Over the past ten years or so, we’ve seen an uptick in “gig” work. Many who found themselves jobless as a result of the Great Recession took to working for themselves. Others saw benefits in the flexibility that contract work provides. At the same time, advancements in internet technology led to startups that made it easier for workers to connect to customers.
It’s become apparent in recent years that the changes to the economy and work aren’t just a fad. Things have changed in the work force. Although there’s controversy over what to call these changes and whether they’re good or bad, there’s no going back.
In a 2016 speech at the Evolution of Work conference, Federal Reserve governor Lael Brainard predicted that the effects of this fusion of economics and technology could be “long lasting and significant.” We’ve seen companies like Uber, Taskrabbit, Airbnb, and Upwork establish platforms that take advantage of the trends. And recently, the dental sector has come onboard with similar solutions for staffing. Some new businesses are positioning themselves as "not a dental temp agency" to fill the gap.
The What Economy?
It has a number of names, all of which seem to come with subsets and caveats. The gig economy is about temporary or one-off work. The sharing economy is about pairing those with time, talent, or items with those who need them. The platform economy brings workers and clients together through matching services. The on-demand economy enables people to hire help on an as-needed basis. Are they all the same thing? Are they subsets of something greater? There are a number of op-eds and blog posts about classifying various exchanges and platforms. What they all have in common is access.
Regardless of how they’re categorized, unconventional companies have risen as part of today’s work landscape. These services put people who want something in touch with people who need something. This model has been adopted in a wide range of industries, dentistry included.
For dental practices, the sharing economy (or whatever you want to call it) takes the form of job matching. Today’s web-based platforms take the place of temp agencies and job boards to allow dental practices and dental professionals to connect.
What to call it isn’t the only controversy out there. More serious concerns include worker protections, legal issues, and whether companies are focusing on the right values. It’s important for dental practices to protect themselves legally and maintain a good reputation with the professionals they contract with.
Some companies have been accused of driving down wages for workers. Uber, for example, sets its rates and does not help its drivers with gas or vehicle maintenance. Reviews from current and former Uber drivers indicate that some drivers take home less than minimum wage. Similar complaints surround sites like UpWork, which includes workers from all over the world, some of whom work for very low rates and drive down prices.
So, how can a dental practice ensure it’s not contributing to unfair practices?
When a dental practice engages a temporary, temp-to-perm, or part-time contractor, the worker’s rates can be determined by several factors. The local market has a lot to do with it. If the connection happens through a temp agency, the agency is often the one to set the rates. However, there are platforms, such as Cloud Dentistry, that allow workers to set their own rates. That way, a professional’s pay is determined by the local market and the professional’s skills and experience. It’s important to select a job-matching service that treats everyone—practices and professionals alike—fairly.
In a way, dental practices and dental professionals in the job-matching market are both consumers, and having a place for them to come together just make sense. Today’s cloud-based job-matching platforms allow both practices and professionals to take full advantage of the gig/sharing/platform economy. Whatever you want to call it, the dental industry is the perfect place for such a setup to work to everyone’s advantage.