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It’s 2020 and the workforce has changed with the press of a button

Published:06 July 2020

Associate Professor Michael Cowling is an expert on the social implications of technology.

Mobile phone applications are valid recruitment tools in the 21st century thanks to the rise of the ‘gig economy’ despite public scepticism that surrounds these platforms.

That’s according to CQUniversity ICT Associate Professor Michael Cowling who acknowledged messaging applications have become an accepted form of communication in the modern workforce for finite employment.

“Criticism around the use of WhatsApp to recruit security guards in quarantined COVID hotels has discredited the app as a valuable means of communication in recent weeks.

“However, the app is not dissimilar to a text message or Facebook ad in the ability to broadcast information to a large audience.

“The security companies involved claim to have completed all the required checks of any ‘traditional’ temp recruitment, irrespective of the medium.”

He highlighted employment through apps is not a foreign concept as apps like Uber (and Uber Eats), AirTasker, Fivvr all serve as a platform for businesses to connect with workers while also offering more information on available work opportunities.

“These apps have developed as a response to the growing 'gig economy' in Australia. We have seen a sharp increase in the last 10 years, and I expect to see further increases as the current coronavirus crisis has heavily distorted the job market and forced many out of usual employment.

“As independent workers, they can accept gigs that utilise their expertise and resources to complete a task or assist businesses to reduce work shortages with short-term commitment,” he explained.

“The application process and employee verification for these gigs are all completed online to meet the autonomy and flexibility workers desire.”

Associate Professor Michael Cowling argued that this new form of communication is becoming more accepted and could represent a compressed way to establish a dialogue in the community.

“When Steve Jobs launched the iPhone, he didn’t just launch a phone, but a breakthrough internet communication device.

“It’s clear that smartphones occupy an increasing part of our lives, with apps complementing many of our activities. There is a slew of connected devices, and even modifications, that allow them to enhance our physical world.

“The Australian government has even embraced these new communication platforms with a WhatsApp channel to keep the public updated on the latest response to COVID-19.

“It demonstrates the power these mediums have for mass communications,” he said.

“Texting, Skype, and Facebook groups and community pages foster dialogue within specific groups of people for increased engagement. For example, a group chat or Facebook community designed to connect business and job seekers to fill short term employment will receive quicker and more responsive discussion than a newspaper advertisement.

“In the past, a business would need to write a job advertisement, submit that to a newspaper to be published in the Classified section, wait for it to be printed then distributed to job seekers and then wait for a potential employees application to be delivered – all which could take days to weeks to fill a temporary role.

“Of course, technology can’t replace recruitment in all industries but freelance workers available at a moment’s notice have reshaped the nature of companies and the structure of careers.

Although it may be hard for digital immigrants to adapt to this evolution, he suggested people try to accept this movement as industries will continue to transition online.

“Not everyone holds the same views but in 10 to 20 years, the digital dinosaurs will secede to a new wave of digital natives, with their iPhones in hand.”