The gig economy has experienced a massive growth spurt in recent years, and for good reason. Gig workers are afforded increased flexibility, while employers are able to tap into a valuable pool of remote talent. You’ve likely contemplated pursuing a side hustle yourself. Perhaps you've created a blog, written a book, or sold a collection of vintage baseball cards on eBay. Nowadays, the sky is the limit. Did you know that waiting at the DMV for a stranger can earn you a solid $25 an hour?
The gig economy has now entered into mainstream business practice, with many Fortune 500 companies participating. Unfortunately, many companies exploit the gig economy. They limit pay, treat gig workers poorly, don’t provide health benefits or paid time off, and offer minimal opportunities for advancement. The result is a slew of unengaged and uninspired workers. Fortunately, it doesn’t need to unfold this way. As a leader, you have the power to leverage the gig economy in such a way that all parties reap rewards.
1. Embrace gig workers as part of the team
Many gig workers feel disconnected from their employer. A 2016 study by EY found that 40% of contingent workers feel as if they are outsiders compared to permanent workers. This sense of detachment results in them failing to reach their full potentials.
As a leader, you should strive to embrace your gig workers as part of your team. Ensure gig workers understand your team’s mission, its vision, and how their work contributes. Offer gig workers the opportunity to come on-site and meet members of the team. Consider forging virtual communication bridges between gig workers and permanent workers by leveraging collaborative technologies such as Slack, Asana, and Jira to spur discussion and conversation. If gig employees feel a strong sense of connection to their work, they’ll remain engaged and consistently deliver high caliber work.
2. Offer gig workers feedback
The aforementioned EY study found that only approximately half of gig workers receive performance feedback from their employers. Just like the rest of us, gig workers thrive on constructive guidance. Offer “gigers” positive feedback, as well as constructive criticism. Even a pat on the (virtual) back can go a long way in helping them feel valued. Feedback can also prove very effective in retaining valuable gig talent. It’s worth the time and effort.
3. Monitor levels of morale among permanent employees
When gig workers are highly leveraged by an organization, they can disrupt the pre-existing organizational culture (negatively, as well as positively.) Tethered to the physical workplace, your permanent employees may experience resentment or jealousy if encircled by gig workers who enjoy many unique flexibilities. Carisa Miklusak, CEO of on-demand employee matching service Tilr, explains, “One risk [of tapping into the gig economy] is a negative impact on your current and productive culture of traditional workers…Why can't they have the same flexibility? Why can't they be there different hours? Why can't they pick up a shift or not pick up a shift? Why can't they work somewhere else for six months because they're sick of their boss?”
As you hire gig workers, you’ll need to keep a close watch on levels of morale among your permanent employees. A high level of emotional intelligence will enable you to detect shifts in culture and proactively enact strategies to minimize any adverse fallout.
Every organization will need to adapt to the gig economy. How effectively an organization acclimatizes will determine whether it is primed to prosper or perish. As a leader, you can play a principal role in spurring positive change. The key is to empower your gig workers to thrive and contribute, not to design a modern-day sweatshop that exploits this new lucrative talent pool. An executive coach can guide you in effectively adapting to this new environment and can arm you with the emotional resources to empower all your workers to succeed. Who knows, perhaps you’ll find yourself drawn to the gig lifestyle. Sommelier, anyone?
Nadine Greiner, Ph.D. provides Executive Coaching and Human Resources solutions. Her mission is to make the executive experience exceptionally enjoyable and effective. She believes that the world needs great leaders, and has dedicated her career to helping them.
As an organization psychologist and former corporate CEO, Dr. Nadine understands the pressures and demands executives face. She offers her clients the high expertise that only comes with three decades of consulting success, and a dual Ph.D. in Organization Development and Clinical Psychology. Dr. Nadine is an in-demand speaker, teaches in doctoral programs, and coaches other consultants. She is the author of two books: ‘The Art of Executive Coaching: Secrets to Unlock Leadership Performance’, and of ‘Stress-less Leadership: How to Lead in Business and in Life’. amazon.com/author/nadinegreiner
Contact Information: Feel free to email Dr. Nadine San Francisco Executive Coaching at