Inside Gig Work: Hire Colleagues Before Contractors

John Deal

Short-term engagements—they’re the heart of the gig economy, driving popular standouts like Uber, Airbnb, and TaskRabbit. It’s not a new concept. The side hustle has been around since the concept of work began. But technology has made connecting supply and demand much easier, and the applications have exploded.

 

Unfortunately, this boon has occurred outside the walls of the corporate world. While programs like UpWork and Fiverr have enabled companies to find contractors and freelancers, it’s still increasingly difficult for businesses to tap into their own employee reserves for project-based work. For sustainable success, this needs to change.

 

The Case for Internal Talent Marketplaces

In light of the gig economy, companies would be wise to challenge traditional role-based work environments in favor of an internal talent marketplace that centers around flexibility, growth, and development. In fact, that’s the moniker being used to describe the movement toward employee-led project-based work.

 

A Smarter With Gartner article has identified internal talent marketplaces as one of the four key trends on the Hype Cycle for Human Capital Management Technology, 2019.* And while your inner skeptic may be wondering if this buzzword is for real, we believe it’s okay to believe the hype: most companies have a treasure trove of talent that’s not being fully utilized. Five years ago, businesses were only using 40% of their talent. Sadly, this metric hasn’t improved much.

 

We previously covered how an alarming rate of employees are actively looking for opportunities outside their company. This isn’t exclusive to full-time work; it includes side work—or gig work— to pick up a few extra bucks. Simultaneously, managers throughout organizations are hiring contractors to fill their project needs—projects that require the same skills that many of their colleagues likely possess. The lack of an internal gig marketplace is costing businesses not only opportunities to engage their employees, but hard dollars in various departmental expenses.

 

Project-based work can be used as a form of hands-on upskilling, which brings incredible value to companies and employees alike. It helps both stay competitive in the market, especially when quality talent is hard to find. Plus, it prepares them to fill future positions.

 

Gigs that Work

An effective internal marketplace makes it easy for managers to create gigs and employees to find them. Managers should have the flexibility to post projects of varying lengths (from hours to months) with multiple resource or skill requirements. 

 

When these opportunities are organized and managed through AI-powered technology, relevant recommendations are then served to appropriate employees based on their work history and skill profile. These gigs should not only provide a chance to flex existing skill muscle, but allow your workforce to upskill for their future of work. For example, if an employee eventually wants to move into a managerial role, projects should include roles that require them to lead and delegate.

 

According to a recent survey by CareerBuilder, 58% of workers think their company doesn’t offer enough opportunities to learn new skills and help them move up in their career. Part of the problem? Many development plans depend solely on online or classroom learning. Gigs are a great way to supplement those plans and give your employees the opportunity for hands-on application of their learning. 

 

A Culture of Transparency

One of the most important things to establish as you roll out your gig program is a culture of transparency and acceptance for project work across the organization. Over half of employees that leave companies do so begrudgingly, and it’s typically due to lack of communication from the organization and managers about opportunities for improvement and advancement.

 

Why do managers stay mum? A main reason is the fear of losing valuable resources within their department. But talent hoarding is not only counterproductive to advancement, it also impacts performance of everyday job duties. Managers that are hoarding their talent are self-fulfilling their worst fear.

 

Talent executives are best served by making sure the entire company understands the goals of development plans and internal mobility for all employees. These initiatives are the cornerstone of stemming the tide of attrition, with 94% of employees saying they would stay at companies that invest in their careers.

 

Clear communication to employees about their own development and career opportunities and to managers about the benefits of learning plans, gigs, and career paths is essential.  Executives need to help managers understand that the company will work diligently to advance employees. As a result, there will be resources that move out of departments—but there will also be an influx of talent into those same departments. Alignment throughout the organization is key to successful adoption and continuous improvement of upskilling initiatives.

 

Good For the Bottom Line

A well thought-out gig platform can significantly reduce costs associated with consultants, contractors, and freelancers. In addition, there are the ancillary benefits of increasing the effectiveness of learning plans. And, of course, there is an opportunity to raise engagement levels and improve the employee experience all around. 

 

Could short-term internal gigs be the answer to long-term success at one company? It pays to find out. 
 

*Smarter With Gartner “4 Key Trends in the Gartner Hype Cycle for Human Capital Management Technology, 2019,” 25 October 2019. https://www.gartner.com/smarterwithgartner/4-key-trends-gartner-hype-cycle-human-capital-management-technology-2019/



 

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