In my recent interview on CBC Radio Active, I shared my thoughts that the future of work will be trending towards a more gig-type work environment. People who fill the short-term needs of an organization as independent contractors are often called “Gig Workers”, “Freelancers”, “Consultants”, or “On-Demand Workers”. The popular gig workers we often encounter include IT programmers, project managers, marketing and social media gurus, arts and creative designers, accountants, investment advisors, management consultants, home repair technicians, delivery drivers, etc.
The emergence of gig workers is mostly due to technological advancement and the lack of stability in traditional employment. People have gradually realized that there is no job for life anymore, so they start to think about having more than one employment and income source. Organizations today, on the other hand, face more competition than ever, scarce resources and rapidly changing demands from customers. As organizations are adapting to these changes, they are also pondering: is having traditional employees the right or only staffing solution? If results/outcomes are the focus, then does it matter who completes the work? How can we have a flexible workforce to suit our changing needs?
An organization’s workforce usually comprises a permanent employee base and a contingent worker base. Workers who fall under the contingent category are typically paid by project/task or for a duration. They are usually hired for shorter-term assignments or hired on-demand. According to Randstad’s study of “Workforce 2025”, the contingent workforce in Canada is expected to reach 35% by 2025.¹
Gig workers fall under this category.
To effectively recruit gig workers, there are a couple of questions to answer in advance.
First, why is your organization hiring gig workers? There may be a couple of reasons:
You need experts or extra hands to complete tough/urgent projects.
You want to use outside experts to help build internal capacity. This means that the contractors will get the work done while they “train the trainer”.
You want to achieve staffing cost efficiencies. Gig workers typically charge an hourly rate or a project rate, with no benefits or pension being paid to them, or corner office provided, nor do they have an interest in organizational politics. Most of the time, they provide their own transportation and equipment. The engagement and termination of their contracts can be done more efficiently than traditional employees. Furthermore, with seasoned contractors, work is typically completed faster and better; hence cost savings in the long run.
Second, for organizations preparing to hire gig workers, the organization itself needs to be flexible. Questions to consider include:
● Can the job be done remotely?
● Can the hours be flexible? Any time zone concerns?
● Does the person need to interact with the rest of the teams? Are employees open to working with contractors?
● Is the organization ready for fresh and outsider thinking? Etc.
Third, there are many similarities between hiring gig workers and employees. Organizations still need to start with a plan that includes the type of work that needs to be done, the timeline to start and complete the work and establish a budget. To recruit gig workers, I recommend the following channels:
I find that word of mouth and referrals work well. If my company needs to hire a contractor, I typically look into people who I already know or solicit referrals from trusted connections.
Many online platforms, such as Freelancer, Upwork, and Task Rabbit are great sources to attract various types of gig workers. LinkedIn “ProFinder” is also a good tool where you can enter the field of tasks you want to hire people for, then LinkedIn will provide recommendations.
Strong but unsuccessful candidates for full-time jobs may be good candidates for contract work. One candidate I helped my client organization to interview for a permanent position left such a positive impression on us. She declined the job because of the amount of travel required. We contacted her again during COVID. Since all work is done remotely, no more traveling is involved. Although the organization could only offer a temporary contract at the moment, the lady accepted it in a heartbeat!
Staffing agencies can be a good source of temporary workers for administrative and transactional types of work. I have had successes in using staffing agencies to recruit groups of workers for temporary tasks under short timelines. Typically, the agencies take care of the background checks of the workers before they recommend them to employers.
(Virtual) Networking events always help expose your organization to potential contractors. If your organization participates in job fairs, then those would also be great opportunities to recruit both employees and independent contractors. With the soft economy that we are in right now, many people are flexible to consider both employment and freelancing work. Recently, I helped a client organization to expand its team. I suggested that their job postings be flexible in accepting either employees or contractors. This was very appealing to candidates.
If you are a government or public sector organization, then you are probably familiar with the term Request for Proposal (RFP). RFPs outline the bidding process and contract terms. They are generally issued for complex projects. Typically, when the value of the project is above a specific, generally high threshold, for example, $75K, then these organizations follow their procurement policy by issuing an RFP to solicit bid submissions. A committee will then evaluate the bids they receive, and score and rank them. In the end, the organization will select the top vendor company to award the project to. If the value of a project is small, let’s say less than $10K, and you have a few vendors that you know or have worked with, then your procurement policy may allow you to get quotes from them directly.
Fourth, after generating a pool of contractors to choose from, you still want to talk to them, review their work samples, watch their demonstration or presentation, and then verify what they said is true. This could involve verifying their credentials and contacting their past clients for references. I would also suggest checking their website and social media, and even online reviews of their past work, if applicable.
Fifth, after the top contractor is selected, then a contract needs to be signed. Some organizations have their own standard template. Others would ask the contractors to provide such a contract. Common terms and conditions to include are the start and end date of the work, the type of work involved, results expected, invoice/ payment terms, a confidentiality clause, language regarding intellectual property and contract termination, etc. A good contractual relationship starts with a good contract.
Sixth, after the consultant is onboarded, organizations still want to maintain regular communication, especially to ensure mutual understanding of work expectations, communication methods, reporting frequency, stakeholder relationships, etc. One organization that I have been supporting with sustained passion for several years is because the colleagues and leaders always invite me to their events and decision-making meetings. I can call most of the employees by their names. The more the contractors understand your operations, the better the results they will deliver.
Finally, when the work is completed, then your organization should get all the documentation and work completed. If your intent was for the contractor to help develop internal capacity, then make sure they transfer their knowledge to the right personnel.
During the pandemic, I have seen organizations struggling with being nimble and swiftly scaling up or down as their needs shift. Having a readily available contingent workforce standing by is crucial. In my onion, the ideal workforce of tomorrow is a workforce that considers the changing demands of the customers and society, while delivering the organizational results that support these demands with agility.
¹ Workforce 2025 – The Future of the World of Work. Retrieved on February 27, 2021, from http://content.randstad.ca/hubfs/workforce2025/Workforce-2025-Randstad-Part1.pdf
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