The growing gig economy is forcing leaders to evaluate and adapt. People no longer see contract and freelance work as last resorts but as legitimate career choices in their own rights.
As the workforce fragments into piecemeal contracts, managers are tasked with fostering relationships across varying employee types. Building lasting relationships with gig economy workers will set a company up for success as the landscape of business shifts. In order to do this, leaders must adopt new perspectives on classic techniques:
1. Leave Preconceptions at the Door
Gig workers come to companies from various backgrounds, and a successful worker in this talent pool make look and act different than what you’re used to. An older professional looking to make a career change could have the very expertise needed to complete a short-term job. A recent grad may benefit from a shorter contract to gain industry experience. Removing biases from the hiring process opens companies up to brand new kinds of workers. Hire the people best people for the job — just don’t be surprised when you get a unique kind of candidate you’ve never seen before.
2. Involve Everyone in the Company Culture
While contract employees occupy a temporary space in the corporate landscape, it is essential to make them feel connected to the mission and the company environment.
Do you give short-term workers the chance to attend fun events? Is cross-team communication encouraged? Are gig workers viewed as equals? Ensure that contractors have access to as much culture as possible. Include them in brainstorming meetings and team-building exercises. Invite their questions and feedback. A connected contractor will become an advocate for your company, and the relationship will likely become a long and fruitful one.
3. Empower Your Gig Workers
The gig economy gives workers unprecedented choice in whom they work for. If you want to have lasting relationships with your gig workers, you must first convince them to choose your company.
Keep contractors around by providing them with the tools they need to succeed. Are contractors given authority in areas where they have expertise? Is there training in place to allow for effective corporate integration? Are your contractors being used efficiently? Are they assigned to repeat projects when feasible?
When leaders give contract workers power, they create an attractive environment that promotes sustained partnerships between gig workers and the company.
4. Highlight Strengths and Improve Weaknesses
The gig workforce is all about customization. The most effective use of gig workers is to leverage their strengths to fill the company’s existing talent gaps. Continually acknowledge the strengths contractors bring to your company. When gig workers feel valued, they are more likely to give their best performance.
At the same time, do not sugarcoat or gloss over weaknesses. Instead, help gig workers improve their skills by giving them access to the same professional development resources your employees have. You can even connect contractors with mentors within the organization.
5. Create an Ongoing Dialogue
Your relationship with gig workers is not a one-way street. Make time for conversations with contractors. If a worker operates off site, make them feel valued through regular, personalized emails and phone calls.
When you connect with gig workers, give them a genuine opportunity to express their thoughts and concerns. Was there adequate training? Do they have ideas about how to make the experience better for other contractors?
You can also use these conversations to ensure the relationship stays on its mutually beneficial course by working with contractors to set goals and refine expectations. Managing a gig workforce requires lots of planning due to the complexity and diversity of the workforce itself. Make a commitment to every contractor and maintain structures that keep them involved in the process.
These management techniques are not new, but they must be applied to the gig workforce in new ways. Inclusivity and inquiry are indispensable assets to gig workforce leaders and will continue to be for as long as the gig economy grows.
Curtis L. Odom, Ed.D., is the president of Stuck on Start Coaching.