No question the labour force is in flux. Everything we thought we knew about how and where people work has been swept aside to make room for the gig economy. It’s a population whose ranks have recently exploded to include not just freelancers and carnies, but a whack of professionals, all of them moving among working environments, roles, organizations and geographies.
With estimates of these “non-traditional workers” accounting for almost a third of the Canadian workforce, the imperative for managers to figure out a new way to govern them is high.
Some thinking points:
Talk, early and often. Staying in touch with a virtual worker is critical to both sides. The employer is relieved to have some sense of what’s happening outside their purview and workers are relieved not to be left flapping in the breeze.
Fake the physicality. Just because your employees aren’t on site doesn’t mean they’re due any less of your attention than if they were. That means paying well and on time, acknowledging good work, and engaging in acts of public recognition.
View them as volunteers. In his book, Trust Factor, Paul Zak recommends treating all employees, regardless of work arrangement, as volunteers. After all, he says, this new category of workers determines the level of commitment they’re prepared to make to their jobs. Considering them volunteers turns the management model on its head.
Be a mentor. Once they’ve earned their far-flung staffers’ trust, managers need to tighten their focus on creating a culture built for their comfort and development.
Update your appraisal cycle. The dynamism of a gig economy doesn’t lend itself to annual reviews (that SAP bailed on its annual-performance-review software in 2016 was a serious indication of the convention’s failing popularity), widely criticized for being demotivating. Instead, consider regular, ongoing or project-based appraisals.
The gig economy’s a going concern. Leaders who want to most successfully steer the train need to make some adjustments to how they manage its membership.