What happens when work becomes a hobby?

By Derek Irvine

Compensation Cafe logoRecognize This! — In the gig economy, a growing portion of people are working for reasons other than pay. That could mean big shifts for how companies motivate and attract workers in the future.

The gig economy has gotten quite a bit of press recently, as the popularity of technology-enabled platforms has made it easier than ever for people to find and get paid for gigs. The most popular options continue to be ride hailing and online tasks, but the sector is growing to include ad-hoc project work, professional services, and even personal help.

Although the gig economy is still relatively small in comparison to the traditional economy (approximately 8% or so), the dynamics of gig work could end up having a large impact on the ongoing evolution of the employer-employee relationship. Compounding the issue is the rise in automation and machine learning that is spreading from industrial settings to service and knowledge-based jobs.

As I wrote in this post on Compensation Cafe, one of the more striking shifts has been toward a growing segment of workers that participate in the labor market because of reasons other than pay – referred to as “hobbyists.” They seek out opportunities to socialize or have fun, or simply have a desire to do something productive with their time.

The idea of working human is deeply resonant with this approach to gig work – prioritizing a sense of belonging and meaning over pay (although adequate compensation is still vital). There are also implications for the changing landscape of how businesses and HR leaders will need to adapt to this shifting mindset among workers.

Below are some of the biggest implications, summarized from my original post, as some of these changes spread outside of the gig economy:

  • Increasing pressure on organizations to create positive work experiences that can attract and engage these workers, as a solution to high rates of churn and an unpredictable supply of talent over time.

  • Shifting focus away from traditional attractors, such as benefits and employee perks, to leverage more fluid and immediate aspects of their rewards portfolios, such as social recognition.

  • Continuing evolution of performance, balancing the need for one-off gigs with repeat or ongoing work, concurrent with a greater emphasis on continuous performance conversations.

What are some other implications for employees and employers when work becomes less like work and more like a hobby?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

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