October 15, 2018

3 Ways to Retain Talent in the Gig Economy


New York City recently passed a bill requiring Airbnb to provide the names and addresses of those who rent through its site. Airbnb fought back, claiming the measure would hurt everyday people who make ends meet by renting out their homes.

Actions like this help gig companies gain the trust and support of their contractors. With the freelance workforce growing almost three times faster than the overall workforce, it is clear that this new type of employment is here to stay.

What can more traditional companies learn from the gig economy when it comes to engage and cultivating trust with their own employees?

The Many Faces of the Gig Economy

Work can take many forms in the gig economy, and many traditional organizations employ gig workers for their own ends.

For example, many organizations outsource talent internationally to contract workers around the world. This arrangement is particularly common in on-demand social media content monitoring, like Facebook content moderators who look for breaches of the platform’s terms and conditions. Outsourcing allows companies to accomplish critical tasks easily and affordably, without having to onboard thousands of employees.

Contracted consulting firms are also a form of gig work commonly utilized by organizations. Hiring an outside agency to handle a set of specialized tasks can often save a business money, as opposed to hiring full-time employees. Consulting services can be expensive up front, but most organizations will end up saving funds in the long run, as they won’t have to pay for salaries, insurance, tech needs, and other expenses incurred by in-house employees.

Project-based freelancers are also common. When an organization wants to take on a complicated project for which it doesn’t have the required talent in house, it will often look to skilled gig workers and freelancers for a quick solution. For example, many companies hire copywriters to pad out an empty blogs or developers to overhaul a specific landing page.

As traditional full-time employees see the increased frequency with which their employers engage gig workers and the options afforded by a career in gig work, they’ll begin to see the perks of this work arrangement. This puts companies at risk of losing their own talent to the gig economy. If you want to keep your own employees loyal, you’ll have to give them a a good reason to stay.

How to Keep Your Employees From Leaving for the Gig Economy

When looking to retain talent in this competitive economy, organizations that employ traditional in-house workers should consider these best practices:

1. Optimize Workplace Communication

It’s easy to blame technology for the longer hours many of us now work, but there’s no doubt advances in communication technology have dramatically improved our lives in many ways. Not only is digital communication convenient, but it also allows employers to grant their workers more freedom and flexibility.

In our always-on world, workers don’t have to necessarily gather in the same office space every day to accomplish tasks and reach goals. In light of this fact, you should allow staff members as much flexibility as they ask for, whether it means more time to work from home, more mental health days, or more PTO. As long as employees are putting forth high-quality work, there’s no reason to enforce a traditional work style that tethers people to their office chairs.

2. Offer Competitive Benefits

Millennial and Gen. Z workers expect a lot from the organizations they work for, and rightly so. This segment of the workforce is the most educated yet, holding a much higher number of college degrees than past generations. Because of their extensive educations, millennial and Gen. Z workers are able to demand competitive salaries and benefits.

While smaller companies can’t necessarily follow the Facebook or Google models of fringe benefits, they can and should look for ways to offer unique benefits that meet employees’ needs. If you’re not giving employees what they want, they won’t hesitate to get it for themselves by joining the gig workforce.

3. Prioritize Work/Life Balance

According to FlexJobs, 72 percent of workers who don’t have children see work/life balance as one of the most important factors when evaluating a job opportunity. Among parents, that number is even higher at 84 percent.

To help your employees achieve healthy work/life balances, start by encouraging staff to create boundaries separating work time from family time. This way, they aren’t bringing emotional baggage from work into their quality time with loved ones. For me personally, I know my wife and kids expect me to be fully present when I’m at home, and I want to be able to engage with my family without having to worry about work.

If employees can’t strike a balance at your organization, they can by becoming self-employed members of the gig economy.

When it comes to retaining talent in the face of the gig economy, the best advice is to make your company as attractive as possible to current employees and emerging talent. The world of work is transforming quickly, and positioning themselves as progressive companies in touch with the times will allow businesses to scale for success. The right talent is worth any investment, as a happy team of long-term workers leads to better performance and stronger results.

Scott Smith is the chief revenue officer for CloudApp.

Read more in Retention

Scott Smith is the chief revenue officer for CloudApp, where he is responsible for business strategy, revenue, and marketing operations. Scott has spent his career working at companies built using the software as a service (SaaS) business model. Prior to joining CloudApp, Scott spent three years at Facebook, working on the Workplace business communications product and the Parse developer platform. Before that, he spent about three years at Dyn, an acquisition, subsidiary, and partner company to Oracle.