I’d had a busy couple of weeks and the state of my pantry and refrigerator were evidence. The bottle of soy sauce and half empty tub of sour cream in my fridge were longing for some company. I hadn’t made it to the grocery store in way too long. And I’m not proud to admit that my family and I were getting by on cold cereal and fast food for most of our meals.
And here I was again, having to make the excruciating decision: “What should we eat for dinner?”
With no time to go grocery shop that day I desperately turned to the app on my phone for my local grocery store. Hopefully, with a little planning, I could come up with something edible and scrumptious for dinner. Within minutes I filled my online cart with all the staples to stock my kitchen, scheduled it to be delivered that afternoon while my baby was napping and voila! Just like that I was on track for a tasty home-cooked meal complete with fresh veggies for my family.
Thanks to a gig worker picking up a shift to deliver groceries, I successfully outsourced that critical item on my to-do list that I had been shamelessly neglecting.
And I’m not the only one doing this.
Gig workers are changing how consumers do business as well as how employers do people.
With technological breakthroughs happening one on top of the other, change is rampant in the workplace and the number of workers choosing to work as independent contractors is on the rise.
Why are People Choosing to Freelance?
Reasons include: freedom, flexibility, personal fulfillment, more control, supplemental income, higher wages, and avoiding being pigeonholed into a single industry. (Just to name a few.)
Nearly 57 million U.S. workers freelanced last year. Some run one or more side hustles to supplement the income from their full-time job while others live solely off the money they make from their “gigs.” The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that contracted work is the primary source of income for over 10 million U.S. workers.
The rate of workers choosing to freelance has risen by roughly 7% in the last 5 years. And it’s not likely to slow down any time soon. Experts predict that by next year, the gig economy will make up over 40% of the workforce. Much of that shift can be chalked up to entrepreneurial-minded Millennials. And with a generation full of tech wizards (aka Gen Z) diving into the labor force, the number of contractors is expected to rise even higher. Analysts project that half of the U.S. workforce will be freelancing by 2027.
What is the Freelancing Revolution Doing for Employers?
The short answer? Opening doors to top-tier talent, saving them money and complicating things for HR.
Let’s start with the advantages.
One survey reported that 58% of midmarket companies use gig workers to access skills and experience that is not available in their current workforce. Due to the internet and other tech advances, many employees don’t need to be on-site full-time in order to carry out their job duties. As such, organizations are no longer limited to the talent pool in their geographical area or candidates looking for full-time employment.
Companies also tend to save on corporate expenses when they hire out for various projects. According to Forbes, approximately 43% of companies who use contracted workers save 20% or more on labor costs. This is largely because they don’t have to pay for benefits like health insurance, PTO and retirement savings. Plus, the work is completed (and paid for) on demand. Since tasks are typically billed with a flat fee per project versus as an hourly wage, it is easier to plan for expenses and predict what the ROI will be on those projects.
How Gig Workers Affect HR Operations
Now for the complicated part. (Or is it?)
Because of regulations regarding the relationship between employers and their contracted workers, these people don’t legally fit in the same bucket with traditional full-time employees. They’re paid differently, have more control over the work they do and how they do it, and can’t receive all of the same benefits organizations commonly provide to their employees.
However, at the end of the day, working with the two worker types is not as dissimilar as it initially sounds, according to Lisa Oyler, the HR Director here at Access Perks. “Gig worker” is no longer synonymous with “temp.”
“Whether we’re talking about a full-time employee or a contracted worker, the ‘human’ part of the relationship is the same,” said Oyler. “Freelancers want to belong. They want to feel valued and appreciated just like full-time employees. It’s up to me to see that our company builds relationships with our contracted workers so we don’t have to go looking for a new one each time we need a job done.”
How Organizations Can Build Strong Relationships with Freelancers
As the gig economy increases its share of the labor force, organizations would do well to recognize the value in strengthening the connection with their contracted workers.
Given their similar needs, contract workers would clearly value the kinds of benefits that full-time workers do – especially those that help them solve problems like saving money, healthy living and financial security.
And yet, employers’ hands are legally tied in many ways when it comes to offering a full suite of traditional benefits to gig workers. That’s where a number of select perks can come into play, particularly for employers that want to build better relationships with non-traditional workers.
So while some traditional benefits are out of the question, there are several perks that can be extended their way.
Here are some options:
- Company parties
- Health fairs
- Community outreach activities
- Employee discounts
- Learning and development initiatives
- Wellness events
- Mass transit passes
- Travel vouchers
- Financial wellness activities
These and other perks that allow freelancers to experience the corporate culture send a clear message that “though the paperwork you filled out upon ‘hire’ differs from traditional employees, the work you’re doing matters and we value you.”
Cultivating a healthy contractor/contractee relationship can reap rewards for organizations willing to invest a little in their gig workers. With everything from photography, videography and blogging all the way to sales, programming and customer service being outsourced, these workers play far too critical of a role in business success to overlook.
For additional insights on fostering a relationship with contracted employees read: How To Help Your Remote Employees Feel Part of the Team.