The gig economy may seem like it’s still among the latest financial trends, but in fact, it’s already starting to evolve into its next form: on-demand labor. And that doesn’t stop at ridesharing services like Lyft and Uber, delivery services like Grubhub and Postmates or odd job services like TaskRabbit. On-demand labor could change the entire retail industry as well — and the shift has already begun.
There are several companies working to transform the scheduling experience for retailers employing hourly workers, all the way from low-skilled positions like bussing tables up to high-end specialized retail staff in categories like fashion, beauty and cosmetics.
According to Laura Adamo, AllWork, this Uber-of-X model has potential across every vertical that leverages an hours-based employment model.
Adamo says healthcare, with its on-call nurses and other on-call health professionals, is ripe for such a solution, likening on-demand healthcare to the old-fashioned house call. She imagines the same principle could be applied to any type of expert, such a butcher, who could go around to different restaurants offering his services on demand — essentially acting as a tech-enabled consultant.
Adamo added that hospitality presents a lot of opportunity, which some platforms have already begun to seize. JibJab, for instance, helps restaurants fill open shifts for bartending and waiting staff roles. PYMNTS has previously reported on Planday, which offers a similar scheduling service.
AllWork takes a slightly different approach, Adamo said, focusing instead on placing high-end specialized retail staff into the very specific slots where they’re needed, exactly when they are needed.
For example, consider a cosmetics brand that has a presence at multiple department stores, such as Macy’s. Being heard in that environment can be difficult, said Adamo, so brands like to have their own people on site to represent the product and educate customers on a deeper level than the average hourly employee could offer.
Because of this specific knowledge base and skill set, Adamo said, filling no-shows and last-minute cancellations can be challenging for brands.
Meanwhile, many employees want to work more and earn more, but there is not always an opportunity for them to do so.
As true as that may be for specialized workers like those at the heart of AllWork’s value proposition, it can be even truer for the average hourly employee stocking the shelves at any chain supermarket, bookstore or apparel outlet, Adamo said. Many such part-time employees would welcome the opportunity to help make ends meet by picking up a few extra shifts, even if those shifts are at a different store location than where they usually work.
Matching those workers with the shifts they want and employers with the staffing they need was not always possible in the past, when rigid rosters and paper schedules ruled the industry, but Adamo said technology is changing that, and the right platform can drive benefits on both sides of the equation.
“TaskRabbit pioneered the approach; now we’re applying the concept to retail,” Adamo said, referring to the platform that connects gig workers with odd job gigs such as assembling IKEA furniture (the platform was bought by IKEA last fall).
She said AllWork envisions the next level of the TaskRabbit approach, building more artificial intelligence into its platform to help brands and retailers find the best possible fit to fill their open slots based on the brand’s criteria, the worker’s skill set and ratings shared by others who employed the worker.
“For employees,” Adamo said, “there’s something to be said for having the power. You’re in control of your own career. The gig economy has been called the death of the full-time job, but we see it as beneficial. Employees get to pick up more work but still be home at the right times for their kids. That delivers benefits to the entire sector.”
Despite its potential complexity, flexible staffing with a digital platform doesn’t have to create a back-office nightmare, Adamo added. AllWork leverages a co-employer relationship, acting as the employer of record so employees can get paid easily and seamlessly no matter where they pick up shifts.
That means the platform handles all the technicalities such as tax forms, rather than shunting that responsibility onto employees or the department stores where they may be picking up shifts.
“It’s not just a free-for-all,” Adamo said. “It’s like a full-time job where you can pick your hours a little more flexibly. This is something employers and employees have both said they’re looking for. The way the workforce is evolving, this is an inevitable shift.”