Attracting Talent in the Gig Economy

Uber, Lyft, TaskRabbit, Fiverr…these are the company names we most frequently associate with the “gig economy” — where independent contractors perform work for organizations on a short-term basis or perform very talent-specific work. But, Uber and Lyft aren’t the only organizations with their fingers on the pulse of the gig economy. In a recent survey of more than 7,000 business leaders from 130 countries, Deloitte found that more than half plan to increase their use of contingent workers in the next 3-5 years. In a similar study by PwC, 46% of human resources professionals surveyed expected at least 20% of their workforce to be made up of contractors or temporary workers by 2020.  The gig economy is growing because the workforce is changing and demanding greater flexibility. Like it or not, here we go. The question is: Are you prepared to attract the talent necessary to make your business flourish in the gig economy?

Without question, HR as we know it will have to change. Instead of being a reactionary department, one seeking to fill current needs, it must become one which anticipates future recruitment needs and adapts techniques to develop a robust talent pipeline. Demand for top-notch talent is at an all-time high during this time of high employment rates, and the race for talent is on. If you haven’t yet felt the squeeze in expanding your workforce, you soon will. Equally as important will be dealing with turnover which is high in the gig economy; many freelancers are far too willing to move on to the next project. How can employers retain top talent in an environment where employee “churn” is so high?

Here are our 5 tips for managing the gig economy — both in attracting and retaining top talent:

  1. Market, don’t just post jobs.

    We tell you often to “think like a marketer”, and we’ll do it here again, too. That’s because the companies we see who are thriving in the gig economy — Uber, Lyft, Postmates, etc. — put marketing professionals in charge of their recruitment efforts. Take Uber, for example. Its stunning career website looks nothing like the too-often stale careers pages of other companies, and its inspiring job posting for drivers highlights exactly potential contractors want most: good money and total flexibility. Uber is effectively selling the job to candidates, seamlessly weaving together marketing and HR. Aim to do the same.

  2. Prioritize your website and brand.

    Again, job seekers in the gig economy seek freedom, productivity, and a sense of purpose in their work, and they are driven by the autonomy and flexibility that a non-typical job brings. Carefully consider your entire website and your brand, in general, to ensure you’re highlighting these ideals throughout.  Even if you’re not participating in the gig economy yet, the aspirational elements of your corporate culture can still speak to the gigging careerists. Heck, they may even contact you and offer their services! In short, take potential contractors on a journey through the freedom and purpose that working for your organization provides.

  3. Keep the application process blindingly simple.

    Candidates across all industries and job types prefer short application times. In fact, applications that take less than five minutes to complete result in 250 percent more applications completed. This is even truer in the gig economy, especially if the job being offered is short-term. Giggers are immediately turned off by a long application for a quick job.To boost applicant numbers, make sure your application process is easy — logging into your application system using social media credentials, for example, and an application that’s easy-to-follow and short in length. Mimic e-commerce sites instead of old HR application processes (how easy is it to order from Amazon?). Whatever demographic information you need to have can eventually be obtained from candidates. The point here is to get a lot of applicants so you can sift through and find the best talent. Don’t turn anyone off by the application itself.

  4. Build for the future.

    As previously stated, the turnover in the gig economy is high. Thinking ahead to anticipate your needs is paramount, but so is having a list of candidates you can call to fill your needs should something open up. Points 1-3 above build on that concept. Networking — online and in person — does also. Utilize social media to stay engaged with your potential freelancers, talk to your colleagues in professional circles about who they are using and how things are going. Referrals and personal contacts are extremely valuable in the new gig economy.

  5. Treat your freelancers well.

    Here’s the one most companies miss. It’s easy to “forget” about your freelancers because they’re not in the office. But, people who feel forgotten and underappreciated leave. So, in addition to a good wage, be sure to share the praise with your freelancers for a job well done. Invite them to company gatherings if they’ve been with you for some time. Meet over lunch to discuss new projects. Make them feel part of the team even though they’re not on the full-time payroll. Sometimes gigs aren’t short-term (i.e., the freelance writer who becomes the company’s blog author and overall copywriter). How great would it be if a talented freelancer stuck around for the long haul? You can make that happen if you treat them well.

Welcome to the new gig world! It’s not as scary in here as it first seems. The power to attract and retain top talent is in your hands.