The end of the 40-hour work-week is being touted large and high, with the rise of new-age workers like millennials. As employees with new work expectations are on the rise, the impact on workforce management is significant. Workers are increasingly taking to gig-work in the quest for independence, creativity, and flexibility. Organizations must ramp up their talent strategies to factor in this new normal.
In a 2018 survey by BCG-Harvard Business School’s Managing the Future of Work initiative, roughly 40% of respondents said they expected freelance workers to account for an increased share of their organization’s workforce over the coming five years.
Hiring gig workers may not only foster employee engagement, but open up new opportunities, for example, fostering innovation through crowdsourcing, encouraging exploration through special project teams, and optimizing costs through remote hires.
The question is not whether, but when, and to what extent enterprises will inculcate gig workers as a mainstream workforce.
How to hire gig employees
Imbibing gig working as a natural way of work requires a different mindset. Organizations must be ready to accept that today, top talent often comes in the form of contractual employment of various kinds - this is the first barrier to harnessing the power of this significant talent pool. The conventional belief is that online gigs work best for one-off or exploratory work with low impact. Opening up this closed lens requires a fundamental mindset shift at the top leadership level. After that, a strategically conceptualized attract-engage-retain talent approach must ensue. The first step is to create readiness in the organization:
- Attract: The Employer Value Proposition for a gig worker should portray some particular value systems. HR must get into the psyche of gig talent by asking the question, “Why does this person opt for gig working?”. Gig working has some genuine challenges - loss of stability (and sometimes credibility), limited company benefits, etc. Organizations must, therefore, tap into the real “motivators” for gig working - often, which are flexibility, work-life balance, independence, the need for doing varied work. For example, a digitally-enabled organization will naturally attract digital-savvy gig workers.
- Source and select: As a need for gig workers, many digital start-ups have taken to creating digital platforms to bring together gig workers and employers. Freelancer, Upwork, Task Rabbit, and even Uber are considered to be successful gig models. Talent acquisition specialists must dedicate resources to explore, assess, and experiment with these platforms, depending on the nature of the work offered. Many companies have also started their in-house platform and network through databases such as alumni networks, to build a community of contractors. Another interesting concept is that of the “flash organization” - teams that are assembled on demand and then disband after they finish the project. Much of this gig-hiring is done using AI-based platforms that intelligently match talent needs with available gig talent, so TA teams must invest in such emerging technologies.
- Onboard and assimilate: Integrating gig workers into the mainstream workforce professionally, culturally, and socially requires special arrangements. For example, the first step is to have a digital onboarding process, including online background verification, document filling, team, and leadership connect and so on. Policies and processes must be designed and communicated, keeping in mind that most gig employees would be working on erratic schedules, remote locations, and even varying time zones. It is critical to put in place fool-proof legal, compliance and intellectual property rules, to ensure a healthy working relationship between gig employees and gig employers.
Last but not the least, the success of the gig economy is driven between a healthy partnership between the private organizations and policy makers. It starts with figuring out certain ambiguous areas related to hiring gig workers. The gig economy is sure to see an upswing, but whether it truly creates value at both employee and employer-end, depends on how the above nuances are strategized and managed.
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