The gig-economy has proven a point that few had foreseen. Now, a company can plausibly be serviced by non-permanent staff and remain functional. This trend is reshaping many companies and demonstrating that just about everyone, it seems, can be outsourced.
It's not traditionally out of character for some finance functions to be run partly on a “gig" basis; for a long time, book-keepers have often been employed on contract. External auditors and accountants may also be a part of the ongoing practical functions of a small to medium sized company.
However, the current trend is for outsourcing to extend into a wide range of other roles and functions throughout the finance team.
C-suiters can be gigged
Some highly placed C-suite men and women who lost their jobs in the global financial crisis now work as experts for hire, through online contract players such as Expert 360, Matchboard and Commtract.
Now, there is talk of the advent of the outsourced chief finance officer, which has sometimes been called the virtual, consulting or outsourced CFO.
Virtual CFO Michael Stapleton says an outsourced CFO will use the information recorded in the company's accounts to help the business make informed decisions. From there, the business owner can identify which parts of their business are operating well and which might need attention.
“Outsourced CFOs usually help the business owner prioritise important tasks," Stapleton says. “They will build a financial model of the business and use it to help the owner understand the business's capital needs," he adds.
Stapleton believes there is also something to be said for the non-biased judgement of the contracted-out CFO. He or she may have no “baggage" which might be detrimental to clear-headed business decisions.
“They can identify ways in which capital needs can be reduced and use the business model as a means of comparing different strategies and deciding on the order in which to execute on competing priorities.
“Their focus is 20 per cent to 40 per cent on where the business is placed financially, and 60 to 80 per cent on where the business is heading," he says.
Ian Torrance, CFO at workforce management company Deputy, says the term 'gig economy' needs to be completely redefined.
“I would argue that the gig economy is largely misunderstood, I prefer to refer to it as the 'instant gratification' economy," says Torrance. “Essentially, Australians are increasingly expecting to be working where we want and when we want. This shift spans all industries, including the finance sectors."
Outside the nine-to-five spectrum
The emergence of the gig economy means that many businesses are having to shift their operations and take into account their employees' choices on how they prefer to get their work done. As a result, a greater portion of work is happening outside of the traditional nine-to-five schedule across many industries including in the finance sector.
“The creation of digital talent platforms also means that there is a growing number of workers who are now choosing to work independently for one or more employer at any given time," says Torrance.
Where previously professionals in industries like accounting, insurance and banking were restricted to very traditional work 'experience,' these jobs are becoming increasingly personalised to the preferences of employees and to their preferences as to when, where and how they want to work, he says.
As the core nature of the workforce shifts to be more in line with an on-demand expectation, employers could consider how they might re-think the way they manage their employees.
For example, the business may make changes to their operations and processes which allow employees to work directly from home. This could potentially bring about big shifts to financial inflows and outflows, as well as working methodology. The business may be able to release space, save on rent, use less heat and light, and generally reduce use of office resources.
On the employee side, there's the convenience of not having to travel, saving on transport costs and the 'feel-good' factor of working in a more congenial and arguably less interrupted home environment.
Employers, of course, could potentially have to pay for some of the changes – that might mean providing various software and technology products to the home-based employee.
An interesting question to consider is: could an enterprise bargaining agreement be structured to increase productivity by providing employees home-based options, thus giving the employees greater freedom and involving less personal costs to them for transport to and from work?
If it's possible to quantify transformations to morale, productivity and overall employee engagement, the arguments for embarking on a strategy to improve work-from-home options may outweigh spurious objections.
Tech solutions to everything
Technological solutions are becoming key to managing employees and ensuring safe, easy administration of employment-related tasks, from rostering to payroll, says Torrance.
There are apps that empower both businesses and employees to manage shifts from their smartphones. Employees can work when they want, and businesses gain back the administration time usually spent on team management.
“It's a win-win situation," he says.
“The good virtual CFOs will also educate business owners on how to use their information, and how to understand and anticipate the likely cash flow effect of different business decisions and events. They give business owners financial confidence."
Nevertheless, there can be concerns over whether this leads to a less cohesive organisation.
“If you want someone to train your staff so they can do their own financial modelling, then you will find these people in the gig economy as well," he says.
He recommends checking out organisations like Model Citzn, and Plum Solutions for examples of gig economy participants providing both financial modelling resources as well as training resources.
“If you want to develop your staff beyond technicians and into leaders then you can find these resources in the gig economy as well."
- The roles first associated with the 'gig economy' are shifting almost daily.
- An outsourced CFO may lack the baggage of their in-house predecessor and might make judgements based on fairly straightforward financial data.
- Changes in the nature of work for both 'gigged' and non-gigged employees may prompt a rethink in work patterns.