The desire that today’s workforce has to take full control over their work schedules has led to a new reality of the job market: the gig economy. In the gig economy, employers contract freelancers to complete certain jobs as opposed to hiring full-time employees. Emerging technologies have allowed for better connectivity, empowering more ways of remote working and helping the gig economy to grow. Short-term contractors or freelance workers have already generated about $204 billion in gross volume in 2018 and this figure is expected to grow to $455 billion in 2023.
A gig economy offers certain flexibility and freedom for both the employer and the employee. The employer can hire multiple specialists to complete certain tasks and has the option to select freelancers who are hybrid specialists, or even hyperspecialists, in a desired area. Similarly, the employee gets the flexibility to frequently switch jobs and broaden their portfolio with a wide range of experience.
Despite the buzz around the gig economy and the seemingly inevitable decentralization of work, some hiring managers are still hesitant to employ freelance workers. Why? Well, the gig economy’s model of work creates some challenges, such as building cohesion in a team, creating a sense of belonging for all members, and maintaining strong communication channels. Moreover, these decentralized structures can sometimes create a lack of congruity in policies and procedures across contracted members of the teams. Similar to hyperspecialization, silos can form, and it can be hard for contract employees to see the bigger picture. And of course, talent needs to be intrinsically motivated and driven while working outside the office.
Despite these challenges, a decentralized approach towards recruitment is a reality companies have to adapt to. Luckily, there are a few ways for managers to integrate contract employees rather seamlessly into their teams.
One of the most daunting tasks when hiring freelance workers is making sure they are engaged and motivated. Engagement is imperative to success for full-time employees, too, but it’s doubly important for remote workers who aren’t connected physically to an office or to leadership. One way to approach this challenge is to ensure that contracted employees are doing meaningful work. While it may be difficult to see meaning immediately for some contracted positions, managers need to step in by connecting the job to the bigger picture. To cultivate meaning, any role should answer the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), as well as align to the vision and mission of the company. And that alignment can be reinforced for the contract employees regularly through all channels of communication. Communication can also help sense decreased engagement and address it on the spot. Managers should build in regular checkpoints with their contracted employees to understand their needs and concerns and guide the freelancers.
Plan a Proper Orientation
When new team members are contracted, their orientation is often minimal or even non-existent. It can be quite perplexing and create a sense of isolation, especially when they do not have an opportunity to learn from others on the job. Therefore, a briefing document, followed by a live orientation is a great way to introduce an employee to the team, communicate the company values and standards, and get them off to the right start. Involving your project-based employees in regular team meetings, calls, and brainstorming sessions is crucial to build engagement and have a defined overview of workflows.
Centralize Processes and Procedures
With employees working separately in multiple locations, it’s easy to lose track of who is doing what. A clear workflow and breakdown of responsibilities creates clarity of processes and avoids duplication of efforts. By creating a flowchart that includes regular touchpoints with different team members, both full-time and contractors, you can help avoid working in silos and provide a clear structure on how work needs to be done.
Create a Sense of Belonging
When your team is spread out geographically, it is important to bring them together and ensure all employees feel they belong to the team. Regular teambuilding events that bring people together physically can be a great start. Virtual events can also be used to connect regularly with the teams spread across geographies. Also, recognition is just as important with contract employees, so a structured approach to recognition can ensure contractors are getting positive feedback regularly. For example, try a monthly achievements town hall or recognition board, where employees can post their successes and the manager can share them all out during a monthly meeting. Furthermore, something as simple as ensuring all employees have a company email address and are encouraged to represent the organization at events and conferences encourages inclusion and builds trust. Lastly, a great way to recognize the good work of project-based employees and bring them all to one table can be through learning opportunities. Ensuring continuous learning is part of the team members’ journey assures the contracted employee that the organization values their contribution and is invested in their growth.
The world of work is moving towards a decentralized model, with a higher reliance on freelancers. Managers will have to ensure they are ready to accommodate the new ways of working with the contracted employees in order to achieve business goals. By adopting a few approaches aimed at creating a sense of belonging and maintaining engagement within the entire team, managers will both reap the benefits of the decentralized structure and ensure a healthier working environment for all team members.