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How Talent Managers Can Better Manage the ‘Gig’ Economy Workforce?

Nov 15, 2018


  • EDITORIAL TEAM Talent Management Institute
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How Talent Managers Can Better Manage the ‘Gig’ Economy Workforce

The gig economy was a child of recession but is now walking strongly in the boom. A decade back as the job security dried off with the recession, people became inclined towards taking up projects as a temporary resource or freelancer. So, the concept of working under a single employer took a back seat. People might end up working for five different employers and all of them could be temporary. It goes without saying that the hiring, training and retention dynamics change under this new light.

The Uberification

Uber and Airbnb sailed through the recession on the gig economy boat. Uber pools in drivers who work as associates – in the lines of business partners. So, there are no wages drawn, but a share in the cab fares. They earn with every ride they take and miss earning opportunities every time they switch off their device. Airbnb follows a similar route; it does not have its own properties to start with but have house owners as partners who host the guests.

Downside of the gig economy

The associates in both the cases have to clamor for consumer attention. So, while at the top rung the gig economy promises flexibility, the bottom rung looks at an intense competition. If you look from the talent management point of view, gig economy looks like an hourglass. Top rung - higher management, senior to middle-level professionals get flexibility and are often more motivated to work compared to the employees. All the while, the bottom rung sees an increased acceleration towards more profit and struggles to acquire a share from a finite consumer base. Often companies do not invest many efforts in chalking down a recruitment and onboarding plan for gig workers. Training and talent retention are mostly overlooked. Background checks and skill tests are not stringent as gig employees do not come to the office that often. The concept of ‘out of sight and out of mind’ sets in the company’s psychology.

Gig is here to stay

    At present, a meagre 2% of the recruitment market is going gig. However, it is here to stay and by 2020 the gig economy will be USD 63 billion globally. As of now, 20-30% of the population in the US and EU are involved in contingent work. Two trends are worth considering:

  • Millennials are 35% of the total workforce today.
  • Millennials are an aspiring lot with a high sense of work-life balance.

Flexibility ranks high for a typical millennial. They need a work-life balance, vacation when they want and some of them will go a step forward to vote in favor of flexi-time and flexi-work. A 9 to 5 desk job for a single employer might not answer their aspirations all the time. Working on different projects will give their learning curve a boost.

What you need to change?

This is the age of automation. McKinsey Global Institute, in their automation study, said that 60% of jobs involve tasks which can be 30% automated. Data collection, repetitive tasks, and other mundane roles will soon be AI driven. But the silver lining is that it will free up a considerable talent management bandwidth. As a talent management professional, you will need to develop talents within the organization. You will need people who can jump from one project to another. You need fast movement of people and the talent management needs to be agile. Here’s what we suggest:

  • The hiring psyche needs an overhaul. Do not go cost-effective, but talent intensive. Most of your gig workers are paid at par with the regular employees based on talent. The onboarding should have an intensive talent management module. You need to understand the key skills and prepare a clear and flexible career path from the very first day.
  • Consider the turnaround time of the gig workers. These people are high on motivation when compared to other employees. However, they lack commitment. Keeping a constant tab on this trait will be a wise move.
  • Moving forward, many talent managers may become a part of the gig economy. The mantra is to scale up depending on the percentage of gig workers in the organization.
  • TM can look at the gig economy as an alternative to expensive global deployment as gig talent is available in abundance across geographies.

How you need to change?

If there are gig workers in your company, then that’s a good news as you are ahead by a few notches from other companies in the market. Do not consider them as just freelancers who look more like email ids you send assignments to. Remember, these people represent your brand. So, TM practices need a major revamp in the way they function and are perceived.

  • Onboarding

    TM needs a complete onboarding process for hiring gig talent. The practice up till now was minimal to zero background and documentation checks for them. They are not “our people” so, a career graph is a futile exercise– this mentality needs to see the door and soon. If a company is planning to replace regular jobs or fill in vacancies with gig workers, then going for a formal onboarding is important. Take cognizance of valid documentation and background checks to avoid bad hires.

  • Engagement for Commitment

    Gig workers work for more than one employer and connect with just two to three people from your company. There are no parties, no-all-hands-meetings. People show commitment to people and not emails. It’s understandable that they are not for the long haul, but engagement (be it a get-together or an official meet-and-know) adds brownie points in the commitment department.

  • Know the jobs that can go gig

    Certain tasks require full-time attention. Few others are ready to go the gig path the moment an employee quits. Analyze the jobs that freelancers can do, see if some of the full-timers intend to go part-time. There will be new roles that could best be put in the gig economy blender, while some will need automation. Managing talent here is the big juggle. Ensure that you are a big part of these strategic decisions. While you are at it, design a learning curve that includes the ‘whens’ and ‘hows’.

  • Be Flexible

    Be open to not seeing all your talents bound to the desk. The millennial population, as well as some senior professionals, need a comfortable breathing space. The reason this pointer came in last because it is the most crucial part that you need to carry home. Prepare and if needed reframe talent management policies that are friendly for flexible work. Change talent management dynamics and if a need arises as stated above go for gigs in TM department to get the remote and global advantage.

  • You have to consider that the lower management might be the face of your company. Termination at the snap of a finger, in view of customer complaints, is not always the solution. Your client will remember the bad experience. If your business associates or the freelancers never get attuned to your corporate standards, then it can result in bad customer experience which can further harm your brand. Understanding skill sets, training needs and creating a learning curve is important. Talent management strategy has to change to cater to the changing nature of employment. Moving forward, TM team should be the connection between the company and the associates. You need to have talent management team at all of your global locations. Maybe it’s time that talent management goes gig too.

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