Podcast: The Place For Gig Economy in Government

Future of Work Podcast, Episode 4

In this episode, Scott Wiseman and Joe Bielawski of Knowledge Services discuss how the gig economy is helping the government to staff up, push projects forward, and increase efficiency—and the opportunities this may offer to job seekers with disabilities.

This podcast is developed in partnership with Workology.com as part of PEAT's Future of Work series, which works to start conversations around how emerging workplace technology trends are impacting people with disabilities.​

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Transcript

Welcome to the Workology podcast, a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader. Join host Jessica Miller-Merrell, founder of Workology.com as she sits down and gets to the bottom of trends tools and case studies for the business leader, HR and recruiting professional who is tired of the status quo. Now here's Jessica with this episode of Workology.

Jessica: ​[00:00:26] ​Welcome to a new series on the Workology podcast we are kicking off that focuses on the future of work. This series is in collaboration with the partnership. Unemployment and accessible technology or PEAT. You can learn more about PEAT. PEAT works out of work. We've talked about the growth of the gig economy which according to CNN Money is expected to be 43 percent by 2020. We think a TaskRabbit workers left drivers in corporate contract and freelance workers. These are also all happening in the private sector. But my question is what's happening in the public sector. How are governments embracing the gig economy. That's exactly what we're going to be talking about today as part of our future of work series. We're taking a look at the changes happening in the public and government sectors with contract contingent and gig workers. Today I'm joined with Scott Wiseman and Joe Bielawski both of knowledge services Scott and Joe. Welcome to the Workology podcast.

Joe and Scott: ​[00:01:23] ​Thank you very much.

Jessica: ​[00:01:25] ​I'll start with you first Joe. Can you talk a little bit more about your background and what Knowledge Services is all about?

Joe: ​[00:01:31] ​Sure sure. And to begin. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you this morning and for for all that PEAT organization is doing and my background at work and staffing and workforce development for over 23 years. And after designing and developing a DOT staff which is our cloud based workforce management solution we launched it in 2003 and ten years ago decided to focus exclusively on governments. Today we have over 500 state and local agencies and departments utilizing our solutions and services to better serve their citizens.

Jessica: ​[00:02:09] ​All right let's move over to Scott.

Scott: ​[00:02:11] ​Oh thank you. I'm fortunate enough to have been able to join and capitalize all the hard work that

Joe and his team have done over the last year that I've spent the last 19 years supporting workforce initiatives inside a state government and found a home here with that organization is really committed to supporting states.

Jessica: ​[00:02:30] ​Our focus on today's podcast is a look at the contingent workforce and how persons with disabilities particularly can thrive in these environments. Can you talk to me about the growth and opportunities for people with disabilities when it comes to project based work in the public sector?

Scott: ​[00:02:45] ​Yeah, and you know the public sector organizations and I hope that some of them are struggling with attracting and retaining talent. And your philosophy to them I think opening up more opportunities for disabled persons helps them to close some of the gap that they have in being able to get the best talent. And I think it works both ways when you think about it from a contingent workforce standpoint it gives a disabled person a great opportunity to explore opportunities in government and figure out if it's the right thing for them.

Jessica: ​[00:03:21] ​Why do you think contract labor growth is important for the continued success in government and the public industries?

Joe: ​[00:03:28] ​Sure. And as we see it in working with government there are private sector as well. There are regulatory and economical and quite frankly generational driven changes that that have and will continue to force organizations of all types to evolve. And I would argue evolve very quickly. Some of these fundamental changes apply to both the private sector and government entities. But others are specific to government. They include co-employment risks and worker comp insurance costs and the Affordable Care Act on the growth and ever increasing health care costs and the Department of Labor's proposed 30 hour per week minimum wage requirements and the acceptance of the explosive growth in the gig economy or the sharing economy are just a few of the challenges. And I would say opportunities that must be addressed. But in addition to those challenges governments are faced with even greater challenges including an inability to adapt quickly to the changing workforce demands whether it's embracing a proven and accepted technology or offering flexible work environments. Governments are falling further and further behind because of the rapid change in our environment and competing for available talented workers. So governments are forced to do more with less right. I mean we hear and read that every day. Budget constraints are affecting worker compensation and benefits retirement plans have changed significantly and in the last 10 or 15 years for most all government entities because they're now slow to adopt technologies most millennials are afraid to work in government for fear that they're going to be left behind. So combining an aging and retiring workforce with the fact that the average workforce in 15 years will be mostly millennials and this is a group a generation that was educated on iPads not paper and pencil. The fact that they're going to make up the majority of the U.S. workforce. Governments aren't going to be forced to consider alternatives to how things have been done in the past and embrace new models that the private industry is very -- has proven to be very quick to adopt.

Jessica: ​[00:05:57] ​I liked that because it seems that government is a little bit slow to change, right and so workers can really help make them scale and staff quickly. They can be a little bit more flexible in their workforce strategies.

Scott: ​[00:06:16] ​Well, that's exactly the key and if if they don't we believe and most of those that analyze workforce trends and government is going to be almost impossible for government to retain. Many of these agencies are seeing today 40-45-50 percent attrition rates. If you can imagine a private institution or a private company dealing with half of their workforce leaving every year and trying to resolve it through recruiting and training and supervision of a workforce that is a challenge. Twelve months from now it's just not sustainable so we think that the gig economy can help. We think contract workforce in the right circumstances and with the right protections is a mechanism a proven mechanism in private industry but it's one that government has begun to accept and we believe we'll see it with an ever increasing scale.

Jessica: ​[00:07:21] ​If you guys look into your crystal ball what do you see as some of the big trends in the future of work and state government?

Scott: ​[00:07:29] ​Sure. So in addition to the issues that we the reasons that we just mentioned and the issues that governments face that they're going to have to embrace and I refer to it as the “on demand workforce” and the reason I phrase it that way is people and certainly those in government I think get very concerned when you hear a gig. Think about unsupervised uncontrolled unmanaged independent contractors that haven't been vetted and so forth. That gig for government is as we refer to it as a net adaptation of a full time workforce with on demand. But with all of the proper vetting and verification and risk mitigation and complement mitigation steps that you would engage if you were going to hire the person full time. So we see that moving very very quickly in government because it is an extension of how governments currently contract with the temporary workforce. The difference is that the temporary workforce is being engaged through your traditional staffing companies where as the on demand workforce is being engaged through private talent clouds so it identified individuals that have specific skills and are grouped and identified by geography and capability and calendar availability to deliver specific services. So that's that's one area that I see significant change. The other is and it might be somewhat of a left turn for the basis of the question but in I.T. development the concept of agile methodology or scrum has been used for many years. And and what we're seeing today in government is agile procurement. Now what does that have to do with the workforce. What we're seeing is with a faster paced smaller bite sized procurement methodologies. The same can be applied and is being applied as it relates to engaging the workforce. So instead of trying to solve the workforce problem with with a sledgehammer it's really a laser focus on specific needs on demand where you needed it where you need services and when you need those services.

Jessica: ​[00:09:56] ​Let's talk about bit of a reset. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell. You're listening to Workology podcast in partnership with PEAT. Today we are talking about the rise of the gig economy in the government sector. And you can connect with my guests Scott Wiseman and Joe Bielawski on LinkedIn and connect with their company on Twitter at knowledge Inc. That's @knowledgeinc. Sponsor: ​[00:10:23] ​The Workology podcast Future of Work series is supported by PEAT. The partnership on employment and accessible technology. PEAT's initiative is to foster collaboration and action around accessible technology in the workplace. PEAT is funded by the U.S. Department of Labor's Office of Disability Employment Policy ODEP. Learn more about PEAT at Peatworks dot org that's PEATw o r k s dot org

Jessica: ​[00:10:51] ​I like gig for government and I also I'm seeing more conversations around agile in a talent acquisition capacity. So it's an interesting observation just not in the private or the public sector it's kind of cutting across as we're trying to streamline our processes a little bit more.

Joe: ​[00:11:09] ​Absolutely. And it's already being won't say embraced that's maybe a little strong but it is being tested and adopted by many state governments. We're beginning to see it in city county municipalities. And I think the federal government agencies must also embrace that kind of agile approach in many areas. But certainly I think and workforce engagement.

Jessica: ​[00:11:37] ​Can you talk a little bit about maybe the structure of some of these projects based work programs for governments and maybe how people with disabilities would be able to fill these project based roles?

Scott: ​[00:11:49] ​Yeah and I you know Joe alluded to a little bit of it you know I'm kind of a gig for government and it's a little bit different than what you might think of in the traditional sense and in private industry or you know when you're Lyfts or AirB&Bs of the world. But traditionally you know this has all been delivered the traditional staffing companies or governments and as Joe alluded to the private talent clouds that will allow that change that existed in the structure the ability to drill down to the specific levels and not have to address problems from a sledgehammer perspective to be able to you know show us that laser focus or chisel into the exact areas. So when you think about structuring the private talent cloud states may have many private talent clouds. Each of them designed to attract the types of resources that they're looking for. So whether that be programs to try to engage disabled persons into the programs or programs targeted towards people with health care skills nursing skills that are therapists to help combat the opioid epidemic. Of opportunities to target the exact type of resources that Joe talked about based on their skill their experience in locations that they are wanting and willing to work within so that you can structure programs that are targeted towards this specific need but also targeted towards specific audiences of workers.

Jessica: ​[00:13:22] ​In the in the case that we have maybe some disabled job seekers who are listening here. What are some of the most popular positions available now for sectors within government for these project based roles that some of these individuals could could fit into?

Scott: ​[00:13:40] ​Yeah. And I think you know there's there's a variety of reasons that governments have traditionally struggled with and they continue to show with more and more information technology opportunities. This is clearly one as states continue to be more and more digital they also are working to be more. They need to design and provide better support citizens who have higher and higher expectations of what government is going to deliver from a technology perspective. There's a lot of opportunities that exist in that information technology space that's an area that workforce has been a consistent challenge and struggle for. Healthcare is a pretty obvious one. We struggle with healthcare in all sectors. And when you have anything that's in high demand that all sectors. It's probably going to be even more of a struggle inside of government because government, quite frankly, doesn't have the best recruiting methods. They're not as agile as adaptable to changes in how people find opportunities in positioning themselves as best they can and in the emphasizing some of the great things about working in government like the opportunity to really make a true impact on people's lives. And then the last area to single out that procurement is going to continue to do more and more things and if they work to do more things on a smaller scale right we want to solve smaller problems without having to have huge solutions expensive solutions that have a lot of risks associated with them. There's more and more small procurements. Well small procurement still have to be run in a way that's consistent with making sure that we deliver the best services to citizens and procurement organizations are strained.

Jessica: ​[00:15:40] ​How do you work to create customized programs for your clients? This is obviously very different than the staffing and workforce models of the past that have been used in government hiring and staffing.

Scott: ​[00:15:52] ​Yes, Jessica you're right about that. You know it's definitely different. And to a degree know some of this is new. Right. So it really requires a partnership. We look at our role as facilitating the success of government in the gig economy. So when we talk about gig for government it's really about reducing those risks clearing up uncertainties that exist around what that means. Private talent clouds are a relatively new thing not just in government but in industry as well. But the fundamental principles behind them of creating pools of resources to be able to draw from for on demand needs. Isn't all that new it's just a new way of doing it and the time the conditions are right to allow for that today. And it really is about that partnership with government to find out how to make it better work best in their environment with their specific considerations. We have 50 states and we all know they all operate very differently and have different concerns. So we have to address those in each instance to make sure that we're delivering the right solution to that state.

Jessica: ​[00:17:10] ​So it's a pretty hands-on intensive conversation and strategy that you're building out for these individual state government entities?

Scott: ​[00:17:20] ​It really does break down to having individual strategies designed not even just statewide but maybe agency by agency in that part of my department to achieve their objectives.

Jessica: ​[00:17:31] ​What do you think the biggest challenges for governments when it comes to contract workers? And any thoughts on how this might impact people with disabilities?

Joe: ​[00:17:39] ​Sure I think simply put it's the perception of limited bandwidth for training and oversight and governance and risk avoidance. And make no mistake about it there. There is limited bandwidth. But all of those challenges if the proper. And I would argue commercially available tools and partners are engaged. Those can be effectively addressed and in fact companies in the private industry are delivering improved services to their customers and clients by adapting to the fast changing workforce challenges in similar ways. With, I would argue very limited additional bandwidth but accomplishing significantly more. So again it is about in our opinion government's willingness to adapt and a very very fast changing environment.

Jessica: ​[00:18:37] ​At the beginning of the podcast interview you mentioned co-employment which is a common conversation or topic in the private sector. How does this co-employment conversation change in government or the public sector when you're hiring contract workers?

Scott: ​[00:18:54] ​Yeah you're right,

Jessica. Co-employment is a real thing that private sector employers and certainly public sector employers have to consider when they're evaluating any types of programs that they're going to implement. And it's one quite frankly that we have been advising state governments local governments higher education institutions for the better part of the last 10 years. And we look at it as you know we're going to eliminate the only way to eliminate co-employment risk is to eliminate all on demand contingent labor staffing resources you have in your environment. And that's not a realistic solution for most organizations or is it the right one. So it's really about mitigating those risks for government and the key is understanding the risks and reacting appropriately. You know there's a lot of overreaction that exists. So what we do is we look at what those real risks are and develop solutions in partnership with our government sponsors to make sure that we're putting them in the best position.

Joe: ​[00:19:57] ​A large part of that is establishing a clear employment relationship. Who do the on-demand gig for government workers work for. Do they know that? Is that well-established and outlined not just in an employment agreement but on the front end when they're going through the application processes and things like that? Another key is avoiding 1099 designations except where expressly explicitly appropriate. So we follow strictly the IRS is 1099 guidelines and review each state's attorney general's guidelines relative to 1099 designations in their state. Each state applies those a little bit differently to make sure that we don't put our customers in a position of being on the front page of a local newspaper for enforcing 1099 rules and regulations against private companies that they then don't apply to themselves. And then you know really separating the management of the work product in many times and on demand situations the customer is managing the work product that the resources are doing. Well you want to separate that from managing the worker. So our customers are going to manage what resources are doing but they shouldn't be managing the worker. We're going to alleviate that from that alleviate the burden of it and also of course the risk

Jessica: ​[00:21:28] ​In our prep call you made reference to this silver tsunami while I love the term I don't love having a large percentage of our workforce exiting. I don't think that any listener of the podcast is excited about the the mass exodus of our knowledge workers. How does contract or contingent labor address the axing of our experienced boomers who are knowledge workers and what can we do to maybe help train those contract workers who some of them might be persons with disabilities to fill those roles?

Joe: ​[00:22:02] ​Sure, and we believe the silver tsunami effect is exactly where those with disabilities can probably help most experienced workers with significant as you said institutional knowledge are expected to retire at really a staggering velocity, so creating an environment and a culture for embracing those with significant capabilities that you happen to have disabilities really have to be they have to be identified and attracted. Statistically speaking a meaningful or very significant number of contract workers for government eventually become full time employees. In many ways it's I'll say try before you buy, but it is a it's a knowledge transfer process and a validation of capabilities and that's that's one of the acknowledged benefits of a contingent contract for the on-demand workforce in the private and in the government sector. So I think it aligns very very closely with the silver tsunami.

Jessica: ​[00:23:13] ​Joe and Scott thank you for joining us today. Where can people go to learn more about you and what you do?

Joe: ​[00:23:19] ​Well on behalf of the now it services team and frankly all the federal state and local government entities that you serve and that we serve. Just wanted to thank you for your time this morning all that PEAT is doing and the opportunity to share with the followers what Knowledge Services is doing. Certainly more information accessed at our Web site which is knowledgeservices.com or any followers that wish to reach out to Scott or me directly. More than happy to speak with them.

Jessica: ​[00:23:50] ​I think it's interesting how many similarities but also differences and challenges government sector has. When it comes to the gig economy and really the changing workforce it's nice to see that maybe we are all that different. However I think it's important for us to really sit down think about this and plan whatever sector you're in the gig workforce the contract worker the freelance economy is here and it's here to stay. Thank you for joining the Workology podcast a podcast for the disruptive workplace leader who's tired of the status quo. This is Jessica Miller-Merrell. Until next Workology Podcast​.

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