In case you missed the memo, the gig economy is taking over.
According to the 2017 Freelancing in America study, an estimated 57.3 million Americans (that’s 36% of the entire workforce) participated in the some kind of side-hustle, freelancing or gig work in 2017.
Thanks to contemporary technology, 0-hour contracts and the rise of freelancing platforms (e.g., Uber, Etsy, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, Fiverr), ditching the traditional 9 to 5 has never been easier.
Rather than holding down one, permanent position, workers are choosing to pursue multiple roles, often combining contract work, freelancing, part-time shifts and “side-hustles” to earn their keep. In almost every situation, achieving a better work-life balance is the goal.
This desire for flexibility and non-traditional work arrangements feels pretty synonymous with the Millennial generation, right?
Well, while 18 to 34-year-olds represent the majority of freelancers in the US, a survey by Payoneer revealed that 1 in 3 American respondents were over the age of 50. Across the pond, the gig economy is actually being driven by Baby Boomers, proving that this trend of working for fulfilment (rather than necessity) can disrupt the economy of any demographic.
How does the gig economy affect businesses?
There are many benefits to hiring gig workers, depending on your industry. On the one hand, although not technically “gig” work, minimum-wage shift work and service industry roles make up a considerable part of the system. At the other end of the scale are experienced contractors, where qualified professionals can earn a competitive wage for skilled freelance work.
The most obvious appeal of hiring temporary staff is that you can build a responsive workforce, tailored to suit your demand. You can bring people in when you don’t have the in-house numbers or skills to cope with busy periods, but arrange contracts to finish once your peak season ends.
You can also find expert talent without paying out for an expert salary or benefits package by only hiring specialists as and when you need them.
5 tips for hiring gig workers for your company
1. Think carefully about the specific job you need freelancers to perform, and make sure the contract you put together represents what you actually expect them to deliver. For creative work, outline specific deliverables so that you can both agree when the project will be considered complete, and provide someone from your internal team as a point of contact for training, queries and management as required.
Keep in mind that zero-hour contracts can backfire if you need dependable staff (they are under no obligation to work just like you’re under no obligation to schedule them), and loyalty becomes thin when demand is high.
2. Leverage technology to best source, screen, and qualify temporary workers. Whether that’s freelancer talent marketplaces or tech that uses AI to screen and qualify candidates, take advantage of available tech to streamline your hiring process.
3. Improve, refine or create your onboarding process and training program. All new staff will need to learn the ropes, and you can’t afford for the process to take weeks (or months) like you might with a permanent hire. Strip out unnecessary training, streamline the rest.
4. Maintain open communication about when you need your staff. Unlike conventional employment, both parties know that the arrangement is temporary so there’s no need to hide the fact that one day you won’t need them (and vice versa).
Make it easy for them to plan their next step by being transparent about when their contract is likely to end, and whether they can expect any follow-up work.
Similarly, if your business is based around shift work then make it easy for your part-timers to fit in other commitments. Use a staff scheduling system to plan your rosters and keep all of your team informed as early as possible about any changes. This can also help you manage scheduling conflicts and holiday bookings so that your team can always run effectively.
5. Offer benefits packages to attract (and retain) good members of staff that reflect the amount of work they are providing your firm. A report from the Texas Workforce Investment Council, agreed that a major drawback for gig workers is the lack of benefits available to them. Alternatively, research suggests that as long as you pay your freelances competitively, they are happy to purchase their own benefits as and when they need them.
Keep in mind that just because the gig economy is on the rise, it doesn’t mean that it’s the best fit for your business.
Liaise closely with your managers and HR department before you begin the hiring process to decide what kind of employee will be the best fit. If the job requires an intrinsic understanding of what your company does or the way it works, then taking the time (and absorbing the cost) to hire permanent workers will leave you much better off.
Mike James is an independent tech specialist and writer, working with staff scheduling software specialist Planday on a project concerning the integration of technology advances, and how they impact small to medium businesses.