Recruiting in the Age of the Gig Economy
It is hard to pin down exactly how many people operate in the gig economy, partly because so many different kinds of work fall under this umbrella. Defined by the BBC as“a labor market characterized by the prevalence of short-term contracts or freelance work, as opposed to permanent jobs,” the gig economy includes full-time freelancers, project-based consultants, those who freelance on the side, Uber drivers and other app-based workers, and many others in non- traditional employment situations.
Many employers see the gig economy as little more than
a curiosity — an interesting development, but nothing to worry about. Other employers pay closer attention, but only to figure out how they can leverage gig workers for their gain. Few, if any, employers see the gig economy as a threat.That’s a mistake. In fact, the gig economy is competing for the exact same talent your organization is.
It’s understandable that so few employers would see the gig economy as a challenge. After all, the popular conception is that gig workers are young and inexperienced; they’re mainly looking to make ends meet until they can find full-time employment. Most of us picture gig workers doing unskilled labor or minor freelancing projects. On the other hand, employers believe that the most skilled professionals want traditional employment. They may dabble in the occasional gig or two, but they’re “too good” for full-time freelancing.
In reality the data largely contradicts the sterotypes. It is true that some gig workers see the arrangement as nothing more than a stepping stone. A report from McKinsey & Company2 found 30 percent of gig workers only do gig work out of necessity, either because they can’t find traditional jobs or they need the extra income.
On the flip side, 70 percent of gig workers do gig work by choice. Recent research into the scope of the gig economy suggests a large, thriving segment of the global workforce partakes:
• Adecco/LinkedIn: According to this report, gig workers added $1.4 trillion to the U.S. economy in 2016 alone.3
• Intuit: A widely touted figure from Intuit estimates 43 percent of U.S. workers will participate in the gig economy by 2020.4
• McKinsey & Company: This report found that 162 million people in the U.S. and Europe work in the gig economy, with 44 percent of them using gig work as a primary source of income.
Why Do Talented People Choose Gig Work?
Now that you know gig workers are often highly educated,
highly skilled professionals, you may wonder why so many talented people choose the gig economy instead of full-time employment.
Adecco and LinkedIn report that 54 percent of gig workers choose flexible work as a way to “pursue their own particular interests.” Some of these interests include:
FLEXIBILITY IN WORK AND LIFE
20 percent of workers across generations in the Adecco/LinkedIn study named this a driver of their decision to work in the gig economy.
MBO Partners reports that roughly one-fifth of full-time independent workers earn more than $100,000 a year.
74 percent of full-time independent workers report they are “very satisfied” with their work, according to MBO Partners.
70 percent of full-time gig workers surveyed by MBO Partners said independent work was better for their health.
48 percent of respondents in the MBO Partners survey felt independent work was more secure than traditional employment.
To be able to compete, Employers must embrace workshifting
With so many talented people joining the gig economy, employers have no choice but to respond. The gig economy is not just a new kind of work — it is directly competing with employers for the limited supply of available talent.
How can employers recruit the skilled employees they need in the age of the gig economy? They could utilize more contract workers, but no company can be fully staffed by independent contractors.
These workers will only stick around for a short period of time, and they will likely have competing priorities.
For a business to succeed in the long term, it needs a core team of full-time, dedicated staff members who consistently pursue the organization’s mission over a period of years.
Unfortunately, the very same people who could be these dedicated staff members increasingly turn to gig work. As a result, employers will have to adjust their recruitment tactics, their workplace cultures, and their workplace policies.
Benefits of Gig Work in a Full-time Job
Workshifting is a philosophy first popularized
by former Citrix President Brett Caine.
As Caine explained to Financial Times in 20118, workshifting is “the idea of changing the physical boundaries around work, shifting your work for wherever you are and being able to do your work literally from anywhere.”
Workshifting is more than a jargonized way to say “remote work.” It refers to a more comprehensive overhaul of how we understand work. It’s not simply about being able to work from home, but about “shifting your work patterns to wherever you happen to be,” as Caine put it.
So, workshifting means creating organizational cultures in which employees can work where they want, on the devices they want, using the methods they want, at the times they want.
The world is your workplace, and the workday is a fluid concept. Organizations don’t dictate tools, processes, and procedures; they create policies that allow for maximum employee flexibility within each realm — so long as targets
are met, of course.
WORKSHIFTING BRINGS THE GIG ECONOMY TO YOUR WORKPLACE
Workshifting may seem a daunting challenge. After all, it requires serious changes in workplace policies, culture, and procedures. However,many organizations are closer to workshifting than they realize.
According to Nation 10999, half of U.S. jobs are already compatible with remote work, but only
7 percent of employers make flexible work available to most employees. Nation 1099 also cites the World Economic Forum’s finding that CEOs view “the changing nature of work” and “flexible work” as the top drivers of change in their industries.
Talented professionals want more flexibility. They want more freedom and control over the work they do. They want their professional lives to be more conducive to their health, wellness, and personal needs
Workshifting gives employees all of these things within a traditional full-time job.
By allowing employees to work when, how, and where they want, an organization grants them the freedom and flexibility previously found only in gig work.
Leaders recognize that work is changing and their companies need to change with it. Opportunities for workshifting already exist within most organizations. All that remains is for companies to seize those opportunities.
WORKSHIFTING CAN WORK FOR ALMOST ANYONE
While creative and sales teams are obvious candidates for workshifting, it is possible to implement workshifting throughout the entire organization. There are some obvious counterexamples — such as roles that require employees’ physical presences at set locations during set times — but in general, workshifting is feasible for all departments.
The key to workshifting any department is twofold. First, you must identify where flexibility can be introduced. Then, you must supply employees with the technology they need to maintain productivity anywhere, any time. Workshifting does not have to come with a decline in performance, so long as the right expectations are set and employees are given the resources they need.
Third Party recruiters are your partners in recruiting gig workers
Workshifting may keep existing employees from leaving for the gig economy, but it won’t automatically translate to recruitment results. For that, you need a strong recruitment advertising and employer branding strategy.
Marketing your workshifted organization to candidates takes time and effort, as any sound business strategy does. You could handle this initiative in house by assembling a dedicated team, but this approach leaves a lot to be desired.
According to The Hackett Group12, HR budgets have recently been falling by about 1-2 percent a year. Correspondingly, the number of new full-time HR hires also falls by about 1 percent per year. With little spare manpower or money to dedicate to new recruitment initiatives, it may be a smarter choice to collaborate with a third-party recruiter.
Partnering with a third-party recruiter will require some spending, but most third-party recruiters
don’t earn a fee until they’ve made a placement. The organization only pays when it sees results — which is less risky than pouring money and manpower into branding initiatives that may not pan out.
WHY A THIRD-PARTY RECRUITER IS KEY TO ATTRACTING GIG-INCLINED PROFESSIONALS
The key to any recruiting initiative’s success is making sure the message reaches the right audience. Third-party recruiters can be invaluable partners here.
As part of their job, a recruiter needs to understand the lay of the land in a given talent market. That means the recruiter will know what kind of professionals are available and what those professionals want from employers.
Armed with this knowledge, a recruiter can identify the right audience for your workshifted policies.
Recruiters spend significant time vetting prospective candidates. Over the course of this process, recruiters learn what candidates look for in new roles. When a candidate stresses flexibility, freedom, control, or any of the other benefits of gig work, the recruiter can introduce them to your workshifting program.
THIRD-PARTY RECRUITERS CAN MAKE THE SALE
Alerting professionals to the existence of a workshifting policy is not, in itself, enough to convince them to abandon freelancing for traditional employment. This kind of convincing requires a certain amount of selling — which a third-party recruiter is ready to do.
Third-party recruiters are accustomed to selling even the most skeptical candidates on roles.
This, in fact, is a critical component of their success. After all, recruiters can’t make placements if they can’t get candidates on board. Third-party recruiters are personally invested in selling candidates on your roles. It’s how they pay the bills.
These sales skills are the reason why organizations work with third-party recruiters in the first place. A company could post its jobs online and fill its own roles, but that strategy isn’t likely to bring in the best talent. Choosier candidates — candidates who can afford to be picky because their skills are in high demand — won’t pay much attention to job board posts. Lower-quality candidates who are less concerned with fit may send resumes en masse, leaving the organization with a pipeline of substandard applicants.
Third-party recruiters, on the other hand, actively work for candidates. They find the best fits and prove
why the role is right. To hire gig-inclined professionals, you’ll need a recruiter like this. After all, someone has to help the candidate asses the real opportunity in the role and identify the gains that will offset losing the benefits of a gig-based role.
Candidate hesitance can be especially hard to overcome when dealing with passive candidates, who make up the majority of all candidates. When a passive candidate works independently and is their own boss, they may be even more hesitant. In this situation, a third-party recruiter can demonstrate to
a passive candidate why moving from gig work to traditional work within a workshifted organization is the right choice.
Of course, it doesn’t hurt that better work/life balance and professional development opportunities are among
the primary reasons13 why candidates will switch roles — both of which are things a workshifted organization can offer employees.
THIRD-PARTY RECRUITERS BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN GIG WORK AND TRADITIONAL EMPLOYMENT
While many independent workers view the gig economy as a career choice in itself, many are using their gig work strategically. According to the Adecco/LinkedIn report, 29 percent of independent professionals view gig work as
a stepping stone to full-time opportunities. Third-party recruiters can find these people and win them over to a client.
The recruiter acts like a guide in this scenario. Candidates may be nervous about making the move
from gig work to traditional employment — especially younger professionals with less experience. This nervousness may be enough to convince a candidate to simply stay in the gig economy.
The recruiter can guide the candidate through the hiring process from start to finish, putting the candidate at ease along the way. The recruiter can also use the organization’s workshifting program to show the candidate that moving from gig work to traditional employment doesn’t have to be a radical change.
In fact, candidates of all stripes may have objections or second thoughts during the recruiting process. One of a third-party recruiter’s most valuable skills is their ability to allay candidate objections.
The recruiter takes the time to get to know both candidate and client. When candidates begin to worry the role is not right, the recruiter can draw on their knowledge to make a strong case for why this is the best career option for the candidate.
TO RECRUIT TOP TALENT,COMBINE WORKSHIFTING AND THIRD-PARTY RECRUITING
The gig economy is large and growing larger every day. Skilled professionals are increasingly choosing independent work over traditional employment. This essentially makes the gig economy a competitor in the talent market. With such attractive benefits to offer, gig work may leave employers scrambling to find the talent they need.
To effectively compete with gig work, employers must embrace workshifting. Doing so will grant top talent the freedom, flexibility, and fulfillment they could previously only find in gig work.
But workshifting is just one piece of the puzzle. The other key component to recruiting talent away from the gig economy is to partner with a third-party recruiter.
The gig economy presents to many professionals a particularly attractive opportunity. You’ll need someone with strong sales skills on your side in order to convince candidates to choose traditional employment instead — even
in a workshifted environment. Third-party recruiters are those salespeople.
The best third-party recruiters will come to learn your organization inside and out. They’ll understand the benefits of your employment, and they’ll craft careful strategies to sell those benefits to the best candidates.
In addition to being accomplished salespeople, third-party recruiters can also serve as guides for skeptical gig workers. A recruiter will shepherd the candidate through your recruiting process. At every step along the way, the recruiter can address the candidate’s concerns and quell their fears, ultimately proving to the candidate why your company is the right choice.
7 KEY TAKEAWAYS:
1. 62 million people in the U.S. and Europe work in the gig economy today.
2. 70 percent of gig workers do gig work by choice.
3. Independent professionals tend to be highly educated people in their middle or late careers, and many of today’s gig workers provide professional services.
4. Professionals choose gig work for its freedom, control, flexibility, and work/life balance.
5. Workshifting allows an organization to provide to its employees all the benefits of gig work while keeping those employees on board as full-time workers.
6. As HR budgets and staff sizes stay flat or shrink, it makes sense for organizations to partner with third-party recruiters to find top talent.
7. Third-party recruiters have the skills necessary to market your company, sell top candidates on your roles, and guide them through the recruitment process from start to finish.
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