September 5, 2018

Gig, freelance, portfolio and more: engaging the modern employee


Imogen Lyons, Senior Communication Manager.

The way we experience work and our expectations from our careers have changed beyond recognition in the last five years, directly impacting our relationships with employers. With the popularity of gig and freelance work on the rise, organisations that want to continue to attract top talent have to adapt to new rules of employment, which are being shaped by the employee.  So what does this mean for the rules of engagement?

Our increasingly diverse workforce has caused a surge in different working habits, interests and demands. The traditional ‘9 to 5’ desk job is changing with the advent of portfolio careers, the rise of the gig economy and digitally-facilitated labour exchanges. The latest research shows 40% of UK workers now have a ‘side hustle, or secondary income, and self-employment is growing rapidly, reaching 15% of the UK workforce in 2017. In the US, it was anticipated that a staggering 50% of the workforce could be freelance as early as 2020.

With different ways of working firmly on the increase, how can organisations engage, motivate and connect with gig employees, particularly when they all have such diverse preferences and needs?

Be ready to adapt and listen. Different opinions, styles and perspectives can drive innovation and business performance, when combined in the right way. Organisations that can embrace change and new perspectives will see an increase in employee trust, motivation and creativity. It’s important to allow gig workers the flexibility they want but check in regularly to understand what’s working well, what needs improving and how they like to receive information. The focus should be on giving individuals the platform they need to produce results for your organisation.

Add some personality. If the working experience feels transactional, the chances are the quality of work will reflect this. While freelancers and contractors do have their own priorities, it’s essential to make them feel like an integral part of the team and valued human beings rather than just resource. Think about creating an inspiring onboarding experience for them, set up meetings with the right people early on and give them access to all the information they need so they can hit the ground running.

Bring them on the journey. There is a balance to achieve here as the very nature of the gig economy means your typical freelance worker will want some sense of autonomy, but it’s still critical they feel part of the journey your organisation is on and bought into your mission, vision and values. Including them in company news and asking them for feedback will make them feel involved and connected, just make sure you’re confident that you are reaching them in the right way – whether digital or in person. You may also want to apply the same rigor during the hiring process as you would for a full time employee and sense check that your values are aligned from the get-go.

Development and recognition. Consider what you can offer in terms of development, including relevant training and also allow contractors the space to seek out development opportunities, playing back learnings and new skills to teams. It’s no secret that a little recognition goes a long way. Showcasing gig contribution will help your freelance and contractor community feel part of something bigger and energised by seeing the impact they’ve had.