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Gig Economy Uncovered

Exploring what the Gig Economy is all about.

…and the Survey Says!

Now that I defined the origin of the name of this business model in the previous article, it’s time to put some proof in this pudding.  Every once in awhile I come across surveys listing the Worst Places to Work For.  This is a good starting point because it highlights the activities contributing to this business model as they are more prevalent in these places establishing a baseline of support.  There are plenty of complaint sites out there but the problem with them is that more people go there to complain than praise.  SiteJabber is one of the better ones because some companies do have good ratings.  It is a great place to check out Gig Economy companies like Uber, Lyft, SiteJabber, AirBnB, etc but for this Glassdoor was used because they initially created this survey which was then passed on after just 2 years of publications.

The Worst Companies to Work For and Why (2013-2017)

An article on The Balance describes how the origin of this list started; “Few organizations are brave enough to release “worst” lists.  We can only imagine the backlash that happens when a multi-billion dollar retailing company is identified as the “worst” in any way. However, Glassdoor.com is one organization that dared to compile and make public a “Worst Companies to Work For” list beginning in 2008, based on voluntary employee surveys that evaluate eight workplace factors:

  • Senior Leadership
  • Communication
  • Employee Morale
  • Career Opportunities
  • Work/Life Balance
  • Compensation and Benefits
  • Recognition and Feedback
  • Fairness and Respect

Glassdoor stopped publishing its “worst employers” list after 2009, but using the data available on the Glassdoor website, 24/7 Wall St. has been creating its own Worst Workplaces list since 2012, based on its research and analysis of the ratings, rankings, and comments which are publicly available on Glassdoor.com.”

The majority of the names listed below come from 24/7 Wall St.’s 2013-2017 reports yet I also discovered one 2009 report which would be the second and final one from Glassdoor.  The Balance article goes from 2008 to 2015 but focused solely on retail and all employers is the focus of this Business Model so it’s included in the references for review.  Interestingly, I’ve worked for two of these companies.  One as an employee for over 6 years and the other as a contractor for 6 months until Corporate Budgeting cancelled it without informing my manager.

24/7 Wall St. Worst Places to Work For (2013-2017)

ADT*, AECOM, Alorica, AutoZone, Bank of New York Mellon, Books-A-Million, Brookdale Senior Living*, Broomfield, The Children’s Place*, CompuCom, Computer Services Corp, CVS, Dilliard’s**, DHL, DISH**, Dollar General*, Dominion Enterprises, Express Scripts**, Family Dollar*, Fiserv, Forever 21**, The Fresh Market, Frontier Communications*, Gamestop, Hertz, Genesis Healthcare, Gibson Guitar, Hewlett-Packard, hhgregg, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, Jo-Ann Stores, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, Kmart*, Kraft/Heinz*, L.A. Fitness, NCR, OfficeMax, RadioShack*, Rain Bird, Rent-A-Center, RGIS, Rite Aid, Ross, Robert Half International, Sears**, Spherion, Teleperformance, United Airlines, and Xerox**

*appeared in two of the four years
**appeared in 3 or more years

I went through each company summary of the complaints and aggregated them into a list.  It actually didn’t take that long before they became redundant indicating the same problems are happening regardless of employer type.

  • Layoffs and plant/store closures due to cost cutting measures and/or mergers (eroding or threatening Job Security and morale)
  • Long work days/weeks; No Work-Life Balance with some having to be available 24/7
  • Unrealistic expectations such as sales quotas or performance targets
  • Low or stagnant wages, long hours and out of touch and/or unsympathetic management and/or micromanaged with poor benefits of high deductible and/or high contribution levels.
  • Management Cliques resulting in Favoritism
  • Management Bullying
  • Management out of touch with employees
  • Unacceptable work environment such as too hot or cold with no response to complaints
  • Illegal activities the results of which impact employees in a variety of ways including layoffs, attrition, and pay cuts as the results of fines or other enforced restrictions.

Here are a few highlights of 24/7 Wall St. comments about these reports: Continue reading

It is actually somewhat stupefying the wide variety of ways the definitions used to describe the Gig Economy are used.  As I continue to investigate this I keep coming across the same words but not always used in the same way.  There are some basic things that are the same such as being an independent contractor and perhaps a Freelancer yet beyond that it’s almost the author’s personal preferences of how to use them especially the term “gigging”.  Some gigging articles don’t even mention freelancing and only focus on the On Demand app aspect of this.  If you’re like me finding yourself at the short end of a very long stick requiring you to re-invent yourself to some degree, this can be very confusing leaving you to figure it out for yourself even if it means using these terms for your own personal use.  It appears that pre-Uber et al, gigging and freelancing were easily interchangeable especially in consideration of the origins of gigging.  Freelancers would have a continuous flow of work or gigs some of which are one offs while others would be repeat business of some degree.  When Uber et al entered the picture then this concept began to morph into something else which is when “On Demand” entered the Gigging Vernacular differentiating itself primarily via being app based, a “Tap and Go” sort of activity which is not part of freelancing because it is more connections based mostly through Social Media and referrals.

What’s in a name?  Well if used to describe something you do, then your identity is involved such as Continue reading

My research into what this “Gig Economy Thing” is all about continues to uncover more and more interesting aspects that I’m not sure are truly being addressed by any one person or organization resulting in a myriad of opinions some of which appear thought out and others not so much.  Some of this is due to it not just being relatively new but also as a result of these activities, there appears to be a new employment designation arising as a result of these confusions as this continues to iron itself out which I will explore in a future post.  The first question was the most obvious; “What’s the difference between Gigging and Freelancing?”  I discovered that although they are frequently used interchangeably, digging deeper demonstrated that is not the case especially due to the persistent growth of the On Demand App aspect which doesn’t necessarily require a specific skill set whereas Freelancing does.  You can review that here.  The one thing that differentiates a traditional employee from those in the Gig Economy is their tax status of 1099 from which I discovered that this is not a simple tax designation as evidenced by the number of various tax codes.  This then brought up the fact that technically those that are considered “entrepreneurs” are also under the 1099 designation so how does that play into the Gig Economy thus explored?

Interestingly and amusing that poor ol’ Freelancing is stuck in the midst of this contrast again, yet when being compared to entrepreneur there appears to be better definitions which at the onset would make one think that it’s better defined but not so much as it appears that many are stuck on the allure of the word “entrepreneur” with some of them either refusing to accept it or at the least not happy about it.  The illusion comes from the misconception that anyone who is in business for themselves is an entrepreneur and even further compounded by attempting to understand if one is better than the other or that there’s a wide gap between the two or putting the two together as if they were the same thing but never delineating it.  Frustrating when all you want are answers on what they are and how they are different so as to know how it all applies to this Gig Economy.

The dictionary definitions that many articles use further compounds this confusion because although they all have similar initial definitions, it’s when you look at the second definition that it becomes apparent how this definition is being confounded due to “cherry picking” the one you like the best.  I’ll use the version from dictionary.com for my example:

  1. a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.
  2. an employer of productive labor; contractor.

Its origin comes from the French word entrepredre which means to undertake (1875-80; < French: literally, one who undertakes (some task)).  There’s also an indication of its use in connection with theatrical production; 1828, “manager or promoter of a theatrical production,” reborrowing of French entrepreneur “one who undertakes or manages,” agent noun from Old French entreprendre “undertake”. The word first crossed the Channel late 15c. but did not stay. Meaning “business manager” is from 1852”.  In contrast to this is the Oxford online dictionary’s definition; “A person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit”.  This definition only references “business” with no reference to enterprise, both mentions risk, yet the latter “hopes” for profit.  Using the French derivative of “one who undertakes or manages” you can understand how some would think that if they are in business for themselves in any capacity they are “undertaking or managing” a business yet its use has continued to expand over time.

That’s enough of these “Blathering Vernaculars of Confusion” as the more you look, the cloudier one’s understanding becomes.  A post on Seth Godin’s SAMBA Blog titled “Freelancers vs Entrepreneurs” Continue reading

My research into the Gig Economy phenomenon has resulted in several confusions of terminologies.  To some degree that should be expected because it is still in something of a “growth phase” resulting in many personal interpretations.  Alternate terminologies such as the On Demand Economy and the 1099 Economy appear to assist in coming to at least a general understanding of what it is because their words at least are better indicators than the generic word “gig” which can be applied to just about anything short term or impermanent.  Yet even those have their interpretations the more you look into it.

For example, the 1099 Economy is based on the 1099 tax denomination and does help to understand what’s going on because Independent Contractors use this when doing their yearly taxes.  The generic concept is that it differentiates between the Independent Contractor who is responsible for all of their taxes and must file tax estimates quarterly in contrast to the W2 worker which is the traditional “Nine to Fivers” whose employers take care of the majority of the taxes prior to distributing paychecks and are required to file yearly.  The thing is that 1099 isn’t as simple as it sounds once you look into it because your yearly taxes can include both a W2 and a 1099.  So just exactly what is 1099?

An article by Bill Fay on Debt.org (published date not given) states, “1099 forms are federal income tax information forms from businesses and other institutions to document certain financial transactions conducted during a tax year”.  “Tax information forms” is the most often used definition when researching these.  Yet here’s how W2 and 1099 can be on the same tax submission; “Specifically, the 1099 series reports all earnings and proceeds other than wages, salaries and tips, which are reported on the federal W-2 form. There are more than 20 different versions and variants of the 1099 form, but the most common is the 1099-MISC”.

For example, many years ago I taught guitar, keyboards, and Music Theory at a local music store along with a full time job.  The owner just wrote a check each week for the services rendered so I had to use a 1099-MISC to report that income in conjunction with the W2 from my full time job.  In order to get the biggest bang for those bucks I used a Tax Accountant who knew the Ins and Outs of write-offs.  I never filed quarterly and just took the penalty because the yearly total wasn’t significant enough and the penalty was “buried” in my refund being slightly lower.

I have also received other 1099’s that I had to claim on my taxes such as Continue reading

Do you know what the Gig Economy is? Have you ever heard this phrase before? Is it any different than Freelance?  I first heard this word earlier this year when I was telling a friend about my decision to become an independent consultant.  As a Social Media Manager, she has her finger on the pulse of what’s going on in business.  She told me that what I was doing is part of the Gig Economy.  Uber and AirBnB are always the two most often mentioned due to their successful popularity but what is it really especially seeing that it’s grown to be an almost $800 Billion  industry with no end in sight?

Many articles treat these two words, Gigging and Freelancing, as basically the same, but I have discovered that is not necessarily the case.  A Fox Business article by Dr. Woody Woodward from 2012 uses the two in the same beginning sentence and then goes on to describes it as “essentially freelance or independent work. Independent contractors, often referred to as “1099” contractors, work for themselves and offer services to individual clients and corporations. Essentially, it’s about creating and marketing the business of “You” to both individuals and companies looking for contractors. As result of the recession and tight budgets, companies started moving towards a more contingent workforce to save on salary and benefits costs, thus creating opportunities for freelancing or “gigging”.

Although freelancing and gigging may have been originally considered as basically the same thing, this appears to be more of a corporate usage of these terms, yet in the interim a difference has arisen as this continues to evolve outside of corporate activities. That difference appears to involve the definition of the word “gig” which has traditionally been associated with musicians.

In a January 2016 NPR article written by Geoff Nunberg he states the word Gig “goes back more than a century as musicians’ slang for a date or engagement. Nobody’s sure where it originally came from, though there are lots of imaginative theories out there. But the word didn’t have any particular glamour until the 1950s, when the hipsters and the Beats adapted it to mean any job you took to keep body and soul together while your real life was elsewhere.  The earliest example of that usage of the word that I’ve found is from a 1952 piece by Jack Kerouac, talking about his gig as a part-time brakeman for the Southern Pacific railroad in San Jose. For the hipsters, calling a job a gig was a way of saying it didn’t define you. A gig was a commitment you felt free to walk away from as soon as you had $50 in your pocket.”

Geoff goes on to say that gig Continue reading