So, it seems the writing is on the wall… While we’ve seen the trend where having employees not really be employees by being embedded by vendors or contractors warming office seats daily and filling Full Time Employee responsibilities on behalf of the companies for a number of years, the act of employing, but not really employing people is coming to a head on a larger scale. Regardless of the current, broad legal and labor implications that consistently hit the newswires, everything is pointing to actual FTE declining and the Gig Economy taking deeper hold. The question is; is your company prepared for this gig?

Some industries, like entertainment – not just film crews, but marketing departments and more – have been there, yet “traditional” industries are making the transition. The benefits to the company are numerous (i.e. no need to pay for medical insurance, unemployment benefits, office rent, tax reporting plus the other benefits workers used to expect), but there are absolutely corporate challenges that can weigh heavily against the benefits of shifting the workforce. Gone are the days where long-term advantages through investment in training or culture actually contributed to the bottom line. The expectation is – and will further become – that workers slip into (and out of) real and virtual seats, carry on the company’s work and extend profitability – all with no expectation of any true long-term team or workforce security.

The bean counters could consider the savings listed above to be big, but even the medical savings isn’t relevant in numerous western countries with universal health insurance and other social services available to all citizens. So, you have to question the challenges of a transient workforce vs. the gains of enabling a Gig Workforce…

OK. It took a while to get to the kicker, but there are upfront investment and steps that can be taken to ensure your company incurs as little recurring cost as possible to on-board the “contractors”, motivate them and instill what the company is about – rather than them feeling it’s a collection of people completing tasks to deliver… whatever.

Straight off the bat, let’s figure that all the legal, medical and labor implications will work themselves out. Because they sort of have to. What is most important is setting up your company environment and systems so that the revolving door workers can immediately know what they’re supposed to do and how what they are doing plays a role within the bigger picture. You get bonus points if you go beyond that and make them passionate about what they do because the Gig Economy effectively places company loyalty on the same museum mantel as pensions and golden watch retirements.

Here’s the 3 most important things your company must do to succeed within the Gig Economy:

  1. Truly convey what your company delivers so that what they are stepping into and what role they play is immediately understood. This is not a description of what you distribute or make. It is also not a mission statement that is wordy, ideological or has no quick and direct tie to the reality you’re dealing with. All companies should absolutely know what they deliver to their clients and, possibly, the clients’ customers. A production company might make movies, but they are really looking to tell stories that will move people. A healthcare company might make defibrillators, but they really create products that save lives where they previously might have been lost. Financial advisers might sell retirement packages, but…you get the picture. Determine what your company delivers, find a way to convey that compellingly and ensure that anybody doing work on your product sees it before doing a lick of business.
  2. Develop systems that enable the revolving door that is inevitable. Just over a decade ago, seeing less than two years in each position on a resume was a black mark. Now, it is the norm. Clearly define what roles and skills are required at each position so that you can best find the replacement to step in and carry the work forward. Doing this correctly not only helps the on-boarding and continuity, but it also pinpoints what candidates you should be looking for to fill those positions. Well considered systems turn into less up-to-speed time, better systematic fits and, importantly, stronger profitability. If you are into sports, this resembles what successful franchises do consistently – regardless of which person steps into each position.
  3. Develop an environment that welcomes this type of workforce and let them know that you want them. With the above items covered, a bunch of this is immediately taken care of. Still, a worker feeling they are part of a team takes time – even longer when they are remote/virtual. And, it’s important to note that, even with systems in place to cover the revolving door, individual workers don’t usually perform their best when they are led to believe or are perceived to be valued little and reminded of their replace-ability. Additionally, I’ve seen the Gig, Embed, Consultant environment fail both the workers and the company when those who are not FTE are treated differently regarding expectations and non-financial benefits like holiday parties, off-sites, etc.

All of this goes both ways – with companies and workers playing equal roles in whether the Gig Economy works for your company. Whether related to long-term or short-term placements, the Gig Economy is inevitable across the board. With suggestions that, in the future, 1 of every 2 workers over the age of 55 will be a part of the Gig Economy – everyone will definitely be affected. Workers should expect clarity from the companies they work for, as much as the companies expect them to be able to jump in and deliver quickly and effectively.

Oddly, Full Time Employees and owners/management that are fully vested in and driving the companies are not always best able to visualize the path that right in front of them to evaluate and deliver upon the three steps above. They need to engage outside help in illuminating what the company is truly about or establishing systems for transition and support. Luckily, there’s already a growing economy for experts who are open for the gig.

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