The Future of Work

Freelance Beach February 7, 2018

The gig economy and the online infrastructure to support it are growing—and likely to continue to do so. ASAE Foundation research looks at how association leaders can use foresight to adapt to the changes brought on by this emerging temporary workforce.

Freelance, gig, contract, and temporary workers make up a growing percentage of the workforce. ASAE ForesightWorks, the new foresight program based on ASAE Foundation research, identified new forms of work as one of the 41 drivers of change likely to have significant impact on associations and their members.

This shift is already influencing how people choose to work—and, increasingly, shape work around their lives. Ninety-three percent of respondents to a recent study said that temporary and permanent workers were teaming up on projects in their company. Thirty-four percent of the American workforce freelanced at some point in 2014, according to another study. The tech industry is interested in advancing that flexibility: The growth of online platforms to support the gig economy is projected to add $27 trillion to the global GDP by 2025.

34% Percentage of U.S. workers who freelanced at some point in 2014

Changing structures of work are predicted to improve productivity and worldwide job growth. This may mean more members for some associations—and perhaps new associations. But these members may have different needs and expectations.

While this shift in the workforce is likely to create a more nimble and innovative environment for businesses, gig economy workers generally lack access to the traditional social safety net and workplace protections that come with a permanent position. Associations have an opportunity to fill this void, providing services and benefits that freelancers are not getting from traditional employers. As businesses increasingly engage a blended workforce, associations can also help members navigate how to manage these new teams. 

What to Do

The ASAE ForesightWorks New Forms of Work Action Brief, part of the Workforce and Workplace Action Set, suggests several steps for leaders looking to be proactive. To begin, assess the extent to which new forms of work are already growing in your industry and how that trend is likely to affect your members’ livelihood. This information will help you make informed decisions about how to focus of your advocacy, membership, and education strategies in the future.

If the gig economy continues to grow, members in permanent positions may become more interested in freelancing, and your association may look to create resources to connect them to job opportunities. You may create virtual tools or host talent fairs to help members find jobs. Depending on the level of interest, you may even create special groups or new membership classes specifically for temporary workers.

New regulations for both temporary and payroll workers are likely to emerge. In addition to ensuring that your own organization remains in compliance, you can help members stay abreast of these changes so they can plan ahead and sidestep potential pitfalls. Additionally, by keeping an eye on the evolving regulatory landscape, you may be able to identify common interests with other associations and combine advocacy efforts for common benefits.  

New forms of work are already affecting many industries and will undoubtedly change the way associations serve their members. Understanding the scope of this change and its effects on your members will allow you to envision and plan for possible futures. Proactive leadership strategies, informed by foresight, will enable your association to respond and even thrive in a potentially disruptive time.