SIA’s September 21-23, 2021 Conference on “Collaboration in the Gig Economy”


In Webster’s dictionary there are two basic definitions of “collaboration”. One is quite positive as in “working jointly with others” such as on a book or other project.

The second meaning is more troublesome and has collaborating as “cooperating with an enemy force occupying one’s country”.

Considering that some in the traditional staffing industry consider the relatively new Gig platforms as a kind of “enemy” force usurping their preeminent position, perhaps SIA (Staffing Industry Analysts) had both definitions in mind when it named the conference a “Collaboration in the Gig Economy”?

Despite the differences, however,both definitions carry the common ideas of working together, cooperation, alliances, and even a confederation. Although I can see areas of working together between traditional staffing companies and the gig platforms, I would not go so far as to refer to them (yet) as a confederation. More on that later.

So, what will this upcoming conference in September be about . . .  specifically?

The Vision Thing

Although I have heard some people do not like them, every industry conference has, and needs to have, a keynote address. To understand details, we all need to have a context, a meaningful whole where we can see it all put together. This is especially true here.

The Gig economy is young enough that it is still defining itself, still finding its place in the overall business community and the staffing industry.

This is not just a travelogue of where the Gig Economy came from and where it is going but what we are learning about the nature of work, about technology and the conditions and locations where work is performed, about new legal and compliance issues, creative support systems and benefit arrangements.

This “Opening Keynote” will be the contribution of SIA’s President, Barry Asin. He has titled his upcoming address as “The Gig Economy: State of the Convergence”. Hard to tell much from that otherwise interesting title but here again a dictionary might help to see where he may be going.

“To converge” means “to approach one common center or single point” which would also be the “end point”in a process.

So,we will learn what Mr. Asin vision is for that end point will look like, i.e“who and what” will be there together with the “how and why”a convergence is happening in the first place.

The Gig Economy has been in a huge state of flux and uncertainty for several years now and we need to have some insight from the people who have studied this development on where it is going and how it is affecting other industry segments.

Because the half the title of SIA President Asin’s address mentions the “State of the Convergence” he likely means to define where that process is today.  I hope he covers the potential problems of the Gig Economy and how they might be resolved.

We all recall the huge fight over gig platform companies Uber and Lyft in California with charges of unfair competition and lack of worker protections.

California legislation (AB5) initially brought these freelance Gig workers under the definition of “employees” rather than “independent contractors” only to have them exempted from the new law by a state Referendum (Proposition 22) only a couple of months later.

The gig workers did not want the “protections” of minimum wage or unemployment insurance, etc. and fought hard for Prop 22 that exempted them and allowed them to keep their freelance status.

If the “Future of Work” is to have new structures in law and custom, if the gig economy is going to converge with ever changing yet traditional companies, form alliances and even confederations with them, we need to know what that is going to look like and how new rules and equities are going to affect all of us. .

In any case, we do know part of what the “end point” vision is from the SIA website’s promotional materials. They use the phrase, “Where Tech, Talent & Suppliers Converge”.

This may indicate that their vision sees a convergence where the increasingly sophisticated technology of the traditional staffing company’s management and recruiting software meets the Gig economy’s cloud-based“total” technology platforms on a more competitive basis.

This idea brings us to one of the key features of this convention which will be presented in a Shark Tank type of contest to encourage technology innovations that may challenge the best of the Gig platforms.

The “Shark Tank” Challenge

Conventions should not only be a place to meet and greet colleagues and discover what’s new in the industry but also to have programs that are interesting and fun as well as being informative.

Just such an event is SIA’s 5th annual “Gig Economy Shark Tank” competition. This convention event challenges companies to develop new technologies that have the potential to actually “disrupt the Gig Economy” in a positive sense and present their new innovations to the entire convention audience on Sept 22.

Five companies will be selected as finalists and be given the opportunity to present their company, explain why their technology is innovative and disruptive while interacting with a panel of Sharks “comprised of accomplished industry veterans, analysts, and investors. With the sharks and the audience of industry professionals, the exposure for the participants and their products will be excellent!

The details of the entire process are all spelled out on their Shark Tank webpage

There is one other item to check on, and perhaps initially, because it shows the categories of products and services that SIA calls “The Workforce Solutions Ecosystem”.

The technology product your firm may be developing for the Shark Tank competition should be found within that ecosystem. This document, although large, has all the relevant categories in a convenient infographic on the first couple of pages. Definitions of each term are provided throughout the document and may be harder to find but most industry people will be familiar with most of the terminology.

All in all, this conference, which will be held at the newly renovated Sheraton Hotel in downtown Phoenix Sept 21-23, promises to be particularly important, interesting, fun and profitable.

If you are not now using gig economy platforms in your staffing company this would be an excellent conference to attend and participate in. It will give you a head-start in working with them and for establishing contacts for you to consult with as you integrate appropriate gig platforms,into your agency’s offerings.

Have Fun! The world is coming back!! See you in Phoenix!