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​Data: The gig economy – four retailers on why it’s the future | Data

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Christmas is over and, as businesses pore over data to gauge what worked, 2020: The Year of the Gig Economy suggests now is the time for retailers to review their workforce strategies to combat margin pressures and battle against the shrinking pool of directly employed workers.

The report from Retail Week, produced in association with Catapult, highlights government findings from August 2019 that retail and wholesale have the highest number of vacancies of all industries across the UK economy (133,000 vacant positions).

To improve staff retention and address hiring woes, the report explores the gig economy as a possible solution for retailers.

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Several retailers are already capitalising on the gig economy, now accounting for 4.7 million workers in the UK, to match labour demand and improve their bottom lines.

We’ll highlighted two retail case studies from the report below. View the four case studies in full via the report here.

Meet the retailers benefiting from the gig economy

Planet Organic

Engaging a shared workforce has enabled British supermarket chain Planet Organic to drive “strong sales productivity” and considerably reduce its fixed labour costs.

Planet Organic says it began using flexible staff after struggling to fill vacancies and losing staff due to them feeling “overworked”. By bringing in flexible workers through shared workforce app Catapult, it was able to reduce the time its managers spent on recruiting part-time staff.

The company’s approach was piloted in three London stores, with flexible workers covering three- to four-hour shifts in its food-to-go areas, alongside working on tills.

“Using flexible workers resulted in a 50% reduction in staff turnover within six months of implementation at Planet Organic’s Tottenham Court Walk store”

Planet Organic head of human resources Nic Porter estimated the cost of hiring one team member to be around £870, but said using a flexible workforce allowed the company to slash recruitment costs and free up time.

For instance, the business reports that, at its Tottenham Court Walk store, using flexible workers resulted in a 50% reduction in staff turnover within six months of implementation.

Marks & Spencer

M&S employed a staggering 20,000 flexible workers across Q4 2018 – almost a quarter additional staff to the number of permanent employees it had at the time (80,787).

It has also refocused who the store associate of today needs to be by placing an emphasis on recruiting hard-working, customer-focused people over those with retail experience.

Discussing its flexible staff recruitment at the time, M&S retail, operations and property director Sacha Berendji said: “Retail experience is helpful, but what we’re really after are colleagues who are ready to be part of a hard-working team and help make every moment special for our customers.”

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Want to join these retailers and be part of the in-store workforce revolution? 

Read the free report today to uncover:

  • How digital transformation is impacting frontline staffing
  • More case studies from retailers such as Amazon using shared workforces to drive ROI
  • What the gig economy and zero-hours contracts really mean for retailers and the true benefit to the bottom line
  • Why technology and training is changing who the frontline store associate of today needs to be – and how your business can get in on the action.

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The Music Dies for Poland’s Gig Economy Workers

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There was a time when the ruling right-wing Law and Justice party (PiS) was seen as the champion of those relying on flexible forms of employment. Five years ago, when it came to power, it declared it would abolish “junk” contracts.

But critics say all PiS has done is to introduce a minimum hourly rate for casual workers to match minimum rates for employees on full contracts.

“It takes more time for the labour market to totally get out of these types of contracts,” said Wojciech Zubowski, PiS deputy chairman of the parliament’s economy and development committee. “Besides, for many people who don’t want to be associated with one company, this kind of employment is simply suitable.”

In recent years, Poland has seen economic growth and budget surpluses thanks in part to a buoyant global economic outlook and austerity reforms brought in by PiS’s predecessors. Poland’s unemployment rate hit a record low of 2.9 per cent in January. 

But critics say PiS has squandered the conditions it inherited. Instead of reforming the chaotic labour market, it has overseen a dramatic increase in social spending.

It introduced a “13th” and then a “14th” month of annual pension payments and one-off gifts of around 70 euros for school pupils. It also brought in an immensely popular subsidy of 110 euros a month for each child, regardless of a family’s income, which has cost taxpayers 18.5 billion euros since 2016.

Critics say PiS has also distributed money among loyalists in the public media, government agencies and bureaucracy — sectors that are key to the party’s grip on power — though PiS denies it.

“In times of prosperity, PiS has neither made serious investments nor savings,” said Katarzyna Lubnauer, a member of the Modern party, which along with Civic Platform, the main opposition party, forms the Civic Coalition alliance in parliament.

“So now there are relatively few funds that can be allocated to saving the economy.”

In times of prosperity, PiS has neither made serious investments nor savings. So now there are relatively few funds that can be allocated to saving the economy.

– Katarzyna Lubnauer, the Modern party

While Lubnauer faults PiS for not reorganising the labour market, she said for some workers it was a conscious choice to work on non-standard contracts, which offered them flexibility and exemption from paying social contributions.

But “what worked in times of prosperity becomes a burden in the crisis”, Lubnauer added.

Meanwhile, singer Marcin Januszkiewicz wonders if he will ever play a concert again as social distancing looks more and more like the new normal.

Whatever happens, though, he is trying to stay upbeat.

“The thought that we’re all together facing some unknown disaster rather builds me up,” he said.



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Help is on the way for Uber, Lyft drivers and other gig workers as economy sputters

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“That shift in the economy, we’re not going back, so I think hey, when we get through this people are going to be renting out rooms again and sharing their vehicles and participating in opportunities. So I don’t think there’s any necessarily turning back on the gig economy, I think it was such a shock to the system of many folks that were participating in it that saw this as their full time job. And there really isn’t a nice safety net, although some of the programs may be addressing and supporting them,” Goldberg said.

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Collaborations helping gig economy survive COVID-19

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Multiple partnerships between local governments and private businesses in the gig economy space are playing an important role in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, a report by the Ola Mobility Institute (OMI), ‘Leveraging and Protecting the Gig Economy against COVID-19 has said. 

The report says such collaborations between governments and businesses has resulted in the government recognising the potential of gig workers in this crisis, by two non-fiscal strategies, i.e. by actively involving the technological capability of the platforms and their logistical networks (hands-on approach), and passively facilitating their operations through legal protection (hands-off approach). The agility of businesses implies fewer challenges to staffing their gig workforce, while also providing remunerative opportunities to gig workers, it said. 

In India, this collaboration has been seen as platforms such as Flipkart, Uber and Big Basket are partnering with each other in multiple cities to provide delivery of essentials.  

It calls for a collective effort to strengthen social partnership with platform companies to fast-track the recovery process from the COVID-19 crisis. Gig workers and platforms must be leveraged to better manage the crisis, fast-track recovery.

It also discusses steps to protect gig workers that have been taken by the new-age platforms and the governments. New businesses are strengthening safety measures, adapting to the new work environment, providing health access to all, expanding paid leave, and taking steps to secure the livelihoods of players in the gig economy. It also says that governments across the world have also announced multiple policy measures to minimise the human and economic impact of COVID-19, and particularly protect the gig workers.

Speaking on the report, Carson Dalton, Senior Director, Ola Mobility Institute said, “COVID-19 is an unprecedented crisis of our time. Under these extraordinary circumstances, gig workers and platform companies are adapting quickly and leveraging their workforce to ensure transportation services, delivery of essential commodities and medicines are available to the most vulnerable populations.” 

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