The gig economy and tips for managing gig workers
Welcome to the gig economy, where more and more workers are opting to become independent contractors or temporary employees who market their skills to the companies that need them, for as long as they need them. Angela Anasis, Director Talent Solutions at Randstad, explores the implications for employers.

The workers get more flexible work arrangements and work-life balance that isn’t based around the traditional 9-to-5 business day. If they’re talented enough and in-demand, they get to call the shots and have greater control over their work and lifestyle options.

If employers can make the monumental shift in how they think about the labour market, and their HR departments can adjust to dealing effectively with the implications, they get more agile workforces and opportunities to minimise costs. Nimble companies are able to tap into a large and growing proportion of desirable talent who are seeking meaningful employment through project work and temporary contracts. Some people are full-time self-employed, while others provide consulting and other specialised services on a part-time basis, in addition to holding a permanent position.

It’s a win-win that’s a growing trend throughout the developed world, with New Zealand being no exception.

One study conducted by MBO Partners in the United States predicts that by 2019 nearly 40 million workers will be full-time self-employed or provide consulting services on a part-time basis in addition to their permanent position. This figure represents an average annual growth rate of 6% over the next four years and the patterns are similar in Australia. Professor Patricia Leighton, of the University of South Wales, reported in her 2013 report ‘Future Working: The Rise of Europe’s Independent Professionals’ that since 2004, the number of independent professionals has risen 45% to 8.9 million in the European labour market. Reinforcing this, the 2015 Randstad Sourceright Talent Trends Report revealed that 47% of global HR leaders are factoring in independent contractors as part of their talent acquisition strategy.

However, governments and trade unions may still be struggling to come to grips with many aspects of the shift from permanent to widespread temporary employment, such as taxation and the maintenance of employment benefits. But it’s an unstoppable, and in many cases technology-driven, trend that few businesses can afford to ignore.

4 tips for managing gig workers

Here are four tips to help your business leverage workers in the gig economy:

  1. Speed is the key – one of the biggest advantages of using on-demand gig workers is being able to access talent quickly. Identify which areas of your business can benefit from the rapid deployment of skills to make your business more efficient.

  2. Cost as a driver – consider all the ways gig workers can help lower your talent costs. As well as employment agencies, there are many tools available, such as Freelancer, Upworker and Amazon’s Mechanical Turk that allow independent contractors to compete for projects and work, while giving you access to the best talent.

  3. Choose the right partners and technology – look for recruitment partners that truly understand the flexible employment market. Be careful about the services you choose to use. Do your due diligence and make sure they have the market understanding and experience you require to help manage your flexible workforce.

  4. Plan for complexity – how do you pay and allocate costs for on-demand workers? What’s your process for tracking deliverables and milestones? From the mundane to the complex, the steps involved in adding these workers to your workforce may require significant thought and process updates.