During our conversations, it was often suggested that the way to advance women was to help them gain access to meaningful work in which they can collaborate with new peers and connect with diverse groups and leaders to showcase their abilities. As it turns out, there can be significant challenges to doing this both for employees within organizations and for people who are trying to rejoin the workforce. To that end, we suggest organizations consider
- Implementing internal gig-work marketplaces
- Leveraging external gig-work marketplaces
1. Implementing internal gig-work marketplaces
While some organizations have rotational programs or stretch assignments, those interventions do not tend to be broadly available or clearly communicated. Thus, many women are stuck within their existing roles without a way to meaningfully broaden their network and skill set.
To address this situation, we’d like to suggest organizations consider using internal gig-work1 marketplaces as an alternative option for women to diversify their network and to show themselves as energizers within their networks. Typically, these marketplaces are seen as part of organizations’ learning and development efforts. However, we think they could play an important role in helping to advance women as they could provide a way for women to broaden their network outside of their current team, showcase their openness to new ideas and concepts, and gain new skills through meaningful new opportunities.
What is an internal gig-work marketplace?
Gig-work marketplaces provide a place within the organization where individuals with small projects can find other employees interested in working on those projects. Therefore, anyone else in the organization who may have some extra time can potentially contribute to this work, while the person doing the work can engage with new people in a meaningful way and learn new skills. The projects are typically shorter in length and represent work that can easily be partitioned into discrete sections. The project owner interviews individuals interested in doing the work and makes the decision of who works on the project. The person wishing to do the project typically needs to get their manager’s approval to take on the additional work. The project posting process is typically enabled by technology and made centrally available.
Of course, there are potential pitfalls. For example, if organizations, leaders and individual women do not carefully consider the type of gig-work they provide and accept, it can result in a lack of substantive advantage in terms of new skills or career development and progression. Further, without planning, there is no guarantee that these projects will connect individuals to the right networks or create visibility into a woman’s capabilities. Simply having a platform or process that connects people to work doesn’t cultivate relationships and grow networks. Organizations need to create some structure to help leverage these opportunities into visibility, connection, and relationships.
Internal gig-work marketplaces tend to be enabled through technology that is available across the organization. Some of the organizations we interviewed have leveraged Sharepoint or built in-house platforms to provide a more systematic, standardized approach.
While some organizations2 create their own in-house solutions, vendors are providing solutions that help organizations build an internal gig-work platform as well. For example, Fuel50 (see Figure 1) recognizes the importance of creating a career-agile workforce. Their solution helps individuals not only identify current skill levels but also articulate what is important to them and their career. This information helps individuals and leaders identify opportunities that align with career interests, experiences, and the things that drive and energize them in their careers.
The platform suggests roles (new positions or gig opportunities), but more importantly it gives individuals visibility to all the developmental gig assignments across the organization. It also gives leaders data-based insights on their talent across the organization on real, meaningful assignments.
Another vendor, Profinda, takes a network-based approach in their offering and matches people to potential projects based on skills. The vendor offers an internal talent marketplace that allows people to see projects coming available and to apply for them. In addition, the solution also helps organizations identify when an individual will be available for a new assignment (see Figure 2).
Still yet another vendor, Adepto, offers what they call a “skills based total talent platform” for a single enterprise, providing insight into “all the talent available… internal and external; past, present and future.” Users can search for individuals by skills, experiences, or qualifications, while workers build their profiles within the system, highlighting that same information and their career/skill aspirations. This type of visibility could make it easier for women to find new opportunities, and critically, make it easier for leaders to access a broader pool of talent for both full-time and project-based work (see Figure 3).
This type of technology is not exclusive to new(er) players in the technology landscape. Workday has created a talent marketplace that aims to help organizations identify and develop non-traditional talent and SAP SuccessFactors has features that can be used for a similar purpose.3
In the future, organizations could look at how many women are asking for additional assignments in their development process but are not being given these or are given stretch assignments that are less meaningful than their male colleagues.
2. Leveraging external gig-work marketplaces
External gig-work marketplaces are much more well-known than internal gig-work marketplaces. With these, organizations can either post projects or search for workers who have the required skills, experiences, or qualifications. Some of the more well-known gig-work platforms include Upwork, Fiverr, Guru, Freelancer.com, and Outsourcely.com.4
There is increasingly a niche for diversity-related gig-work platforms. With these platforms, women (or other diverse individuals) can identify organizations that are prioritizing diversity, find projects that are of interest, meet individuals who could be interested in helping them move into the organization, and show their skills and capabilities. In particular, this type of technology could be leveraged for women who are returning to the workforce after an extended break or who have challenges with finding the right organization or network to get started again. This technology can also connect organizations to a diverse talent pool that they would not have been able to purposefully access in the past.
There are a range of tools available on the market. For example, Mom Source Network and The Mom Project are both working to develop deep talent pools that organizations can tap into. Mom Source Network specifically offers resources as well as access to job postings to people who are returning to work from an extended break (see Figure 4). The Mom Project creates Maternityships®5 which are time-bound opportunities for new talent (likely another woman who is trying to connect with the organization and gain meaningful skills) to fill a role in the organization while another woman is out on maternity leave. Incluzion.co is another gig-work marketplace, but they focus across all diversity characteristics (see Figure 5). All these solutions are designed to help diverse talent gain new skills and experiences while expanding their network and showcasing their abilities.
We’ve mentioned a lot of vendors in this section. Figure 6 summarizes those we included.
Stacia is a Co-founder and Principal Analyst for RedThread Research and focuses on employee engagement/experience, leadership, DE&I, people analytics, and HR technology. A frequent speaker and writer, her work has been featured in Fortune, Forbes, The New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal as well as in numerous HR trade publications. She has been listed as a Top 100 influencer in HR Technology and in D&I. Stacia has an MBA from the University of California, Berkeley, and a master’s degree from the London School of Economics.
Emily is a former Research Lead at RedThread Research. Prior to her time at RedThread she consulted for The NeuroLeadership Institute and held an analyst role at Bersin by Deloitte. Emily has a Ph.D. in Industrial-Organizational (I/O) Psychology from Illinois Institute of Technology and received her M.A. in I/O Psychology from Middle Tennessee State University.
- The Oxford English Dictionary defines the Gig Economy as “A way of working that is based on people having temporary jobs or doing separate pieces of work, each paid separately, rather than working for an employer.” Internal gig-work marketplaces take the same concept of temporary jobs or separate pieces of work and make them available to internal employees. See Dan Pontefract’s article on internal talent marketplaces for a nice summary: https://www.forbes.com/sites/danpontefract/2018/02/02/why-your-organization-needs-an-internal-gig-economy-platform/#41c16c5779e2.
- “Google’s Algorithm-Powered Internal Job Marketplace,” Keuhn, K, and Kay, R., Re:work with Google, 2018. https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/googles-algorithm-powered-internal-job-marketplace/.
- “Our Vision for a Frictionless Talent Marketplace,” Goldt, C., Workday.com, 2018. https://blogs.workday.com/our-vision-for-a-frictionless-talent-marketplace/.
- “18 Upwork Alternatives that Will Help Grow Your Business,” Time Doctor, 2019. https://biz30.timedoctor.com/upwork-alternatives/.
- ”Maternityship,” The Mom Project, 2019. https://themomproject.com/.