Gig Myths v Reality w/ Josh Wright, iCIMS Chief Economist


What happens when you put together two meatheads with public school educations and a chief economist with degrees from Yale and Harvard? God help us, we're about to find out. The boys have a nice chat with Josh Wright of iCIMS about the gig economy and the future of work.

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Joel: All right, all right, all right. What's up, everybody? The IQ of this show is going to get to all-time highs today. We're talking to Josh Wright, Chief Economist with iCIMS. My man worked at Bloomberg, the Federal Reserve. He's got degrees from Harvard, Yale.

Chad: He's got chops. He's got chops, dude.

Joel: He's probably very embarrassed to be on this podcast. Josh, welcome to the show. How are you?

Josh: It's great to be with you. I make it a policy not to believe any of my own press or hype.

Joel: So, what did I miss about you that our audience should know?

Josh: Gee, you covered a lot of the highlights. One interesting thing is, before I got into economics, I actually used to work in international peacekeeping missions.

Chad: Oh. That's pretty cool.

Josh: So, a fun fact about me.

Joel: Way to make me feel even worse about myself, Josh. Thanks.

Chad: That's awesome.

Josh: There's a metaphor in there. You know, putting out fires, dealing with chaos, rapid change.

Joel: In my spare time, I save the rhinoceros population of Uganda.

Chad: Ran into a burning building, saved children, many children.

Josh: Okay, yeah.

Chad: No, that's awesome. that's awesome. So Josh, I'm gonna throw this right out to you, right off the bat. iCIMS has a chief economist on staff. Why does iCIMS need a chief economist on staff? We don't really see chief economists really in our industry, so why was it so important for iCIMS to do that?

Josh: Well, one thing you're pointing out is that it's a great point of differentiation. It makes us different from other companies. But also, as the company has grown very rapidly in the last five or 10 years, we have accumulated a large amount of data, but they need domain knowledge. They needed an expert to help them interpret that data. We've got a lot of great technologists here, but not people who have spent the amount of time that I have in trying to understand the macro economy and the labor market from a really high level, and can connect the dots from the trends within the industry, and the trends within the clients' activity and their hiring operations to broader trends in the macro economy, the unemployment rate, that kind of stuff.

Chad: Mm-hmm (affirmative). We have the BLS for that. Do you work with the BLS? Are you providing BLS data, kind of like gap data that they're really not seeing in the market?

Josh: Funny you should ask about that. We actually are in conversation with the BLS about possibly providing them supplementary data, to increase the geographic granularity of some of their reports, or doing some kind of study on ... It could be a running supplement or it could be a one-off study, to help them understand what's going on out there. Because like a lot of areas of the government, the Bureau of Labor and Statistics is under a lot of funding constraints, and they know that they're not likely to see ... Their needs are growing, but they're not likely to see their funds rise commensurate with that.

Joel: Right. We know iCIMS as an applicant tracking solution. They're certainly getting into other things. What we're gonna talk about today is your recent survey on the myths and realities of, I guess the gig economy, or the contingent workforce. Why is iCIMS sort of positioned to talk about this as an ATS, and why did you guys pick this topic to cover?

Josh: Well, without getting too much into the marketing of it, iCIMS has really been expanding the last couple of years from just an applicant tracking system, to being a whole platform for all things talent acquisition. Hiring an economist was part of that, to take a broader view of what are the needs of organizations that are really large, and have really thorny hiring problems. One of the problems out there is how do you understand your total labor expense, your total labor spend, your total human capital acquisition? And understanding what's going on in the gig economy is a key part of that.

Joel: And based on the survey, you guys are gonna get more into providing services for hiring and managing contingent workforces, although you're probably not prepared to talk about that.

Josh: Like I said, I've gone about as far as I can go in the marketing for the product road map. I've got some wonderful colleagues that I can point you towards.

Joel: Fair enough, Josh.

Chad: Cool. Well, let's jump into the report. I mean, we're talking myths versus realities of the gig economy. So, myth number one. Let's have some conversation around this. People usually start taking gigs or contingent work as a short-term solution, to get a foot in the door while they're looking for a full-time job. So, it's not really something they want to do. They're just trying to get their foot in the door. What's the reality behind that?

Josh: Well, the reality is that a lot of people prefer contingent work and gigs. They prefer the flexibility of that kind of job, and in fact, a lot of them have been doing it for years. We found that 40% have been doing it for more than five years, in fact. When you look at the other 60%, it breaks up about 20% each for one to three years and three to five years, and less than that. So, there are a lot of experienced workers out there who actually value having this kind of arrangement, and it works to their advantage.

Josh: We kind of think of the gig economy as being it's all about Uber, and people getting jobs from apps. And a lot of them are blue collar, maybe they're down on their luck, or they've got some special need that they're trying to fill in the short term. But actually, we found that there are a lot of people for whom this is a viable career option.

Chad: Well, I found it interesting that only 15% said they wanted to land a full-time job.

Josh: That's right.

Chad: They weren't even looking for a full-time job.

Josh: No. Now, it's important to remember that there's a lot of fragmentation in this market. You know, these people, there's a lot of diversity in the people who take gig work. In the world of finance, we call this sometimes a barbell structure. You've got people at the top end of the gig economy, and people at the lower end of the gig economy. So, there are these advantaged individuals who've got the knowledge and they've got the skills. They've got the networks and the experience to be able to basically, maybe not write their own check, but arrange their work life around their overall life. Those are the people at the top end.