Article: HR leaders in the gig economy

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HR leaders in the gig economy

A few things for HR leaders to consider while managing their gig workers.
HR leaders in the gig economy

A lot has changed in the way the job market operates, and this is a ubiquitous phenomenon. Freelance writing and commissions for original artwork, driving an Uber, and delivering food orders – for some, the gig economy is a way of making extra cash on the side, and for others, it is their only bread and butter. Flexi-working hours, freelancing, and collaborations with independent workers; all these trends are not confined to creative agencies and start-ups. Quite the contrary, according to a study conducted by Flexing It earlier this year for the financial year 2018-19, a whopping 72 percent of all gig projects in India are undertaken by big corporates and professional services. 

So, how should the role of HR professionals evolve to fit such a job market better? Here are a few factors to consider while answering this question.

Integrity and ethics

The talent pool is up for grabs; freelancers and contractual workers can be employed by any organization temporarily. Considering that there are several roles like writing, marketing, and advertising strategy have become specialized to certain sectors, there’s a good chance that you will need to hire someone who has also worked for your competitor. 

In such cases, integrity matters above all else. This professional will have insights on your competitor just as they might in the future have insights about you. If you expect your business secrets to be kept safe, then don’t enquire about those of others. Remember, it’s okay to implement learnings and insights learned from past jobs. However, it’s another story altogether if gig-workers are okay with sharing company-specific strategies from a previous employer, thereby breaching ethical codes, some even unwritten. 

And this brings us to the other factor; if you want to build a network of trusted gig-workers, then you need to reach out to them even when there’s no work. A study published in Deloitte Insights in 2018 found that the pool of self-employed professionals in the United States is set to triple, reaching nearly 42 million people. With such a huge workforce falling into the alternative bracket, the resources are already out there, and it’s the management that needs some modifying. Corroborating this is are the findings of Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends Survey, 2019, wherein 41 percent of respondents agreed that the management of alternative workforce resources was critical; however, only 8 percent had put systems in place for the same. These systems can include policies that cover freelancers, including them in engagement activities, and recognition initiatives. 

That’s not all. For gig-workers, while independence and variety are strong positives, they do face instability, late payments, and a lack of social benefits or institutional perks. It might take you time to put a full-fledged system in place. Not every company rakes in enough revenue to offer their freelance network the benefits afforded to full-time employees. However, a good place to start is to pay fairly, as per industry standards, and to always pay on time. The healthier this relationship, the higher priority is given to ethics. 

Compliance and legal nuances

According to the Flexing It report, some of the topmost skills demanded from the gig workforce are developing a growth strategy, data analytics and interpretation, marketing strategy and communication, and financial modeling. These are roles integral to the corporate sector today, and clearly, organizations are trusting freelancers with critical functions. Essential functions mean important information, and here the matter of confidentiality comes into the picture. Most organizations sign a non-disclosure agreement with gig-workers. This ensures requisite confidentiality as well as the timely delivery of the work. For employers, the tough situation arises when NDAs are taken lightly and dishonored by the freelancer. Something to remember: never refer to an NDA as “just a formality.” Even casually.

NDA breaches can call for legal recourse and suing for damages. Many companies sue for the amount that they are losing as a result of the breach. Once an NDA is signed, what the freelancer creates is the company’s property. While many may feel that this is an unpleasant conversation to have, or that most professionals know how NDAs work and the discussion is unnecessary. However, it is advisable to reiterate the significance of an NDA with each new gig-worker – the importance of reading through every clause before signing, the reason behind each clause, and the fact that as paid work, all rights lie solely with the organization. 

Ultimately it all comes down to transparency. In every respect, whether it is the sticky legalities or the practice of appreciation and inclusion, treat gig-workers as employees on the payroll, instilling a sense of belonging and mutual support, differentiating only in terms of the time they spend with your organization. So, how should the role of HR leaders evolve? It must start considering gig workers at par with their full-time resources, but with a different work arrangement. And that realization is what is needed for true evolution to embrace the gig economy. 

Topics: #GuestArticle, #GigToBig, Leadership

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