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Strategies for Employee Engagement in a Gig Economy

Mukesh Gupta | Feb 1, 2017 222 views No Comments

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EY recently announced the results of a Contingent Workforce Study that unearths key insights into the nature of the freelance or contingent workforce (the “gig economy”). Some of the key insights from the study regarding the future state of the Gig economy that they quote are as below:

By 2020, 25% of organizations expect to use 30% or more contingent workers and the proportion using less than 10% will fall from 35% in 2016 to 22% in 2020.

The gig economy is going to continue to grow, by 2020 almost one in five workers will be contingent workers.

Two in five organizations expect to increase their use of contingent workers over the next 5 years. Biggest increases expected by operations / service / production departments and IT.

Forty-four percent of organizations expect more regulation in relation to the contingent workforce.

You can access more information about the research and the key findings here.

If you are running a business, this will mean that you will need to do two things:

  1. Contingent Workforce: Create better framework to hire, engage, appraise and pay your contingent workforce in a way that moves your business forward. You would have to leverage technology in some form or the other to be able to do this seamlessly.
  2. Full-time Staff: You will need to re-look at how you manage projects, hire, engage, appraise and pay your existing employees. As a business, it would be extremely difficult to have two kinds of systems running in parallel for managing performances within the organisation.

This is where, I would believe that there needs to be a change in our approach to managing all of our workforce – contingent or other-wise.

In his book, Trust Factor, Paul Zak, shares the insight that it would be best to treat employees (all of them, irrespective of contingent or permanent) as volunteers. I also agree to this approach because, at the end of the day, all employees are volunteers – they CAN and DO decide if they want to bring their best selves to work or just do enough to get by without getting fired. They can and increasingly, often do leave their jobs to become contingent workers and their own bosses.

The moment you start treating your employees as volunteers, the whole approach to managing them will need to be re-thought.

How You Hire

Your hiring process needs to start looking at potential employees who are intrinsically motivated vs extrinsically motivated. They need to look at having a shared purpose before hiring the new workforce, as this is becoming more and more important for the new workforce.

How You Manage

You would need managers to start behaving differently. Command and control structures are getting more and more rare and will continue to lose relevance.

Managers need to start behaving like mentors and coaches who are tasked with primarily creating a culture and an environment, where the employees can flourish, thereby enabling the business to flourish.


Engage with customers in real-time across every channel, no matter the medium. Use visitor tracking and email analytics to know what your customers are seeing.

In order to be able to do so, the managers will need to first earn the trust of their employees, before they can start coaching and mentoring them.

How You Appraise

You would need to re-look at the way we distribute work and manage the performances. In a world where there is almost 40% of the workforce is contingent, the way you appraise the performance needs to shift. There is already a lot of changes happening, with even large organisations experimenting with abolishing annual cycles of appraisals to regular, on-going appraisals.

I think most organisations would realise that it is not enough to do their regular appraisals, but also include a project based cycle of appraisals. This will afford the managers a way to clearly articulate and appraise performances by their full-time staff and their contingent work-force.

How you Re-assign

If the appraisal cycles will become project based, then the next logical step is for employees to look at the possibility of picking up projects that they would like to be a part of, once their existing projects are completed. We will also see that these employees might be involved in a couple of projects at the same time, for different teams as well. I have written about this in details here.

Conclusion:

Building trust then becomes an essential part of the leaders, which, when done right, leads to a high-performance culture because it impacts the triple bottom line – it is good for employees, increases profits, and builds stronger communities.

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