People & Leadership

8 tips for managing a gig economy workforce

The contingent workforce is becoming more diverse to include agencies and freelancers. How do you manage workers who you have no formal authority over?

Today’s workplace is changing.

The contingent workforce is growing and becoming more diverse to include agencies, freelancers and gig workers.

Digital platforms are facilitating this change with about 20% to 30% of the working-age population in the US and Europe engaging in some form of independent work.

Sadly for Dolly Parton, though, working nine to five just isn’t the theme tune to many workers’ lives anymore, with many opting for flexibility and a better work life balance.

Traditionally, gig workers have been kept at an arm’s length. But as more companies adopt a blended workforce of contractors and permanent employees, it’s increasingly important that the two work well together.

So how do you motivate, incentivise and manage someone who you have no formal authority over? Here’s a series of things to consider.

1. See the job from their perspective

By virtue of the fact that freelancers don’t sit with your team on a daily basis, you will know less about them.

Ask them why they want this particular assignment. Is it for the money, the experience, the challenge,  the chance to work with interesting people, or to learn new skills?

Ask them what they want in return for their work and give it to them.

In today’s competitive market, hiring and retaining highly talented freelancers is difficult, so it is in any employer’s interest to ensure that their best gig workers continue to work with them.

2. Be very clear with your brief

When hiring temporary workers, ensure you give them a clear brief outlining your expectations from their work.

Also make sure you provide context for them.

They don’t sit with you, so they won’t know why the job is important or how it fits into the big picture. In order to ensure that you get the best work out of them, make sure you provide them with the full picture.

3. Equip them to stay connected

In a blended workforce, there could be teams of permanent and freelance workers in different places working on the same projects.

To ensure that chaos doesn’t ensue, each worker needs to be connected to each other, with visibility of work documents, timelines and any new developments that might affect the project.

Provide all of your workers with great mobile experiences so they can check and edit docs on the go, share up to date information immediately and communicate with each other effectively wherever they are.

For example, good HR and People cloud software allows you visibility of all your workers, permanent or gig, enabling you to manage your projects easily and effectively.

4. Get to know them

Just because they are not permanent staff, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to know them. Don’t fall into a purely transactional relationship. Ask them what they like to do when not working.

Building a relationship shows that you care. In turn, they are more likely to respect your organisation and your values, which is vital for them to produce good work and not to do anything that could harm your business.

Having a good relationship with them will also deter them from sharing sensitive information or taking on clients that may be a conflict of interest without speaking with you first.

5. Include them in the team

For the most part, gig workers like to feel that they are part of a team, so make them feel like it.

Include them in meetings, give them a company email address, invite them to team lunches and let them in on some of the water cooler conversations.

Your compliance team may be a bit nervous about this as they don’t want them to look like real employees for legal and tax purposes, so you need to be careful not to overstep the mark and break any regulations, however.

Be aware, also, of confidentiality.

Have them sign a non-disclosure agreement, but, as with any employee, give them access to what they need to know to perform their job and don’t share highly sensitive company information with them if it is not necessary.

6. Feedback

One of the most difficult parts of being a freelancer is delivering work and then hearing nothing. Was it good? Wasn’t it? Were the powers that be happy? How did it fit into the wider business?

There is no need to give formal performance reviews but at the end of each assignment, have a five-minute chat to tell them what went well and what didn’t. If they’ve done a good job, thank them and if possible in front of others.

They will appreciate the recognition and it will give them the confidence and the reassurance that they are delivering to a high enough degree and to continue to do so.

7. Don’t micromanage

Good contractors know how to manage themselves. Tell them what you need by when and then give them the flexibility to work in their own time.

Remember they chose to work for themselves because of the autonomy it gives them over their time.

If you find that you need to micromanage, then perhaps you have the wrong freelancer and it’s time to find another.

8. Pay

If you want a job done well, then pay well. Don’t look at contractors as work-for-hire and take advantage.

Pay them the market rate and if you really value their work, pay them more.

If you are hiring a contractor you have never worked with before, then avoid asking for work on spec, offer to pay for the time the ‘try out’ takes.

People talk and if you give a contractor a bad deal, they will tell others and you will get a reputation that could be tricky to shake off.

Show you value gig workers

Although gig workers don’t have the same employment rights that permanent workers have, it is important that HR and People teams are just as involved in their recruitment and onboarding.

Apart from handling legal requirements and contractual obligations, HR and People teams can also assist managers in how to manage gig workers, how to obtain the best results from them, and can step in should any problems arise.

Ultimately, to get the best out of everyone, it is important that gig workers embrace the company culture and are made to feel as valued as permanent workers during their contract.

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