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PIVOTING HR IN THE AGE OF THE GIG ECONOMY

It seems like every few months, there exists a new buzzword that signals a change or challenge that HR professionals are told to prepare for. Failing to do so, they are told, will lead to their swift demise. These ‘future of work’ prophecies no doubt bring with them a sense of fatigue.

The newest of such buzzwords is the ‘Gig Economy’. What is it? And what does it mean for HR?

A study from 2015 claimed that 44% of all US workers are involved in non-traditional employment – or ‘gigs’. The ‘gig economy’ (based around accommodation, transport and cars, e.g. Airbnb, Uber) was growing at 140% per year, based on the turnover of a sample of larger operators.

For some, it simply refers to the ever-growing number of people who use one of the (still relatively) new talent platforms or online service brokering like Uber, Airbnb, Grab, FoodPanda. For others, it includes these people, but also anyone who works in a continent, temporary, diversified, or freelance capacity. In other words, anyone who isn’t a full-time or part-time employee.

A study from 2015 claimed that 44% of all US workers are involved in non-traditional employment – or ‘gigs’. The ‘gig economy’ (based around accommodation, transport and cars, e.g. Airbnb, Uber) was growing at 140% per year, based on the turnover of a sample of larger operators.

Combined with factors such as increased workplace flexibility, a global, distributed workforce, advances in robotics and cognitive technologies of the ‘future workplace’ it becomes part of a range of factors HR needs to account for when planning future strategies.

71% of executives believe their companies are either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very’ able to manage contingent workers, with the main challenges being:

• Legal or regulatory uncertainty (20%)
• Culture is unreceptive (18%)
• Lack of understanding among leaders (18%).

Is your HR department ready for the gig economy?

Combined with factors such as increased workplace flexibility, a global, distributed workforce, advances in robotics and cognitive technologies of the ‘future workplace’ it becomes part of a range of factors HR needs to account for when planning future strategies.

Here are 4 changes you can implement to capitalise on this growing trend:

Embrace a flexible workplace

As the gig economy grows, one of the most significant ways it will affect the employment landscape is by bringing work-life balance to the forefront. Workplace flexibility is no longer a “nice-to-have” or a “perk.” Instead, it’s a make-or-break part of the job search for most applicants. Job searchers demand flexibility, and they know they can get it from the gig economy if full-time employers are unable to. As a result, employers are finding they have to offer flex time, work-from-home or telecommuting opportunities, and generous vacation packages if they want to woo top candidates. Parents with young families, in particular, aren’t budging on these requirements anymore. HR departments should take note of this demand and plan accordingly, whether that means adjusting benefits plans or completing network tweaks to make telecommuting more feasible.

As the gig economy grows, one of the most significant ways it will affect the employment landscape is by bringing work-life balance to the forefront.

Figure out which roles are ‘gigable’

Retaining your existing employees—and continuing to draw strong talent to full-time roles—is something that should remain a priority for your organisation as the gig economy grows. However, you should not ignore the statistics. The number of gig economy workers in the United States will hit 9.2 million by 2021—up from just 3.9 million in 2016. These numbers mean no business can ignore the gig economy, and companies that can embrace it will be in the best position to capture top talent and thrive.

These numbers mean no business can ignore the gig economy, and companies that can embrace it will be in the best position to capture top talent and thrive.

You may already have gig economy workers in your organisation, such as contractors, freelancers, or vendors. What you should continue to do is identify roles that could feasibly adapt to the gig economy. Which responsibilities or services could you bring into your business on a contract or freelance basis? You should focus on vacant or soon-to-be-vacant positions, but you can also look at jobs that are currently filled. That way, if someone leaves your organisation, you’ll know whether you can eliminate the position to save money or convert the job to freelance. Having some flexibility here will help you remain agile when ideal gig economy opportunities come along.

Focus on integration

Independent workers such as contractors or freelancers beat traditional employees in job engagement, innovation, satisfaction, and pride. Where they fall short of regular employees is in another area: commitment. Gig economy workers typically aren’t as committed to the companies they work for. Many freelancers work for multiple employers at once and rarely maintain communication with more than one or two people at each company. Figuring out ways to integrate your gig workers into your organisation more fully is a good strategy to prevent your company culture from eroding. Ideally, the extra integration will increase commitment, which in turn will make it easier for you to establish a pool of go-to freelancers that you can rely on again and again.

Establishing an onboarding strategy

You can’t afford to skip the onboarding step with gig workers, but many employers do it, anyway. They don’t run background checks, provide training, or do performance reviews. Instead, many gig workers work unvetted with limited supervision and almost no feedback until they turn in their assignments. This structure is unstable and puts undue risk on your business. Remember: your gig workers are still representatives of your brand. They enjoy access to company information and resources that are likely proprietary or confidential, and you still need to track and maintain their performance standards as they work.

You want to make sure every gig worker is someone you can trust. As for training, you should at the very least have a kickoff call or video conference briefing with the freelancer before getting them started. Even if the project is straightforward, you want to lay out your expectations firmly and clearly. Encourage the freelancer to contact you with any questions and ask for an early sample of their work to make sure they are on the right track before they complete an entire project.

Remember: your gig workers are still representatives of your brand.

These strategies will lay a foundation for a positive employer-freelancer relationship, which will make it easier for your business to embrace the benefits of the gig economy going forward. However, as with any big change, pivoting your HR department for the needs of this next generation of workers is easier said than done. To learn how we can help you streamline and perfect this process using data, and smart technology, visit us at Accendo.

Sources

https://time.com/4169532/sharing-economy-poll/
https://www2.deloitte.com/au/en/pages/human-capital/articles/human-capital-trends.html

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