part-time and temp associates playing out in the future?