I’m sure we’ve all read quite a few articles, blogs and online pieces about how to communicate with, and keep engaged, our newly dispersed workforces (I may have been guilty of publishing such a tale), but there doesn’t seem to be as much around on how to keep any gig workers informed, engaged and fully on board.
We have heard a fair amount about the “Gig Economy” and the plight of its workers during Covid’s reign of terror. The truth is, so-called gig working has been on the rise for many years, well before the virus hit our shores and peed on our parades. It offers clear advantages to both the workers who want the flexibility that it affords, and the people for whom they temporarily work, who don’t have to worry about staff costs (or benefits) when they’re not required.
Estimates place the number of self-employed in the UK at about 15% of the workforce, or around 5 million people.
In case any clarification is required, the Gig Economy describes the practice of opting for short-term, temporary, and flexible work (or “gigs”) instead of the more traditional longer-term career with a single employer. It’s a one-night stand or a quick fling rather than a long-term relationship or marriage. With so many companies looking for shorter-term support with projects, launches or changes, the work on offer can be alluringly fast-paced, impactful and invigorating for those who aren’t too risk-averse. (Of course, to further abuse that relationship analogy, there’s always the risk of “lonely nights” between those thrilling flings!)
The advantages to the employer are also truly obvious – they only need to pay for the work when it’s needed and there are very few (if any) of those pesky employee benefits to worry about! However, there can be one big drawback: how can you get the best from your gig workers when, by the very nature of this relationship, they won’t necessarily have the same values or commitment to the cause as permanent employees?
The Need for Speed
This is a fling, a quick thrill, for both parties. Therefore, speed and readiness are everything. A leisurely onboarding, spread over 4 days at Head Office, with equipment “on order and to follow” and “Ken from IT sorting your log-ins when he’s back from Centre Parcs in Longleat” just isn’t going to cut it.
All relevant departments need to be fully briefed and good-to-go before the gigger’s start date. Are your comms channels set up to support a robust (remote) onboarding and induction that will make your new starter feel at home and fully engaged right from the off? Have you considered all compliance requirements? Is all the necessary information, Ts & Cs, starter information, mandatory training content etc. ready and fit-for-purpose? Is it going to engage, inform and present you as a slick, modern and professional outfit? Otherwise, this quick fling may fizzle out faster than either party wanted. Bespoke video content that welcomes, engrosses and informs in one professional looking package can really set the right tone as they send the right message!
Access All Areas
…Well, all appropriate and relevant areas, anyway! You’re going to want your giggers to have easy access to all the tools, resources, collaborative fields and employee platforms they are likely to need. Integrated or accessible through a single portal is preferable for ease of use and simplicity at onboarding.
It’s not uncommon for giggers to use their own devices and to want to work flexibly, from multiple locations and any time, so access to IT platforms needs to be secure but not locked down behind a Fort Knox of a firewall. Only allowing them in from a single approved office IP address, and during the hours that Ken from IT is on site, is going to decimate this affair before any love can shine.
Be Selective with your Comms
You need to be selective in the comms that you share with your gig workers. They will expect what they receive to be relevant and helpful to them. Your long-term strategy and long-term plans are essential reading for your lifers, but will be of little interest to someone who is supporting a new product launch for the next three months only.
Tailoring and targeting your comms to them doesn’t have to be an arduous task if your comms channels are carefully set up for this purpose. Tell them what they need to know, when they need to know it, and in a style that keeps those flames of desire burning.
With no sign of a slowdown in the ever-growing gig economy, if your business is the kind that already capitalises on this knowledgeable, creative and dynamic workforce, or is likely to in the near(-ish) future, then setting yourselves up for success with them now will almost certainly maximise your returns from them. As with so many work circumstances, future-proofing your business in this arena starts with your comms.