Why successful companies will embrace gig workers

Most business owners struggle with finding talent.  Many talk of their increasing involvement in the gig economy, but perplexed.  They are unsure of the way forward;  unsure of how on earth their business will cope having to increasingly rely on these gig workers;  where you look for them and what you do with them.

They will need to come to terms with it.  Around 40%  of our all staff will have changed to be independent contractors by 2020.   The first confusion is the caption covers such a broad range of people and skill sets, temp contractors, zero hour contractors, freelancers doing single jobs or regular work for a variety of employers, now referred to some as portfolio workers.  Skill sets vary from the highly skilled specialist who has chosen to go self-employed, to the unskilled person struggling to find employment and everyone in between those points.

For the employer, this is a new minefield.  There are tax and employment rights, which for this growing group are becoming ever more complex and demanding on the employer.  You will need regular advice and updates from specialist legal and tax advice.  More and more, you can expect that the onus will be falling to you for employment rights and deducting tax and N.I unless you can both be sure they are genuinely self-employed and paying them a fixed fee.

Many employers balk at the idea of using gig workers, believing they can only run on full time, permanent people.  The reality is that with a little bit of work studying the tasks in a workplace, there will be numerous tasks that can easily be outsourced on this basis.  As an employer, you need to be open-minded towards an entirely new approach to employing and much less hierarchal in your structure.  Staff and gig workers alike need to be treated as partners and consultants.

Finding gig workers is not the problem.  But you need to be competitive for them to choose your work and work hard to inspire them to do it well.  As in the permanent market, gone are the times when you offered someone work and expected them to be grateful and get on with it.  You need to re-position yourself as an employer of choice.

The first step towards this is in understanding your gig workers motivations.   Just as the group is diverse, so are motivations.    Many chose freelancing for freedom, others for flexible hours.  They may need specific hours for caring responsibilities.  They may be seeking a balance between home and work life.   They may be desperate for money but hoping for something more.   They may be seniors wanting to subsidize an inadequate pension.

Once you revise your approach to thinking of staff, gig or perm, from being someone you hire and follows instruction, to partners who work together for mutual benefit, then you are on the way to the best possible approach.   You can discuss with a potential gig worker the deal that would suit them best, with the most flexibility or the most benefits and put together an unbeatable package that attracts them.

Never forget too that while many chose gig employment as a life style, they are also finding the downsides hard, the lack of stability, the insularity, the vulnerability.  You can help make the gig with you the best in terms of flexibility, employee status, and benefits and also add socials with other staff to counteract the isolation, allow maximum working time at home.  The better you make it, the more work they will want to do for you in the future and that means the better job they will do for you.

Competitive employers offer gig works the same as permanents in terms of health and well-being and also in training.   With job security less certain, and the drive for self-improvement growing, people within gig working are often motivated by learning during the time they are with you as part of the package.

The other part of engagement comes from them buying into your business mission and where their task fits into that, to see the point of what they do.  That needs to be repeated constantly within your discussions about their work from hour one.  The same goes for your company’s values and culture.  The culture has to be lived from the on-boarding process onwards.  Yet few companies bother to properly on-board gig workers and even less with feedback or appraisals.

The wise business owner needs to not just shift towards gig workers, but they need to embrace them with open arms.  A business is nothing without its staff and there is no more important job for a leader than in taking care of them and binding them together with the strength of mission and culture.   Even the smallest company has to view this as a vital investment now, and without it the best of the new gig market will always be choosing someone else to work for.




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