Scheduling in the ‘Gig Economy’

Go Lean Commentary

“There’s work at the Post Office Too” – Grandmother character in 1987 Movie Hollywood Shuffle; see Appendix.

That iconic line from this 30-year movie is mindful of the transformation taking place in the modern American economy. Despite all the changes in technologies and habits, there is always “honorable” work available in the service industry. Any reference to the Post Office of 1987 can be replaced today with the Gig Economy.

Gig Economy?

Oh yes, this is all the rage! This is the future! This is now! The Gig Economy refers to …

… an environment in which temporary positions are common and organizations contract with independent workers for short-term engagements. The trend toward a Gig Economy has begun. A study by [financial software company] Intuit predicted that by 2020, 40 percent of American workers would be independent contractors. – Source

This trend now needs to come to the Caribbean as we need jobs …

  • Full-time jobs
  • Part-time jobs
  • Gigs

See the Press Release here of the planning and organization dynamics needed to manage the Gig Economy. This Press Release is from the American company Aspect Software; they are the world’s leading enterprise cloud contact center & workforce optimization solution. See an excerpt here:

Title: Scheduling in the Gig Economy
By: Mike Bourke, Aspect Software SVP & General Manager for Workforce Optimization

In 50 cities across the U.S., Amazon is supplementing their USPS deliveries at times of peak demand using drivers contracting directly with Amazon in a program called Amazon Flex. Tapping for-hire drivers, each batch of deliveries is essentially a “gig” in the quickly growing trend of the Gig Economy. Popularized by Uber and Lyft, the Gig Economy pairs independent, on-demand contractors with organizations for short-term engagements. With Amazon Flex, the company uses a mobile app for drivers to post their personal preferred schedules, which can include very short availability windows. Amazon then displays available “blocks” of time for making deliveries. The driver selects a block, and at the designated time, goes to the local pickup location to start deliveries.

Other industries are quickly catching on for services such as furniture moving, dog walking and at-home makeup styling and the contact center isn’t far behind.

In the contact center, you can think of customer contacts as representing the work to be done (or the packages to be delivered in the case of Amazon). The times when customer contacts arrive and are completed create the opportunities when Gigs are available for contact center employees. Historically, most contact center agents have been employed as regular 40 hour/week full-time employees, even though their schedules might be erratic as call volumes rise and fall throughout the week. However, that history is yielding to pressures from many different directions that point to a very different future for a sizeable percentage of the agent population. Consider the following factors that make the Gig Economy attractive for agents and businesses.

Mutual Benefits of the Gig Economy

  • Businesses Reduce Expenses – Using independent contractors in the contact center or any other type of business, can reduce the cost of employees by 30% because the employer is not required to pay benefits such as payroll taxes, worker’s comp insurance, unemployment insurance, vacation time or health benefits.
  • Employees Can Work-at-Home – The Gig Economy is already in full swing in some segments of the contact center industry. The 25% annual growth of work-at-home (WAH) agents is nothing short of spectacular and is a bellwether for the future of the contact center industry.  Offering both the ability to work remotely and part-time, WAH could be the future of the contact center industry.  With the growing adoption of telecommuting in many businesses, why not for agents?  WAH also creates part-time work for a whole segment of the population with physical disabilities, childcare issues or poor commuting options.  With more part-time workers, contact centers also have a more agile workforce that can ramp up and down quickly, matching contact center staffing to call volumes   WAH has huge momentum, and its growth will help make part-time contact center work commonplace.
  • Businesses Can Access Specialized Skills – In the past few years, technology has finally advanced to the point where it is a good substitute for a human conversation. And since 81% of customers prefer self-service to agent assisted service, the simpler work will eventually go to automated self-service, and only the more complex tasks will go to agents. Studies show that 95% of agents are only willing to drive up to 30 minutes to work.  For more specialized skills, contact centers may need to reach out beyond that current geographic boundary, further stimulating the need for part-time work-at-home agents.
  • Employees Get Flexible Schedules – Millennials have surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation, and contact centers are rife with them. It’s well known that Millennials dearly value their work-life balance, and that means that they want to easily flex their work schedules around their personal lives.  Many value complete control over their work schedule above a higher income and/or benefits, and that’s the perfect profile of an Uber driver or part-time contact center agent.
  • Businesses Can Manage Volume Spikes – Millennials are also, “always on”. They literally sleep with their cell phones, and their need to be always connected makes them perfectly accessible for notifications about unpredictable contact center “gigs” when volumes spike.  The contact center can reach out to them anytime concerning a few hours of potential work with a good chance that the receiving Millennial got the message on his or her cell phone and read it.

Implications for Workforce Management Software
To empower agents with this flexibility and control while still meeting the needs of the business, the contact center needs to adopt new WFO tools, training, infrastructure, recruiting and management practices.  This new model for labor participation especially requires a new set of contact center workforce management processes and associated technologies optimized for the quality of the service you want to deliver to customers.

The forecasting portion of WFM remains essentially the same in the Gig Economy.  We still need to accurately predict the level of demand for staff for each type of work.  But scheduling of individuals for the work predicted is quite different.  We need new work rules such as:

  • What is the minimum length of a work session? It takes a few minutes to connect to contact control and CRM and other necessary systems, and some amount of time to successfully resolve a customer’s contact as well as do any wrap up work. For example, if your average contact handling time is 14 minutes, you won’t want to allow employees to end up with a work session that is only 10 minutes long.
  • How much time-off must be allowed between work sessions? There is a cost to disconnecting from systems and connecting again and mentally getting up to speed to successfully work with customers.
  • What is the maximum allowable time that can be worked per day and week? In the Gig Economy, we must manage this issue as well based on regional employment limitations.

These rules then determine the inventory of blocks of time (or gigs) that can be offered to each agent.

In the traditional world of agent scheduling, agents have wanted predictable schedules with fixed shifts.  Schedules would remain the same every day for a known period of time.  Usually, customer volumes would change faster than the ability of these inflexible blocks to adapt, so contact centers would often need to overstaff to preserve SLAs.  In the Gig Economy world, the workforce management system makes available shorter schedule blocks with a wider range of start times from which agents can choose.  An agent can likely find some blocks that work well for his or her desired flexible schedule.  On the flip side, if an agent wants a full 40 hour week, he or she will likely have to pick schedules from some unpopular times.  Likewise, if the business allows agents to work shifts that are irregular and unconventional, there are likely to be gaps in coverage that will need to be filled by requiring inconvenient shifts to be worked by some agents.  Of course, these unpopular times could be more highly compensated if labor laws allow, or they can be gamified, awarding tokens that can be traded in for vacation days or other awards.  Also, peak times may be a target for incentives, and some companies may even require some selection of peak times before selecting other more flexible gig times.

See the remainder of the article here: posted January 12, 2018; retrieved February 7, 2018.
About the Author
Mike Bourke is Aspect’s Senior Vice President and General Manager of Workforce Optimization. Mike is responsible for charting the strategic direction, and continuing the momentum of Aspect’s global workforce optimization suite and continuing the solution’s availability in the Aspect Cloud.

This Press Release identified Amazon … again. They are one of the “early adopters”, movers-and-shakers of the art-and-science of the Gig Economy. Amazon is also a mover-and-shaker in many other areas of job creation. As related in a previous Go Lean commentary, the Amazon model should really be studied by the economic stewards for a new Caribbean. That blog related:

Amazon is not just a giant on the internet, in the areas of electronic commerce. No they are emerging as a giant in the real world as well. The company has over 380,000 employees worldwide and 40,000+ at their Seattle, Washington USA headquarters. That is a BIG corporate presence. In fact, economic analysts had tabulated the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) contribution to Seattle at $US 38 Billion. Wow!

There is always work at the Post Office (USPS) and now Amazon is supplementing their USPS deliveries at times of peak demand by using drivers who contract directly with their Amazon Flex program.

We now have a “clear path” of what we need to do to optimize the Caribbean economic and job-creation engines. “Clear paths” are important ingredients for roadmaps. The book Go Lean…Caribbean serves as a roadmap for the introduction and implementation of the technocratic Caribbean Union Trade Federation (CU) and also the Caribbean Postal Union (CPU), which is modeled after Amazon.

The Go Lean/CU roadmap is designed to elevate the Caribbean’s societal engines starting first with economics (jobs, industrial development and entrepreneurial opportunities). In fact, the following 3 statements are identified as the prime directives of the CU:

  • Optimization of the economic engines in order to grow the regional economy to $800 Billion & create 2.2 million new jobs.
  • Establishment of a security apparatus to protect the resultant economic engines.
  • Improve Caribbean governance to support these other engines.

As related in the foregoing Press Release, to embrace the Gig Economy there is the need to keep an eye on Technology. In the Go Lean book, this dynamic is identified as an “Agent of Change“ in modern society. The Go Lean roadmap also seeks to introduce the tactical use of incubators. This is explained in the book (Page 28) as the process and engagement of programs to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services. We need more expressions of the Gig Economy in our Caribbean region.

Amazon is embracing the Gig Economy. The Caribbean needs to embrace the Gig Economy. The Caribbean needs to follow Amazon’s model and incubate these arts-and-sciences. While Amazon’s modus operandi is not to be an incubator, they have invested heavily in many other tech-related companies and technical concepts, including the Workforce Management products from Aspect Software (highlighted in the foregoing Press Release). While Aspect is not the only provider, following their lead means assimilating advanced concepts, strategies, tactics and implementations. This assimilation means adopting a new “community ethos”. This is what is defined in the Go Lean book as “community ethos”:

  1. The fundamental character or spirit of a culture; the underlying sentiment that informs the beliefs, customs, or practices of a group or society; dominant assumptions of a people or period.
  2. The character or disposition of a community, group, person, etc.

We need this community ethos – and the accompanying technocratic stewardship – in the Caribbean so that we can incubate more and more jobs, especially in the Gig Economy! In total, we can create 2.2 million new jobs.

The 370-pages of the Go Lean book stresses some specific community ethos that the region needs to adopt, plus the strategies, tactics, implementations and advocacies to reform and transform the economic engines of Caribbean society. The required technocratic stewardship for the region’s economic engines was presented early in the book with these opening pronouncements in the Declaration of Interdependence (Page 13 and 14):

xxiv. Whereas a free market economy can be induced and spurred for continuous progress, the Federation must install the controls to better manage aspects of the economy: jobs, inflation, savings rate, investments and other economic principles. Thereby attracting direct foreign investment because of the stability and vibrancy of our economy.

xxvii. Whereas the region has endured a spectator status during the Industrial Revolution, we cannot stand on the sidelines of this new economy, the Information Revolution. Rather, the Federation must embrace all the tenets of Internet Communications Technology (ICT) to serve as an equalizing element in competition with the rest of the world. The Federation must bridge the digital divide and promote the community ethos that research/development is valuable and must be promoted and incentivized for adoption.

The points of effective, technocratic stewardship were further elaborated upon in previous blog-commentaries. Consider this sample of submissions that stressed the eco-systems of job-creation, gigs and incubation: Model of ‘Gig Economy’ – Mother’s Love in Haiti A Lesson in History – Community Incubation for Whaling UberEverything in Africa – Model of ‘Gigs’ Transformations: Caribbean Postal Union – Delivering the Future Model of ‘Gig Economy’ – Entrepreneurism in Junk AirBnB ‘Gig Economy’ Options Materializing Facebook’s advances for e-Commerce payments

In addition, previous blog-commentaries also elaborated on the business model of Amazon. See these samples as follows: Amazon: Then and Now Amazon Opens Search for HQ2 Big Tech’s Amazon – The Retailers’ Enemy Retail Apocalypse – Preparing for the Inevitable Death of the ‘Department Store’: Exaggerated or Eventual Thanksgiving & American Commerce – Past, Present and Amazon Model of an E-Commerce Fulfillment Company: Amazon

For the Caribbean, let’s pay attention to Amazon, and the development of the Gig Economy. Let’s do the Gig Economy. Let’s incubate!

Let’s lean-in and learn how incubator programs are structured by community stewards to create jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities. We need them … here at home! We need them now!

The lessons we learned will help us elevate from our past dysfunctions and build a better future. We must learn, if we want to make our homelands better places to live, work and play. This is our quest! 🙂

Download the free e-book of Go Lean … Caribbean – now!

Sign the petition to lean-in for the roadmap for the Caribbean Union Trade Federation.


Appendix VIDEO – Movie: Hollywood Shuffle (1987) Clip –

Published July 24, 2015 – About the movie

An actor limited to stereotypical roles because of his ethnicity, dreams of making it big as a highly respected performer. As he makes his rounds, the film takes a satiric look at African American actors in Hollywood. Written, produced, directed and starring Robert Townsend, – Source:

Share this post:
, , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *