The rise of the gig economy has shown that our economic paradigm is shifting. But automation and new technology are sure to drive that shift further. What does the future of work look like, and how can we name that shift in the economic paradigm, particularly for highly-skilled workers? That’s what Braintrust wanted to know. They hoped this info would help them define their organizational strategy and understand the strengths, opportunities, weaknesses, and threats (SWOT) of that positioning.
The organization, which is a user-owned talent network (think Upwork or Taskrabbit, with no company controlling your profile or taking a piece of the action), thought that the research would support their offering. They were focused on concepts like the gig economy, on-demand economy, and tokenized economy and thought that firms needed tools like Braintrust to remain agile and keep up. We dug in to find out if that was true. (Hint: not exactly…)
How We Did It
To better look at what the future might be, we combined four components of human-centered qualitative research. We conducted more than 20 interviews with different stakeholders, surveyed relevant stakeholders, undertook a quantitative analysis of Braintrust’s data about its users, and pulled together an annotated bibliography of the future of work research.
Our findings didn’t completely align with what Braintrust expected to see. It’s not firms that are driving and responsible for the shifts we’re seeing — it’s individuals. Top talent is becoming more agentic, self-directed, and talent-led, which is driving their movement. Companies must follow the talent to keep up.
In particular, we found that workers are looking for autonomy, transparency, and control. And distributed work is beneficial to companies as well: it promotes diversity, which leads to more innovative solutions.
Automation may, in fact, be replacing ‘gig economy’ jobs. But it also creates an opportunity for highly-skilled freelancers to enter the marketplace. What was essentially a SWOT analysis helped Braintrust understand how they fit in the market: they are reducing costs of free market participation.
It also helped them define their offering and the value they bring. This improved, human-centered positioning led them to pursue $24 million in their funding round and land clients like Porsche, Nascar, Blue Cross Blue Shield, and Nestle.