Irregular employment is proving unstoppable. America needs a model that works for everyone. That requires a new kind of market for hourly labor.
Our 5 takeaways for workforce directors:
1) Meet Your Irregulars
About 20% of work-seekers in any region can’t commit to regular hours because of complexities in their life. Others are no longer offered them.
New scheduling systems like WC8 can call staff in, and send them home, day-by-day, hour-by-hour, in line with each employer’s needs. Even in 2017, 41% of American’s hourly employees didn’t know next week’s hours or pay. They are scrabbling for hours elsewhere when not needed by a primary employer.
A surge in people seeking ad-hoc work has created opportunity for aggressive “gig work” platforms. They routinely slash pay, see for example reporting on Shipt, Lyft, Uber, Doordash, Instacart, AmazonFlex, or TaskRabbit. They also mislead work-seekers, distort the market against workers, withhold data, systematically undermine regulation, and invest heavily to overturn worker rights.
2) Systematic Support
In the 1930’s, staffing agencies were as exploitative as today’s “gig” platforms. Public agencies could have opted for whack-a-mole legislation to curb abuses. Instead, they created an alternative; public labor exchanges. Now rebadged as America’s Job Centers, those 2,400 exchanges still have bipartisan support.
When job-seeking moved online, so did the principle that public agencies need to provide infrastructure for a healthy labor market. Every state workforce agency commissions its own all-sectors job-match system. Platforms like CalJobs, Employ Florida, or Indiana Career Connect compete with for-profit services such as Indeed.com or Monster.com.
Now the Public Workforce System is beginning to extend services to taxpayers with complex lives who aren’t lucky enough to have regular work availability.
These diverse individuals need a platform for all types of hourly labor across their region that is built around protections, control for the person, supportive interventions, progression, and pathways to full time (if that’s what they want). In the regional economy, overheads of booking top-up labor need to fall as wages rise and workforce quality and alignment demonstrably increases.
3) Implementation in your area
There are two categories of fluid work:
- At-home freelancing: Designers and lawyers can pull projects off sites like Guru.com, then complete them in their own time and chosen location.
- Out-of-home: Someone whose skills equip them to work in shops, restaurants, care homes, building sites, or warehouses have specific places and times for their work.
Our focus is the second group. But big buyers of this labor use one-sided monopsony scheduling systems. They will resist a platform that empowers workers.
However, the biggest aggregated buyer of flexible labor in any region is government. Services like childcare, community health, Parks & Rec., street workers, school support staff, emergency response teams, and transportation deploy thousands of people at times of need. Putting that demand through a new platform dedicated to economic growth, data gathering, and an inclusive labor market, can kickstart activity that eventually entices the corporates.
America’s workforce boards are driven by 6 performance metrics governing their federal funding. Those assume job-creation and retention as priorities. People who need work to fit around their complex lives aren’t served. Workforce directors increasingly accept this needs to change. Irregular workers merit support because:
- Marginalization: Out-of-home irregular employment skews heavily towards communities of color, women and the lowest income households. Data and tools to underpin targeted interventions can provide support around personalized periods of work.
- Labor shortages: Irregulars are the hidden workforce. They don’t show in the data, and aren’t enrolled for workforce services. But they are typically among your most resourceful residents because of the challenges they face. You want them visible for employers.
- Economic growth: Bringing people in non-standard employment into the mainstream local labor market increases their income. It curtails the off-the-books economy locally.
- Job conversion: As life circumstances change, many irregulars seek full time work. A platform with personalized pathways to jobs helps them out of irregularity.
- Responsive public services: Community health, support for the unhoused, childcare, and other services benefit from inducted workers with lived experience who may themselves also receive support. Facilities like Peer Navigators can be particularly effective. → more
5) About us
The Beyond Jobs program is part of a non-profit that emerged from British government programs to support anyone marginalized in labor markets. We launched our platform with 20 city governments before being made a keystone of national government’s plans to overhaul welfare. As that wider project slowed, we offered the technology internationally.
Americanized with funding from Annie Casey, Kauffman, Walmart, Wells Fargo, and Irvine Foundations, GoodFlexi is now also launched by public agencies in California. We are based within the Long Beach workforce board. After piloting in childcare, the city is expanding it across sectors. In 2023 our platform is spreading to regions including Chicago, Portland (Or), Alameda County (CA), and Louisville (KY) with funding from The Workers’ Lab. The program won US Conference of Mayors’ prize for best community-led development initiative in America.
Extending workforce services beyond jobs to also assist individuals with complex lives should be a pressing priority. Systematic, sustainable, scalable, support has to start with the right kind of platform.
We work with public agencies, funders, educators, labor groups, and other stakeholders around the US.