In our increasingly flexible labour market, the notion of a job for life and the concept of a consistent 9–5 workday is diminishing. In its place, the idea of ‘gig working’ is rapidly gaining ground. Gig working is when people opt to assume temporary, often ad hoc, work contracts (or ‘gigs’) sourced online through digital, cloud-based marketplaces.  The recent growth of platforms such as Uber and Airbnb has given rise to a global sharing economy – also dubbed the ‘gig economy’ – in which it is becoming ever more commonplace to buy and sell jobs and services online around the world. Digital work platforms allow businesses to contract workers for short-term engagements, or specific projects, for a defined period of time.

These platforms can come in the form of errand-based marketplaces, such as TaskRabbit or Upwork or they can link customers with a particular need to independent workers, such as or PeoplePerHour. Platforms offer help find someone to conduct simple tasks such as making a delivery, packing boxes or cleaning, to more highly-skilled work such as creating a logo, building a website or authoring important reports.

These digital marketplaces should not be confused with online jobs boards, such as which aggregates CVs with job postings from established companies to facilitate traditional ‘employee–employer’ relationships. Nor are they providing the same service as professional social networking sites such as LinkedIn.

What is common to all gig working platforms is that the economic ‘transaction’ – namely the buying and selling of goods and services for an agreed price and for a set period of time – takes place through the online intermediary. Joe Griston of refers to their service as ‘ebay for jobs’.

In our report last year, Gig economy – the Uberisation of work, we found that while only six per cent of employers we surveyed are currently using these platforms to recruit, 29 per cent say they will become important to their business in the next five years. That suggests a significant increase in usage; almost a third of businesses could be using digital platforms to access skills and talent in 2021.

However employers are split as to whether they think the use of digital work platforms as part of their hiring strategies brings more benefits than risks. One in five (20 per cent) perceive the use of online talent marketplaces as being more risky than beneficial for their businesses, against 17 per cent who say the benefits are greater than the risks. The rest remain neutral or undecided.

The key things to consider for both employers and candidates before deciding to operate via these platforms can be summarised as follows:


  • Opportunities
    • It speeds up the recruitment process
    • It reduces the cost of permanent hires
    • It offers access to a global candidate base
  • Risks
    • It still requires an element of screening
    • It may require new protocols and structures
    • It risks workers’ loyalty to the employer brand

Work seekers

  • Opportunities
    • It gives them flexibility
    • It allows them to set their own price
    • It opens them up to a global market place
  • Risks
    • It is an insecure way of working
    • It risks devaluing their worth
    • It lacks traditional employment protections

Our survey also revealed that 23 per cent of respondents recognised that digital work platforms can be quicker than traditional recruitment channels. Twenty-two per cent realised that digital work platforms allow companies to fill short-term business needs and 20 per cent think they can be more cost-effective than traditional recruitment channels. Another benefit included the fact that they allow employers to try out a range of different candidates on a non-committal basis (16 per cent).

Employer concerns focused around how to assess whether workers’ abilities would live up to their claims, losing money by paying for poor or incomplete assignments or getting embroiled in potential disputes about their responsibility to a gig worker as legal and regulatory requirements in this area remain hazy.

So that do good employers need to do in order to make effective use of digital platforms to source high-quality people to work on specific tasks or projects? We drew up a few pointers as to how to get started:

  • Define work opportunities that can be fulfilled on a freelance basis.
  • Define measurable work outcomes so that freelance performance can be judged.
  • Provide effective coaching and feedback by line managers so gig workers can provide the value intended.
  • Ensure that the contractual process is robust and your organisation is not increasing risk from non-compliance.
  • Explore how each platform verifies, vets and provides feedback on candidates’ qualifications, experience and capability.

There is always a certain resistance to new technologies and healthy scepticism about the unknown is not necessarily a bad thing.  But with more and more people from the millennial to the baby boomer generations looking for ways to find a good work-life balance, gig work is likely to increase rather than decrease. Smart employers will already be thinking about ways to incorporate it into their workforce strategies.

To find out more about our research and insights into good recruitment practices visit