Intuit has released the results of its research on those working in what it calls the “on-demand workforce,” its first report in a new series dubbed “Dispatches from the New Economy.” The research was a collaboration with Emergent Research, a company focused on the growing number of gig workers, solo entrepreneurs and microbusinesses.
There has been little research that has been focused specifically on the attitudes, motivations and challenges of this new workforce. Some reports have explored the topic as part of a broader research focus, including quantification of the worker population — for example, reports by Upwork/Freelancer Union and MBO Partners. But the Intuit research, and the underlying survey methodology, is specifically designed to understand the behavioral dimensions of this new and growing worker population.
One of the highlights of the report is a clustering of types of workers into five dominant types, not according to the work they do or by the platforms they work but rather by attitudinal and motivational characteristics, as summarized below:
- The Business Builders: Primarily motivated by the desire to run their own business or be their own boss, Business Builders are the most likely to already have their own business and use on-demand work to supplement or expand this existing source of income.
- The Career Freelancers: Happily building a career through independent work, Career Freelancers like being in control and are not concerned with the risks associated with independent work. They generate a larger proportion of their total income from their independent work than the other groups.
- The Side Giggers: Looking to supplement their income, Side Giggers are strongly motivated by financial security. Job flexibility and pursuing their interests are less important. They are most likely to be employed in a traditional job in addition to their on-demand work.
- The Passionistas: Motivated by job flexibility and the chance to do something they enjoy, Passionistas are less likely to be motivated by money. This group is relatively well educated, and works the fewest hours of any of the groups.
- The Substituters: The most likely to be involved with an on-demand provider, Substituters typically lost a job or are currently unable to find a traditional job. They are the segment that is the least satisfied with on-demand work.
According to Steve King of Emergent Research, there was more or less equivalency of representation across categories.
The survey findings generally present a positive picture of on-demand worker sentiments, something which Intuit has said invalidates the opposite narrative embraced by the media and government. Alex Chriss, vice president and general manager of Self-Employed Solutions at Intuit, was quoted as saying “We are determined to take a different, deeper, view of the on-demand economy. Intuit wants to focus more on the people than the platforms, more on solutions than problems, and more on the way forward than the way back. By understanding the needs, expectations and motivations of on-demand workers, we can better create new tools and supports that are tailor-made for the unique needs of this growing section of our labor market.”
Intuit’s report comes at an interesting time. In the past year, we have begun to see, between on-demand platforms and on-demand workers, the emergence of a digital ecosystem, oriented toward supporting the on-demand workers with services that make their lives and work easier and that fills in gaps resulting from foregoing the employee benefits of working for a company. Ecosystem members include Intuit (with QuickBooks Self-Employed), Stride Health, Crowded.com and others. Such an ecosystem seems necessary for the sustainability of the workers in this segment and possibly to fend-off the current government leaning toward reclassifying the work arrangements between online work platform intermediaries and workers that want to remain independent of traditional employment arrangements.
In any event, since the emergence of Uber’s classification issues with the mainstream public consciousness over the past year or so, it has become clear that platform-based work intermediation will be a significant part of how work is arranged between businesses or consumers and a growing segment of workers — and most likely a source of controversy and public debate. However, such is the path of many innovations that society eventually embraces and adopts — often in some evolved form — as a value creator for all exchange participants. Correspondingly, because innovations lead us down a path that has not been tread before, we can only follow and see where things go.
Be on the lookout for a future Spend Matters perspective piece on the on-demand workforce.