How Shiftgig CEO Wade Burgess Plans to Scale Gig Worker Adoption in Procurement from Niche Services to Enterprise Platform

on-demand workforce ldprod/Adobe Stock

If there’s anyone qualified to comment on the future of talent acquisition, it’s Wade Burgess.

The former LinkedIn executive and current CEO of Shiftgig has had a front row seat to the disruption of the labor market over the past decade. From the shift to job seeking online to the rise of the gig economy, Burgess has seen and shaped this changing talent landscape, even made it his mission in life to empower professionals and create greater economic opportunity for a broader base of the workforce.

To learn more about how he plans to lead Shiftgig in pursuit of that mission, we sat down with Burgess for a Q&A exploring key changes and trends, challenges faced by large enterprises and how contingent workforce and services procurement professionals can adapt to this changing world of work. 

Andrew Karpie: You recently became the CEO of Shiftgig, after spending nearly 10 years at LinkedIn, where you were vice president of talent solutions, the company’s largest business unit. You've definitely been positioned to see how workforce engagement has been changing. What do you see as the key changes and trends?

Wade Burgess: The way people connect with professional work opportunities has changed drastically over the last 10 years. In the past, finding professional candidates was often a complex and expensive task for companies, especially the higher up the position was. There was also unequal access to work opportunities for people across the globe who shared the same skills.

The way companies connect with temporary workers hasn’t changed materially at scale, but this segment of the workforce is entering the disruption phase that LinkedIn brought to the professional space a decade ago. Both the needs of employers and expectations of temporary workers are very different than they were 10 years ago.

The traditional process of going to temp agencies and job boards with the hopes of finding a position that would eventually turn into a full-time, permanent opportunity is being disrupted quickly. Companies are looking for more agility and workers are seeking flexibility and choice. In fact, the term “gig worker” didn’t even exist until a few years ago. This segment of the workforce is about to change quickly.

In today’s world of temporary labor, workers increasingly seek optionality and often have no intention of being captive to one employer. This is one of the biggest workforce trends today. The freelance or gig economy is the evolution of people who want to be in control of not only their careers but how they spend their time. Termed gig workers, freelancers or independent contractors, this workforce wants choice, control and freedom to work when, where and how they want.

AK: And where does Shiftgig fit into all of this?

This trend toward temporary workers is also being driven by companies in their desire for agility and having their labor demands met in real-time. Today, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hire full-time employees all over the world, and tapping into a contingent workforce can help companies ensure their work is still getting done.

Shiftgig saw an opportunity to lean into this trend early on by connecting the gig economy workforce with the businesses who are looking for more agility. Our mobile technology platform is able to quickly and efficiently match workers with the opportunities they are qualified for. By tapping into on-demand work, people are more empowered to take control of their daily lives and companies are able to be more agile in their operations.

AK: I've been following Shiftgig for a few years now, and I know the business originally focused on SMBs in verticals like food services, hospitality and events, gradually moving up market to serve larger enterprises. How do you see your experience supporting that direction, and what opportunities do you see for Shiftgig?

WB: When I first started at LinkedIn, there were fewer than 200 employees and we were still a relatively young company. Fast-forward to the end of my time at LinkedIn and I was leading a team of thousands globally as the vice president of talent solutions. So, you can imagine how much changed over the nine years I was with the company. The experiences I encountered during that time are helping me navigate Shiftgig to find the areas where we can make the most impact in the gig economy.

The human capital space is a game of scale, especially in talent acquisition. Like any marketplace, getting the supply and demand balance right is essential. In order for Shiftgig to empower the gig worker with as many quality options as possible, as quickly as possible, we will scale in the enterprise space rapidly. Creating liquidity of supply and demand in the enterprise space will lay the foundation for SMBs and self-serve clients to tap into this well-populated marketplace, as well. Our platform is built to reduce the friction of connecting talent and opportunity, and if we can help companies do this on a large scale, it’s a win for everyone.

AK: I suppose the question can also be flipped. What kinds of enterprise businesses can use Shiftgig and in what ways? What kinds of benefits can they expect? 

WB: Large enterprises need to be able to hire quickly, scale up and down as seasonality and volatility fluctuate, and to have real-time visibility into talent management. By using an on-demand technology platform, they are able to quickly and efficiently fill their labor demands in real time. Today, Shiftgig supports many different industries, including administrative, experiential marketing, foodservice, hotels and hospitality, retail and warehouse.

AK: In some ways, Shiftgig performs serves the same function as a temporary staffing business. But in many ways, it's really a very different model. Enterprise businesses — in particular, their procurement groups — are organized around traditional staffing suppliers. What do you think it will take for enterprise businesses and procurement to really leverage the kind of solution that Shiftgig provides?

WB: The efficiency and agility that using on-demand technology offers is what will ultimately help enterprises decide to leverage a solution like Shiftgig. Businesses are already under a lot of pressure to cut costs and ensure they are operating efficiently, which starts with hiring.

When new technologies and tools become available, early adopters have a unique advantage, and it’s often those organizations with forward-thinking operators who drive superior results. And once these results are more broadly evident, the early majority stage begins. Personally, I’m excited to be on the front end of another S-curve, and love the energy and challenges in this phase of technology disruption

AK: Do you have any specific suggestions or recommendations for contingent workforce and services procurement practitioners?

WB: Start now, if you haven’t already. Currently, 34% of the U.S. workforce is a part of the gig economy and by 2020, research estimates it growing to 43% of the workforce. The way in which people find work and want to work is changing, and the more ready your business is, the better.

Another recommendation is to assess the work that your company needs to get done on a case by case basis. Doing so will allow you to determine if the job is meant for a full-time employee or if it could be done by a contingent worker. Accurately making these assessments is key in making sure your business is agile and working efficiently.

Finally, investing in culture and workplace experience will become even more important. As your organization brings in contingent workers, assure they have a similar experience as your full time employees enjoy. While contingent workers may not be permanent, employer branding will continue to be important as you’ll want to maintain favorability as a workplace of choice. Building a strategy to blend all types of workers will help create good company culture and allow work to be done more efficiently.

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