This is a modified excerpt from our new guide, “How Enterprises Are Adapting to the Gig Economy.” Download the full piece here.
In recent years, the so-called gig economy has effectively gone from emerging trend to the way much of work … works. Many people think of Uber drivers, TaskRabbit “Taskers”, and the like when they think of the gig economy; a broader definition includes the practice of businesses increasingly utilizing contractors, freelancers, and independent consultants. It also includes the changing goals and preferences of today’s workers — freedom, variety, a wide set of experiences — that lead them to seek gig-based careers. It’s this broader definition we’re working from in this post.
There are two main waves of change in enterprises right now resulting from the gig economy’s opportunities and norms. Both are good; one is, at first, a non-obvious route. Leading companies are beginning to implement this more innovative approach, and as it becomes more mainstream, it’s likely to have a dramatic, positive effect on retention, performance, and more.
A combination of both approaches is the best strategy. Let’s talk about the more familiar one first.
1. Use Contractors Where It Makes Sense
You’re probably already doing this: converting some of what would have been full-time roles in the past into contract “gigs.” Creative functions such as graphic design and copywriting tend to make sense for a contract model. Software development is another good example. Essentially, roles that do not manage others and are more focused on output than input can work quite successfully as freelance gigs.
By restructuring these roles, you can eliminate the costs associated with benefits, office space, equipment, onboarding, training, and unproductive downtime. You can also gain a new, higher level of work quality — freelancers are often specialists and masters of their craft — and potentially benefit from an outside perspective with exposure to a broader set of ideas. Also, scaling your workforce when needed becomes much easier when more roles are contract.
2. Offer Internal “Gigs” to Employees
This is where things get really exciting. While a flip to freelancers works beautifully for some positions, other, more strategic roles are best as full-time. Plus, FTEs in general are uniquely valuable to the organization: They bring a level of institutional context and industry knowledge that contractors simply cannot.
How do you motivate and retain these people, in a tight talent market in which the gig economy has set a precedent for choice, control, and rapid growth for workers? Offer them (internal) gigs.
Think about it: You could give your employees the freedom to choose their own projects. You could allow them to join any team they wished. You could build a culture in which employees gig-hopped their way to their career goals — internally.
It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Here’s a bit more about what it entails:
Enable Them to Choose or Initiate Their Own Projects
Imagine a sort of “marketplace” in which all of the projects in your company were visible — and open — to all employees. People could self-select into stretch projects that would help them build their skills, or give them experience in a whole new area of work. They could also create their own projects based on their interests and goals.
Enable Them to Join Whichever Team(s) They Wish
Similarly, in this marketplace with its increased visibility, employees could identify other teams and departments they may like to work in. They could get some of the pros of switching jobs — new challenges, new teammates, new skills, new experiences — without having to leave the company. They continue to grow, and you retain an employee in whom you’ve already invested onboarding time and training. Speaking of training…
Recommend Helpful Learning Assets
A big benefit to changing jobs is the opportunity to learn a new role, new approaches, new processes, perhaps a new industry. In support of the internal gigs idea, you could offer a library of rich learning assets — webinars, ecourses, tutorials, etc. — that enable employees to continue to amass knowledge, while continuing to work for your company.
Connect Them With Leadership Opportunities
Have workers with managerial or senior-role aspirations? Many of your top performers will be in this category — and if they don’t see avenues for gaining leadership experience within your organization, they’ll look outside of it. The ability to choose their own teams and projects definitely opens up leadership opportunities for workers, but intentionally matching them to initiatives they can lead is even better.
How can you create this sort of structure? The short answer is intelligent people management and machine learning. The full answer is in our new guide, “How Enterprises Are Adapting to the Gig Economy.” Grab your copy today!