People & Leadership

How to build an internal gig marketplace

What is an internal gig marketplace? How does it relate to the gig economy? Here’s everything HR and People leaders need to know.

Ben Eubanks, Principal Analyst at Lighthouse Research and Advisory, explains how today’s organisations can retain top talent and encourage their ambitions through the internal gig marketplace. 

When it comes to recruitment, is hiring externally always the best option?

According to research from The Wharton School of Business, it can take external candidates two or three years to get up to speed within their new organisation.

So why don’t they choose to use the skills and experience of their existing workforce instead? Enter the internal gig marketplace.

What is an internal gig marketplace?

An internal gig marketplace is a marketplace within a company where employees and their skills can be matched to projects and skills required within the organisation.

The gig economy versus the gig marketplace

In the world of freelancing, the gig economy is something that is already very established.

Websites such as Fiverr or Upwork allow organisations to find freelancers for different projects and tasks, avoiding the need to hire a permanent member of staff and offering them more flexibility as a result.

However, what if companies could use this method internally and tap into the different skills and experiences of their own employees for projects instead?

Well, that’s where the internal gig marketplace comes in.

Why build an internal gig marketplace?

Some companies such as World Bank Group, PwC and Shell are already choosing to create internal gig marketplaces in order to allow their employees to work on project-based tasks that suit their skills and interests.

As a result, they can encourage their staff to remain part of the company, instead of moving on elsewhere.

It’s an option that is coming to the fore more as the workforce continues to grow more diverse than ever before.

For the first time, there are five distinct generations in the workplace, all with different priorities and preferred ways of working.

Some may prefer more flexible working patterns, choosing to be challenged in new roles more frequently.

All generations are staying in roles for a much shorter time period than they might have done 20 years ago – with it now being common today for employees to remain in roles for just a year or two.

An internal gig marketplace means companies can keep employees for longer, keeping them engaged and productive.

It enables employees to move around within an organisation and develop new skills. While at the same time, organisations are able to hold on to vital company knowledge and high-skilled workers – saving recruitment time too.

What are the benefits of building an internal gig marketplace?

For organisations, an internal gig marketplace means that not only can they retain their workforce and save on recruitment and development costs for new employees, but they are also helping to ensure their workforce is motivated, productive and engaged.

Research has also shown that employees learn best by experiential learning. An internal gig marketplace enables employees to try out new roles and skills within the company.

Are there examples of companies using internal gig marketplaces?

World Bank Group decided to incorporate the gig marketplace into its operations following a recruitment freeze.

It needed people with certain skills to work on a range of projects and decided to go out to its own workforce to see if anyone could help.

The gig marketplace has been successful there, and a couple of years after its hiring crisis, the company has decided to carry on using it, as a result of the benefits it has had.

In addition, Shell has also started to use a gig marketplace approach in one of its business units that employs 700 people.

Its opportunity hub has allowed people within the group to put their skills out there and say: “Here’s what I’m interested in, here are my aspirations, could I help with this project?”

As a result, employees feel that they can develop new skills, which makes them more likely to stay within the organisation and potentially take on a different role in the future, rather than leaving.

It’s also an approach some public sector bodies draw on.

For example, in the UK following the financial crisis in 2008, the UK Treasury set up a team of employees who can be deployed on to vital projects at short notice if needed, as a ‘reserve list’ of staff with relevant experience.

How to build an internal gig marketplace

So, how can you build your organisation’s own gig marketplace? The first step is to get a clear picture of the skills your employees have.

I was talking to a company recently, which has 40,000 employees around the world, but they only knew what skills 10% of their employees had beyond their job title. This means they had no clue what they are interested in, or what they are capable of.

To start with, companies need to start capturing those skills, using an HR and People system, talent system or database.

Once a company has a clearer picture of their employee’s skills, they can create a marketplace that they can start looking into.

Getting started today

Creating an internal gig marketplace is about connecting the dots between an employee’s skills and ambitions in a strategic way.

Are you mapping employee skills? Do you have a strategic overview of where they may be needed? If not, it may be time to start considering building the foundations of your own internal gig marketplace today.

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