Gig Economy

How 'Unconventional' Workers Can Be the Answer to Your Company Culture Woes

Offering freelance positions at your company is no longer about worker desperation but worker convenience.
How 'Unconventional' Workers Can Be the Answer to Your Company Culture Woes
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Ten years ago, flexible work options became hugely popular. People turned to freelance and temporary work because they couldn't find traditional full-time jobs. But now, things are different.

Related: Top 5 Ways Freelancers Can Stay Competitive in the Gig Economy

A December 2017 report from The Adecco Group and LinkedIn compiled data from more than 4 million LinkedIn users and surveyed an additional 102,000 short-term employees. Its finding: 54 percent of respondents chose flexible work because it fit their needs.

Flexible work arrangements allow individuals to go back to school or spend time with their families. Having one of these positions is no longer about worker desperation but rather worker convenience. "Flexible" also now extends beyond positions that allow only occasional telecommuting.

So, amid this new culture, perhaps it's time that employers recognize the benefits of hiring freelancers, gig workers, independent contractors and temporary employees -- in lieu of risking alienating an ever-growing talent pool.

Recognize the part they play in the organization's culture.

Many companies fall within industries with seasonal or unpredictable talent needs. They hire 10 people when business is good, but need to fire them when they unexpectedly lose a major client.

As CEO of the Cincinnati-based recruiting platform Tilr, Carisa Miklusak has seen these scenarios and points out that such layoffs cause big hits to company morale. “Companies hire and fire from the traditional W2 workforce as business needs change," she pointed out to me. But: "This type of approach and consistent turnover creates a feeling of instability and can be a negative pull on company culture.

"Using a flexible workforce," Miklusak noted, "erases this feeling of instability, as workers are hired with aligned expectations.”

Related: How the Gig Economy Hurts Workers and Consumers

Share these hiring expectations, then, with your whole team. Let everyone know up front how long a flexible worker will be with the company. That way, when this person leaves, shockwaves won't reverberate throughout the organization.

Of course, this doesn’t mean treating flexible talent as dispensable. Value these people for the part they play in maintaining a great company culture. Include them in team events, like holiday parties and company lunches. That way, they can enjoy the work environment they’re helping to preserve.

Stop thinking "traditional vs. unconventional."

It’s wrong to think of full-time, in-office employees as "traditional," and flexible workers as "unconventional." That type of thinking makes the latter group seem much less valuable.

Melbourne, Australia-based job interview-simulation platform Vervoe makes a point of this; the company sees value in workers of all types. “We don’t see a modern company as a bunch of people in the same city, under one roof between 9 and 5,” CEO and co-founder Omer Molad said in an email. “We think of our business as a group of people working towards a common mission, with the same values.”

Shift the focus at your company from how and where an employee works to what he or she contributes to the team. This starts with defining role expectations. Decide on the main responsibilities the company needs to fill. Then, be open to the various ways a flexible worker can help accomplish those goals.

Highlight how a role can change their lives.

The New York City-based online healthcare platform Virtual Health Partners recognizes that many candidates accept flexible work roles to help achieve personal goals. So, VHP aligns its talent acquisition strategy accordingly.

“One of my team members told me that the extra money she earned working with VHP helped her become the first person in her family to ever buy a house,” CEO and co-founder Jillian Bridgette Cohen said in an email. “Another team member recently called me to say thank you for the opportunity to work flexible hours. She now has time for her three young kids, blogging and running classes.”

When looking to hire a flexible worker, recognize that it's important to determine that person's goals. Then, discuss how the role and the company can help him or her get there. Be open to creative solutions. For instance, despite the Affordable Care Act, many people still don't have health insurance. If a flexible worker mentions that having employer-provided insurance -- if only for a few months -- would help his or her family, offer it. This individual might then be willing to accept lower pay for not having to pay out-of-pocket for insurance.

Understand everyone’s expectations.

Not all flexible workers choose their jobs because it’s good for their career. In fact, the aforementioned Adecco and LinkedIn report found that 36 percent of flexible workers surveyed took these jobs because they couldn't ind permanent work. Understandably, they hope that a temporary position will transition into full-time one. This is why it’s important to discuss expectations early.

As pointed out by Kimmie Greene, head of communications for QuickBooks Self-Employed at the Mountain View, Calif.-based financial management software company Intuit, honesty is best; it ensures the best experience for everyone.

“Clearly communicating things like review cycles, deadlines and quality expectations is important because then a freelancer knows what is expected of them, and you can manage them without any hiccups,” Greene said via email. "Don't leave a sour taste in the mouths of flexible workers. If there’s no chance for a transition to a full-time role, let them know.

Related: How the Gig Economy Is Changing Work for Women

"But, if there is a long-term position available, give them a step-by-step explanation of how they can earn the job," Greene also said.

Chances are, if you do that, you'll have a grateful, hard-working potential employee to show for your effort.

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