Article: Workers without borders: What makes gig workers tick?

Employee Relations

Workers without borders: What makes gig workers tick?

Understanding the motives and aspirations of gig workers and discussing how to best manage them.
Workers without borders: What makes gig workers tick?

It has already been a decade since the term ‘gig economy’ was first coined by Tina Brown, and yet it still seems like a wave of fresh air that is changing the way work is done. Today, the employee-employer relationship has become more flexible than ever before as freelancers are working only on a particular task, for a defined period, and a specific purpose. Reacting to the more nimble global working environment, the Indian ecosystem is also gradually changing, and a strong freelance worker base is beginning to thrive in the country. In fact, India ranks as the 2nd largest freelance workforce after the US, with over 15 million people, significantly boosting the growth of start-ups while also providing expert services to top corporations across the globe.

Freelancers, as the name suggests, are not committed to a long-term engagement with any organization. They are skill-traders who are looking for opportunities that make the best use of their skills and the most suitable compensation. for the same As a result, it often becomes difficult for enterprises to retain a freelancer that they like for a prolonged period of time.

So, the question arises, what are professionals in the gig economy looking for in the organization of their choice? While gig workers may not have access to certain benefits reserved for full-time employees, they still expect to be recognized and rewarded. The recent protest of Google employees over the company’s unfair treatment of its temporary, vendor, and contract workers (TVCs) has furthered this discussion. If Google, a brand known for being arguably the most employee-friendly in the world, can’t get its ‘freelance’ equation right, then it merits some serious discussion. Taking a cue from Google’s experience, let us look at what freelancers and independent contractors seek from their employers to develop a sustained relationship. 

Challenges and commensurate reward 

The courage to earn a living as a freelancer only comes when an individual has immense belief in their skill set. Therefore, freelancers seek jobs that can challenge them and offer tasks that will motivate them to put their best foot forward. Considering that motives such as seeking promotion or developing a good equation with the boss are irrelevant to them, freelancers are solely focused on the task at hand. Therefore, organizations should ensure that they identify the skill set of a freelancer well and assign them tasks that keep them truly engaged. Also, the individual managing the freelancers needs to be aware of the current open market rates for the work being done commensurate to the experience of the freelancer, the time taken, the quality of work delivered, etc. There is nothing more dispiriting for gig economy workers than dealing with an organization which doesn’t have a clue about the standard fee structures, or which lacks structured terms and conditions.  

Tangible perks and non-wage benefits

These include the same pay scale as regular employees, healthcare and life insurance coverage, paid time off, family leave, bonuses, and retirement packages, among others. However, healthcare coverage tops the list of valued benefits for part-time staff and contingent workers. Although some organizations offer healthcare insurance, it usually doesn’t provide extensive coverage. The legal ambiguity over the rights and entitlements of freelancers and independent professionals in India further adds to their misery. In this unfavorable context, gig workers prefer companies, which provide access to healthcare coverage by letting them pay monthly premiums for a group health plan. This ensures a certain level of protection as well as financial security. 

The reason more people are swaying away from traditional 9-5 jobs is the flexibility and autonomy offered by gig work. They seek to achieve a healthy work-life balance, and want to work with organizations that allow independent workers to take paid sick leaves and vacations, along with the option of working remotely. Tech giants like Amazon and Dell have great leave policies for their temporary and contract workers. When it comes to hiring gig workers, employers must give them the freedom to pursue projects at their own pace and on their timeline. 

Bonuses also serve as a significant motivating factor for gig workers. These can come in various forms, including cash bonuses, gift cards, vouchers, personalized gift hampers, sponsored vacations, etc. While non-cash bonuses are more popular among white-collar professionals, cash rewards are the standard in the minimum wage “service on-demand” sector. For example, Uber offers extra money to its gig workers who complete a set number of rides within a certain time. 

Intangible incentives

Gig workers are more likely to join companies that offer intangible incentives. Access to learning resources, training sessions, upskilling and reskilling programs, and social events are great ways to attract contract workers and freelancers. Gig workers cherish their independence, yet they crave a sense of belonging. Their dream workplace is one that gives them freedom but makes them feel like a full-time employee at the same time. Especially for millennials, intangible incentives hold more value than monetary compensations. 

Traditionally, engaging gig workers has never been as much of a priority for organizations as engaging regular employees is. However, in the changing workplace landscape, taking a proactive approach towards freelancers and contingent workers has become essential. And this calls for collaborative efforts from all stakeholders of an organization, including senior leaders, HR managers, and everyone looking to collaborate with the best talents from all over the world. 

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Topics: Employee Relations, #GigToBig, #GuestArticle

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