Staffing a Firm in Today’s Gig Economy

Being from Nashville, I’ve always identified the term ‘gig’ as a situation where an entertainer lands a job. The term is actually much broader and has become so popular among young people that it has its own economic category, aptly named the Gig Economy, which describes the growing number of people, not just country music singers, who make their living contracting and serving as temporary workers.

According to the Forbes article “Why the Gig Economy is the Best and Worst Development for Workers under 30”, Intuit estimates that “gig” workers represent 34 percent of the workforce and will grow to be 43 percent by 2020. There is a mindset shift happening as more and more workers not only want to work differently, but at their own discretion.

Here are six ideas for approaching this growing Gig Workforce:

Seek and Embrace Opportunities Created by the New Environment

Many firms are in an advantageous position to operate in this Gig Economy as they generally have, or can create, opportunities for people to work on clearly defined projects that have a beginning and end, or there are seasons of the year that require an escalation of people to get all the work done.  The new economy also provides the opportunity to get a glimpse of people in action and better understand how much value they bring to the firm. The gig workers who are the best fit can become targets for more permanent employment. In addition, most firms already offer people a gig, in a way, through their internship programs. From this perspective, it is easy to imagine expanding beyond an internship program to include a ‘gig workforce’ of people who are project workers or hired seasonally.

Create a Culture That Invites the Best Talent to Your Firm

Kelly Platt, Inside Public Accounting Publisher says, “The data shows that the IPA 100 firms specifically are losing a greater percentage of professional staff with 6-8 years of experience, and the percentage of staff with experience of two years or less is growing. It’s a job seekers’ market for professional staff with solid experience and deep expertise.”

Whether temporary or permanent, creating a positive culture is important for attracting the most talented people, especially in such a tight, dynamic employment market as described by Platt. Strong cultures leave a lasting impression and for those people who want a long-term role, it encourages them to choose you. For others who are not going to be long-timers, the feeling they had while in your firm will be remembered and the story will be told to others in, hopefully, a very positive light.

Develop a Mindset for Always Hiring

There are times when adding another team member doesn’t make sense due to your budget or the fact that there just isn’t room for another person right now. Know when you find talented people who can help your firm grow, fit the culture, and will be a quality resource for clients—they are worth the investment, and making room for these types of people almost always makes sense. The world of work will search out and find this talent.

Constantly Develop Your Talent

In a service business, more than many other businesses, people are your single greatest asset. Create an environment for learning and development in your firm, and, year after year, you will see the rewards of the investment as people grow and become more capable of serving clients, generating business, and becoming leaders and mentors to others. Too often we work with firm leaders that have spent years working in the firm, only to see themselves approaching retirement with no one below them who is ready and capable of being part of a succession plan.

Build the Team for the Gig Economy

Leading a firm in this economy is obviously a challenge that demands a great deal of work and focus. However, begin now by determining, as best you can, what clients are going to require or demand in the next 3-5 years. Better advisory services, greater understanding of Big Data, larger range of services, and number communication, not number crunching, are just a few that come to mind. Intentionally search for and hire staff who are built, or can be developed, to meet these demands, and identify a gig workforce that matches those needs.

Client needs, and future market opportunities, will require a more diverse set of professionals. In 2017, PwC announced they had opened a law firm; now, other firms have done the same. Professional service firms of the near future will have layers of professionals who can meet the growing and wide-ranging needs of business owners. Industry consultant Alan Koltin recently shared a story about a national firm leader who stated that, “Over 25% of all new entry-level hires today are STEM hires, or those with a background in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.”

Today, firms are hiring lawyers, technology specialists, engineers, scientists, and mathematicians. They are identifying new service offerings and adding talent that fits a new skillset required to deliver nontraditional services.

Grow the Firm

There is no greater turnoff for people than a lack of upward mobility. Without growth in the firm, recruiting and retention become exponentially more difficult. Your future depends on the growth of the business, which creates new opportunities, excitement in the firm, and engagement in the staff. Investing in, and maintaining a focus on, revenue generating behaviors (geared toward organic growth) is critical for firm leaders to maintain an upwardly mobile talent base that feels happy with their growth potential inside your firm.

In the End…

Responding to such a different model for employment is not, and will not be, easy. This workforce has needs and expectations focused on short-term situations, and it brings with it a variety of tough decisions, not the least of which is how does a firm approach staff development in such a fluid environment?

A Managing Partner recently lamented the fact that their firm is investing a lot in the training and development of their people, and still they watch some of them walk away. Harder still, is that sometimes the people with the greatest potential are the ones to leave. When they exit after all the investment, it’s natural to regret putting so much into their development. Still, investment must continue, even though there is a chance, maybe even a decent chance, that some people on the team are not going to stay. There are two alternatives for firm leaders to consider when it comes to investing in development: you can develop people knowing there is a chance they will leave, or you cannot develop them, and they stay. Having a growing, developing team that loses people now and then ultimately has greater firm and client value than a team of people who have been with the firm a long time, but lack the skills needed to attract business and talent.

Quality people are always going to have options, which is why they sometimes move on to other opportunities and seek out new challenges. These same people sometimes come back to firms, especially if the experience they had was a good one and they had a chance to grow. In today’s very fluid Gig Economy, the successful firms will be those that embrace what is happening, not just complain about it, and create a culture that attracts good people and then develops them to increase their value to the firm and its clients.

Next Steps

If you are looking to develop powerful culture, along with dynamic and talented people, The Rainmaker Companies offers a variety of programs designed to help you meet your goals. Visit The Rainmaker Companies for more information, or Contact Us to schedule a complimentary phone consultation.


Patrick Pruett – Executive Vice President at The Rainmaker Companies