Gig workers, freelancers, contractors, consultants, temps, the alternative work-force or contingent workers – what’s in a name?
There can be slight nuances that differentiate each of these types of workers, but more importantly, according to Workforce 2025, a report published by Randstad, a Canadian leader in staffing and recruiting, as of 2016, freelancers made up 25 per cent of the Canadian work force, and this number is increasing.
In the past, companies have commonly used contingent workers in reaction to unexpected events: for example, to cover a medical or maternity leave, to increase capacity in crunch time or to creatively increase headcount off of a balance sheet.
In this new world of work, we need to think about the alternative work-force in an entirely new way – actively and strategically. However, according to 2019 Human Capital Trends report, while 41 per cent of respondents agree that focus on the alternative work-force is important or very important, only 28 per cent feel ready for it.
More talent is now choosing the gig economy. According to Independent Work: Choice, Necessity and the Gig Economy, a 2016 study by McKinsey, 70 per cent of contingent workers work this way by choice, either for primary or supplemental income. Therefore, companies need to strategically manage this work-force segment or risk missing out on key talent opportunities. Here are a few considerations for leaders tapping into the gig economy.
Include giggers in strategic work-force plans
In this new world of work, we need to think differently about the best way to get work done: Some roles or projects for example, are of shorter duration or would benefit from external perspective – these are perfect opportunities to leverage the gig economy instead of hiring a full-time/permanent employee. To date, at many companies, contractors have been managed through procurement processes (e.g., buying office supplies or hiring a contractor follow the same process).
Particularly in areas of talent shortage, giggers need to be included in strategic work-force plans and deployed accordingly – both to broaden talent pools and to allow for agility in staffing models. This means assembling a pool or network of giggers and getting to know them – their skills, capabilities, knowledge and motivators, and deploying them as we would permanent talent. Traditional methods of “procuring them” does not achieve this.
Design and deliver an excellent “gigger experience”
Traditionally, many aspects of the “employee experience” have been restricted to permanent workers. Given the growing size and strategic importance of the alternative work-force, defining an experience that successfully attracts and motivates these workers is key.
For example, what attracts giggers to work for your company? What motivates them to do their best work? How can you keep them aligned with company values and objectives? What are their own career goals and how do they define success? Keep in mind that in many cases the gig economy is a career choice, not an alternative to one, so things such as progression, impact and recognition are just as important to giggers as they are to permanent workers … they just experience them at multiple companies and potentially in different ways.
Consider what full-time means for all worker types
As a gigger myself, I am often asked whether I work full-time, and I am not sure how to respond. I am self-employed and work on a variety of projects for multiple clients. The total number of hours spent working each week may total more or less than, or exactly equal 40 hours.
The evolution of the gig economy has begged the question of what we mean by working full-time. Traditionally, a full-time job was defined by the number of hours worked, typically in a defined office space. In this new world of work, for many workers, the number of hours worked is difficult to quantify, and is not a direct measure of productivity, nor defined by how many hours are spent in an office.
The question of working full-time is increasingly grey; while not unique to the gig economy, it may be time to reconsider the definition of full-time versus part-time work. Many gigs are better defined and measured by milestones, deliverables and outcomes versus number of hours spent in an office.
For those considering the gig economy as a career destination, it is important to go in with eyes wide open and to be clear about: 1) your unique value proposition; 2) your potential customers or projects (i.e. portfolio); 3) your definition of success (financial, social, psychological).
While the gig economy affords many enticing benefits such as autonomy, flexibility and variety, being clear on these three things provides structure and direction for your business and, ultimately, your career.
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