Capitalize on the Rise of the Contingent Workforce to Push Strategic Projects Over the Finish Line

Just be sure to treat those gig workers right because, with employment at a historic high, it's not uncommon for recruiters to poach workers from competitors.
Capitalize on the Rise of the Contingent Workforce to Push Strategic Projects Over the Finish Line
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These days, we all know people who work in the gig economy. After the economic downturn of 2008, many employees who were laid off transitioned their work skills to a freelance basis -- and many have never looked back. As recently as 2017, staffing industry analyst SIA estimated that there were 48 million contingent workers in the United States, comprising fully 31 percent of the workforce.

These numbers are good news because, with the unemployment rate at a 49-year low, many businesses are finding it hard to hire talented full-time employees. If this sounds like your company, contingent workers might just be a great alternative to full-timers for you.

These so-called "gig workers" allow businesses to accomplish one-time projects or fill a temporary or specific need. And, if they're hired through a gig platform or staffing agency, there are fewer recruiting costs (or ongoing costs normally associated with full-time workers), so their acquisition can represent a significant cost savings.

Related: Unemployment Is Way Down: 3 Tips to Attract Employees in a Tight Market

Getting help on several fronts

In startups, employees need a diverse range of skills. A company might need an employee with skills in IT, software development, contract law and marketing -- all in one package. This will not be an easy person to find. Turning to contingent workers allows a company to hire multiple employees with multiple skill sets in these areas; that way, the company's needs can be filled with a high level of expertise in every area desired.

For employees, too, contingent work has benefits. In addition to a flexible work schedule and the freedom to choose the scope and aim of each project accepted, these workers can offer their skills to multiple clients so as not to be dependent on any single employer to make a living.

Related: 10 of the Highest Paying Gig Economy Jobs of 2018

The moves companies can make to hold on to great gig workers.

For companies that decide to hire gig workers, there are a few things to know about keeping those workers happy and performing their best work. In many ways, contingent workers are like other employees: They expect fair treatment, and they want to be valued. Here are some ways to ensure your company can hold on to them:

1. Provide a full description about what the job entails. Often, contingent workers who leave a job early do so because they were expecting a different gig from the one they landed. Fortunately, this situation is easy to avoid. When hiring, be sure to fully describe the job and lay out all expectations so workers know what they're getting into.

To ensure contingent workers are prepared for the job, companies are also relying on various intermediaries in the hiring process. Whether it's an outsourced HR group or a third-party procurement team, relying on a managed service provider can help an organization land the right workers on a more consistent basis.

2. Provide training as needed. According to research from Oracle, 40 percent of employers in one survey felt that gig workers should pay for the costs of their training. Oracle's own human capital strategy manager, Andy Campbell, however, said he felt differently. "Our view is that employers must start to treat their gig cohort as they would their normal full-time employees and train them, too," Campbell said.

Indeed, a little bit of training can go a long way. If an organization is going to pay a freelancer, why not make sure that person is properly equipped to do the job? That doesn't mean covering business school tuition, but companies should still regard training gig workers as an investment that pays dividends.

3. Don't wait too long to hire the person you need. When a contingent worker is a great fit for an organization and he or she is adding significant value, it's a good idea to communicate that worker's value through a rate increase or even a full-time job offer. Because employment is at a historic high, it's not uncommon for recruiters to poach workers from competitors, so don't take effective contract employees for granted.

Also, contingent workers often don't stay with the same gig all year. In the selling and leasing sector, for instance, seven out of 10 gig workers stay with a job for just one to three months.

4. Create a positive work environment. Just because a worker isn't being hired for a full-time role doesn't mean he or she doesn't need to be a good fit culture-wise. If you have a workplace where employees are supported and happy and where collaboration is welcomed, gig workers will want to be a part of the company.

Businesses can take a cue from companies that are known for treating part-time workers well, such as Trader Joe's. The discount grocery chain offers its workers flexible schedules, supportive managers and other perks. In fact, Glassdoor has named the chain one of the best places to work for three years in a row.

Related: Creating a Positive Office Culture in Your Business

All signs point to the continued growth of the contingent workforce. To capitalize on the changing workforce, organizations must take advantage of the availability of contingent workers to push strategic projects over the finish line.

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