3 tips for harnessing gig mindsetters to strengthen your company
For the past three years, organisational analyst Jane McConnell has been studying gig mindsetters. Despite some resistance to their new ways of working, she says they hold a crucial key to the future during incredibly unsettling times.
In 2015/2016, data began to show the rise of individual capabilities inside organisations while at the same time leadership culture was stagnating. An overlooked group of employees that share “the gig mindset” ―a freelancer-style knack for improvisation, adaptability and innovation began to disrupt; upending business as usual and bridging gaps while achieving surprising outcomes and charting new directions.
This situation was clearly building into a potentially strong conflict, which Jane McConnell decided to investigate in the first gig mindset survey in 2018. Her ongoing research and successful book have resulted in exciting revelations.
We were excited to have Jane presenting a keynote at the HR + L&D Innovation & Tech Fest in February 2022 about her findings and how the gig mindset is shaping diverse fields such as science and technology, industrial energy, healthcare, financial services, agricultural commodity trading and legal services.
Ahead of the event, Natalie Green spoke to Jane from her base in the Provence region of France. Here is the interview.
How do you define a gig mindset?
Jane McConnell: The gig mindset is not a model nor a method. It is a metaphor. It refers to a new breed of employee who blends freelancer thinking and behaving with employee status. Gig mindsetters work openly, take initiatives autonomously when they see issues to work on and above all, question the status quo including business models and work practices.
It’s a newly discovered identity for many people. When I began to talk about the gig mindset in conferences, people rushed up to me during the breaks, saying things like “Thank you for giving me an identity,” and “I had always felt something was wrong with me!”. One person actually said, “You’re the first person to understand me.” I knew then I was on to something that had touched people deeply.
What sort of resistance have you seen against gig mindsetters?
I call them a “bold new breed” because management resistance is very strong. They are seen as undisciplined, disrespectful of tradition, and above all, lacking respect for hierarchy. Some gig mindsetters risk their careers because they are perceived as deviants and are ignored or sidelined, rather than being understood as positive deviants to be celebrated for bringing benefits and opportunities via their unconventional behaviours.
Does this mindset threaten company culture or loyalty?
The gig mindset threatens company cultures and loyalty if they are based on blind pride in the past and a false sense of safety in business as usual. Managers too often fear losing power and end up living in filter bubbles. In these cases, the gig mindset is definitely a threat!
What is the impact of a gig mindset on organisations?
The COVID pandemic taught us that we need fundamental changes in our organisations. More than resilience, we need proactive resilience to be ready for the next big challenge, and others to come. Gig mindsetters are key to succeeding because they have ways of working that strengthen organisations. They act as border-crossers, inside outsiders, detectors and influencers.
Does working with gig mindsetters require a different approach from HR?
Yes, because they are not recognisable by simply reading their CVs. Hiring is competitive right now, and it’s important to get gig mindsetters on board. But don’t forget that you probably have a fair number already that you may not have noticed yet!
Three tips I’d like to share are:
1. Identify people with gig mindsetter potential during the hiring process by integrating them into work activities such as workshops or simulation exercises with colleagues before making hiring decisions.
2. Motivate gig mindsetters through flexible talent management and building bridges across the organisation so they feel connected and able to use and share their creativity.
3, Help people achieve work-life balance and mitigate burnout through encouraging gig-mindset behaviours which have been shown to motivate people more than the traditional way of working because gig mindsetters are more in control of their work.
Does this require something new from the L&D department?
Yes, again! It’s important to let people control their learning through offering a choice of paths and courses. At the same time, you need light overall guidelines to ensure that the learning process will be beneficial to the organisation. I have an inspiring story to share at the conference from a global healthcare company who runs an initiative they call Learn-Apply-Share where individuals are autonomous within a minimal framework. It’s a win-win approach that makes sense all around.
Jane McConnell describes herself as an ‘analyst-practitioner’. As a practitioner, for 20 years she has advised global organisations including healthcare companies, industrial and retail operations, and United Nations agencies including the Peacekeepers and the UN Refugee Agency.
Her advice has been grounded in her work as an analyst. She has conducted 12 years of global research surveys and written annual reports with data from approximately 300 organisations, including numerous interviews of people around the world.
Don’t miss her keynote address at the HR + L&D Innovation & Tech Fest.