You've heard the alarming news: employees are at risk of leaving their current employers in pursuit of new job opportunities — and it's going to take more than salary increases to keep them.
So what are today's employees looking for? In addition to feeling valued, they want opportunities to learn and grow, bringing them closer to the next stage in their careers.
As organizations look to revamp their employee experience, launching an internal gig program is one key way to ensure employees get real-life experiences to discover and refine new skills. Not only is it easier and less expensive to develop your talented employees, you also create a competitive advantage by honing your best assets.
By encouraging managers to create short-term tasks and projects — or internal gigs — that can be completed by other employees in the company, gig programs help employees further develop, while managers fill critical skill gaps among their teams. (And don’t worry, it’s not rocket science, it's actually easier than you think! If NASA can do it, so can you—and yes, they also rolled out their very own gig program!)
Let’s dive deeper into internal gig programs, the long-term benefits they provide to employees, and how organizations can get started.
What's an internal gig?
I know what you're thinking, but no — a gig doesn’t mean it’s time to get your high school rock band back together for a reunion.
Gigs are short-term engagements within an organization that typically don’t involve a change in pay or job code.
They may also be called projects or cross-functional team assignments (if you’re not into the whole brevity thing). These engagements can be as little as a few hours worth of work or as long as a few months. Some gigs might even require one or more employees to complete the project. In most cases, employees can expect to allocate 10-20% of their time to a gig, while still managing tasks from their primary role.
While there are many opportunities for upskilling talent — online courses, local universities, on-premise classes, mentoring — gigs allow employees to get hands-on experience. They also enable employers to reallocate talent to in-demand or critical areas of the business. All of these opportunities can be posted on the organizations internal talent marketplace for easy access and transparency.
What's an internal gig program?
An internal gig program is a formalized initiative that matches an organization’s short term projects and tasks with internal employees seeking to develop relevant skills. Gig programs enable employers to better engage and retain their people, while encouraging professional development at scale across the organization.
An organization's gig program should be highly tailored to its workforce strategy and culture — as a result, implementing one requires continuous transformation and flexibility.
What challenges and goals can internal gigs address?
An internal gig program strengthens your company's ability to educate and develop its employees, enabling you to also uncover and leverage hidden skills and expertise among employees. This can save time and money otherwise spent using outside freelancers or independent contractors to fulfill temporary needs.
For example, gigs in the workplace might take the form of employees with strong writing skills contributing marketing content, such as blogs and training materials. Similarly, companies undertaking rapid technology advancements can tap employees to test products and provide feedback, he continues.
Gigs can propel employee engagement and strengthen career paths. They can help employees learn about other areas of the company, promoting a sense of belonging, and enable skill development. Meanwhile, managers gain a deeper understanding and easier access to talent available in-house.
Before rolling out a gig program, HR leaders must secure top-down support and address cultural barriers. A key message for all levels of staff? Communicate that one of the overarching goals of a gig approach is to fulfill crucial business needs by looking internally first. Here’s how:
- Secure executive buy-in. If you’re in the position of having to drum up executive support, present the benefits mentioned above and clearly articulate how you’ll measure success.
- Get managers on board. Managers may fear losing productivity or valuable team members. Help overcome this barrier by communicating the benefits to managers. A program like this gives them a chance to learn about the talent and skills available internally, potentially saving them time and allowing them to complete projects more quickly.
- Get the message in front of employees. Likewise, keep in mind that some employees may be hesitant to jump on board at first. A common barrier here is the fear that managers will perceive participation as an indication that they’re not busy enough. Educate employees that participating in gigs offered by the organization can help them grow skill sets, promote long-term growth with the company, and nurture career development.
- Evaluate what’s worked for other companies. Gather insights from other companies that have implemented a gig program. Then, consider adapting their approaches to fit your organization.
How do you get started with a gig program?
The best place to start is right at the top. Talent management leaders and CHRO must weave gigs into the company culture, outline expectations of managers, and address any objections.
They should also have a clear governance plan in place. At a detailed level, this includes:
- Defining the difference between gigs and jobs
- Identifying who can create or post gigs
- Outlining the approval processes
- Do gigs need to be approved to be posted?
- Do employees need to be approved to participate in gigs?
- Is employee approval on a gig-by-gig basis or a defined number of hours?
- Are there specific roles or performance levels that would be automatically excluded from gigs?
- Describing the benefits of a gig culture as a driver of development and engagement to combat the fear of talent poaching
- Communicating that feedback will be an integral part of the gig process to help give guidance to the organization and other managers on talent
This last point is an important one — a good gig program will be in the hands of managers. There will be no intermediary in the form of recruiters to help move the process along or add notes about candidates to find better fits in the future. This means managers will be in charge of providing meaningful feedback.
There are also aspects of facilitating gigs that managers may need assistance with, such as crafting engaging job titles and descriptions. Training managers on this new skill is imperative. Does the description have enough of the right information? And does it garner interest without overloading the project requirements?
In order to increase adoption, comfort, and consistency, provide talent managers with the opportunity to have their first few gigs reviewed.
Companies that invest in employee experience tools and technologies are already on the path to improving employee engagement and growth. By achieving executive alignment, establishing strong communication channels and manager training programs, and empowering employees to expand their skillsets, companies can ensure that their gig program pays off.
After developing a governance plan, talent management teams should follow these key steps to officially launch their gig program:
Outline basic parameters. Take time to plan necessary roles and systems for employees. For example, delineate who can participate, who can create gigs, who can post gigs, and how requests can be made.
Conduct training. Make sure you bring managers up to speed on using the marketplace. This may include training on a technology platform on writing a gig description, or shortlisting internal talent.
How should you promote the gig program to employees?
After management is aligned, the next step is to introduce gigs to the rest of the company so they can start using it.
What’s more important, however, is how to keep it top of mind and drive adoption. Outlining a communication strategy for the next two to three months will ensure your team never misses a beat. Many Phenom customers take a “walk/run” approach, which involves rolling out to a few departments to start, then expanding across the organization.
This includes an introductory email and training video that guides employees through finding and applying for gigs, and outlines the approval process. You need to set as many expectations as possible to prevent confusion.
Employees should also understand the communications they will receive if they are accepted for a gig, if a gig is closed because another applicant has been accepted, or if the gig is no longer needed.
The diagram below outlines a basic communication flow from gig creation to completion:
Talent marketers should also queue up campaigns to notify employees of new, critical, or hard-to-fill gigs. These regular communications to the company will ensure your gigs take root with consistent touchpoints and constant visibility.
Your long-term communication plan may differ depending on your organization's goals, but we encourage teams to share frequent updates through internal emails, messaging apps, and during company-wide meetings to encourage participation in the gig program. Highlighting success stories from employees and managers who are leveraging the internal gig program is a great way to inspire others to get involved.
How do you measure the success of your gig program?
Once your gig program has launched, it’s important to track adoption so you can measure success (because who doesn’t love a nice sticky number to prove ROI?).
Data is the key to understanding what is and isn’t working. It will also encourage adoption and agility among your talent management teams. Keep in mind that the KPIs you measure in the beginning will be different from what you measure on an ongoing basis.
So, what are the metrics you should be looking at? Here are a few:
- How many employees logged in during the first week?
- How many employees engaged (applied, shared, saved) with a gig?
- How many managers are creating gigs?
- How many hours are being spent on gigs?
- Which departments are posting the most gigs?
- What percentage of gigs are being completed?
Track these data points and review them regularly to make sure your managers and employees are getting the most out of your gig program. We recommend looking at your metrics after the first week, after 30 days, after 60 days, and beyond 90 days to inform your continued strategy.
What’s the future of workplace gigs?
The workplace is being reinvented in real time. Currently, the emphasis is on adapting to changing markets and employee experience to retain our best people. As we embrace gigs as a way to support other learning and development opportunities (such as mentoring and career pathing, we can maximize the talent potential within our organizations.
Organizations that can strengthen stagnant areas of the business will be the ones to effectively transform into unexpected powerhouses. As you lead your team through change, remember to communicate your vision for transformation, and reward behaviors that indicate adoption.
The success of every employer during this time ultimately comes down to its people. And the teams that adapt the fastest will be the ones that boost productivity, meet their objectives, and keep the company moving forward.