Looking for work today isn’t very different from what it was 15, 10, or even five years ago. Social networks and other platforms have increased networking opportunities and have also opened new avenues of earning livelihoods. Across the world, the gig economy has moved up a gear with the likes of Craigslist, Upwork, and other remote job platforms. Several crowdsourcing marketplaces have begun to surface, providing gig workers with a dedicated place to find new work opportunities. The ‘gig economy’ is altering the way people view work and governments must respond with innovative practices to bring the new stream of workers into the mainstream.
Understanding gig workers
Most gig workers fall into two types; the contingent worker or the independent worker. Contingent workers spend many hours without job security and traditional benefits. Independent workers are, indeed, their boss. They work on a commission basis for the services they provide. Today, overall trends suggest that organizations are moving towards hiring independent workers and using them as specialists to solve one problem or use them in a recurring manner. By allowing them to operate on flexi-hours, organizations are reducing overhead costs of a permanent employee. Organizations pay only for the results they reap, thus making it a win-win situation for both.
Historically, economic work and jobs have always been oriented around permanent employment and benefits linked with it – insurances, taxes, retirement plans, et al. This new ecosystem of gig workers will need to catch up with the new way of working. Furthermore, recruiters and HR leaders must take into account the following factors for gig workers as well:
- Recognition: Stock options, paid leaves, bonuses are extended to permanent employees only
- Premium pay: Unless it is a niche skill, gig workers do not attract premium pay, and hence with time, there is always attrition at the bottom of the pyramid
- Ownership: Not all gig workers come with high motivation levels, therefore engaging with them poses a massive challenge for organizations
- Career progression & development: Without regular performance reviews, mentoring, learning programs, the professional growth of a ‘gigger’ can be dangerously neglected or too subjective on the preferences and experience of the individual
How to manage gig workers
The current workforce clearly prioritizes freedom, which means that the gig economy will continue to grow and disrupt business as usual. Workers today want choice, control, and variety in the careers, and many full-time professionals are turning to gig projects for supplemental income as well. Organizations must act upon the following suggestions to make the most of these changes:
- Adapting to agility – Leadership teams must be more adaptive and understand that traditional structures and employment terms aren’t necessarily working well. A view of a holistic talent group which has the right combination of permanent employee and gig employee is the best way forward.
- Embracing a flexible workplace, not a one-size-fits-all approach – Organization must consider gig workers as an extended arm of their full-time employees and focus on the integration of teams wherever possible. Large teams should be set up to ensure the giggers are a happy bunch at work. This starts with a structured onboarding on company values, teams, and organizational structure.
- Permanent gig workers should be hired differently – swift processes, not long drawn.
Their performance management and associated rewards should be measured differently. Tiered structuring of gig workers should be established, and for stand-out performers, commissions & incentive structures are superior.
There should be continuous engagement with the ‘gigger’ so that their exit is not a surprise and to ensure that their concerns are addressed timely.
Gig workers on their part are preparing themselves for the future in many ways. They are building a reputation as an expert in their area of specialization, forcing themselves to stay educated and by creating future-focused capabilities, and growing their network by building relationships. Managing a gig economy workforce is not easy and it requires business leaders to have an in-depth understanding of their workers, their needs and aspirations. With this ecosystem rapidly developing and growing, and the business requirements demanding ‘giggers’ for organizational success, it is no longer a choice but a mandate for HR and leaders must design a holistic and inclusive system to ensure effective talent management.