The rise of the gig economy is here and real, and the sooner organizations tap into this talent pool, the better it is. One in two organizations have increased their use of gig workers in the last five years, and two in five organizations expect to increase their use of the contingent workforce by 2020 – EY Report*
While organizations may jumpstart the hiring and onboarding of gig workers, the question still remains as to how sustainable and promising this workforce-model will prove. Does it really provide a competitive advantage to corporates? How a company manages this unique workforce from a talent management perspective should help organizations harness what the gig economy truly has to offer.
What drives Gig Employees?
Engaging gig workers demand a deep-dive into the behavioral psychology of this one-of-a-kind people. The value system that gig workers live by may differ significantly from the value system of regular employees. To develop and maintain a happy and productive gig employee-base, HR must understand the psychology that inspires gig-working. A strong need for flexibility, creativity, individualism, autonomy, work-life balance, digital working are often the core reasons why people take to contractual employment. This does not mean that gig employees do not like to be an ingrained part of the team, nor do they lack a need for belongingness and camaraderie. In fact, if doled out a differential treatment in terms of inclusion in L&D programs and team activities, gig workers may feel unwanted and excluded- a gross mistake.
It is therefore, imperative to get down to a person-specific analysis of motivators, and design personalized engagement measures. First and foremost, HR and business managers must don a new hat, which makes them receptive to the new ways of gig working. For example, organizations often make the mistake of expecting their gig employees to fit in a nine-to-five regime. Or they treat contractual workers as “external” and “short-term” people instead of their own. This mindset certainly does not work. They must also not get carried away by the gig-hubbub, and rather operate within reasonable organizational and policy boundaries. The success of gig economy depends on bringing in structure and discipline, to ensure smooth interactions with regular employees, and also to uphold the legal and business interests of the employer.
The fundamentals of engaging gig-workers are no different than that of engaging regular workers, they are people at the end of the day, they want to feel valued. HR must refrain from treating gig employees as mere “on-demand” or “adhoc” resources, and view them from a sustainability lens.
Talent processes to engage Gig Workers
Organizations must create an “employee experience” that aligns with the gig culture. Talent processes and workflows must be designed which overcome the challenges posed by the very nature of the gig economy, such as anytime-anywhere working. Gig workers are still a small chunk of the mainstream workforce, and it is important to help them gel with regular workers for work to get done efficiently and effectively:
•Onboarding: As an intermittent worker who may work with several enterprises, it is even more critical for gig workers to understand the organization well. Digital onboarding is a good idea due to geographical spread and regulatory mandates (background checks etc.).
•Team connect and collaboration: HR must invest resources in integrating freelance workers into the team, whether it means scheduling periodic team connects (even virtual), or using collaboration apps to enhance professional communication. Managers of mixed teams must treat gig workers as an inherent part of the team, and at the same time coach others to work effectively with gig workers.
•Cultural integration: Values education is a must so that both gig and regular employees work as a cohesive unit towards the best interests of the organization. Deploying cultural education through digital means- gamification, mobile learning, AR and VR, etc. is a great idea for all employees, including contractual staff.
•Learning and Mentoring: Gig workers need assistance and advice as much as regular workers, and L&D must work out models for them to empower them for their own development. For example, assigning mentors/buddies, mobile learning, micro learning, work well for this segment.
•Pay and benefits: Timely pay is a hygiene factor to be taken care of. Also, the payroll model must be designed to suit the nature and frequency of gig-work. HR must also study the legal considerations with respect to benefits such as provident fund, medical insurance, tax assistance, and so on and adhere to the same.
•Communication: Since gig workers are often “out of sight, out of mind”, regular and open communication is critical to make them feel included. Digital means such as video conferencing, mobile messengers apps, social media live videos, are great for this digital-savvy population.
Engaging gig workers cannot be limited to a few superficial interventions. All of the above, when woven together, helps build a rich employee experience, creating a stickiness and helping derive sustained value from gig employees.
Engaging the contingent workforce must be made a priority, because if managed well, gig employee can unlock much value in today’s skill-crunched market. Most importantly, the lens with which they are viewed and judged must change. Organizations must accept that gig employees are not mere contractual temps, but have much to offer through ongoing association. For this, leaders must built trust with this employee group, and take special efforts to include and involve them. When the leadership buy-in for engaging with contractual employees is in place, a whole world of talent opportunities shall open up.