Employer Brand and the Gig Economy – making a connection
By Mike Hoffman
Although the recent rise of the Gig Economy (and we’re talking about short-term contractors, freelancers or temporary workers here, rather than roadies or touring rock bands) implies it’s a new phenomenon, it’s actually one of the oldest forms of contract employment: Piecework.
We’re talking about employment in which a worker is paid a fixed piece rate for each unit produced or action performed, regardless of time. A practice that goes back at least to the mid 16th century.
What creates demand for a Gig Economy?
Though the conditions that fuel a Gig Economy vary from country to country, the common factor is the rise of technology that enables individual workers to participate in just-in-time delivery without being part of a complex supply chain. Typically, this means a Smartphone, and the willingness to be on call to compete for work as and when it arises.
Roughly 1.1m people work in UK’s gig economy and, although they remain a definite minority, it’s a workforce whose make-up is changing rapidly. The stereotype of the lycra-clad cyclist carrying packages like a beast of burden is now far from the whole picture. According to a 2017 survey of 8,000 people by Ipsos Mori and the RSA, 59 per cent of all UK gig workers were doing professional, creative or administrative tasks, while only 16 per cent were providing driving or delivery services.
Why do employers like it?
Thanks mainly to technological innovation and the associated disruption to traditional working patterns, in the USA, according to consultants Korn Ferry, it’s estimated that by 2020 as much as 40 percent of the American workforce will be contingent workers, or independent contractors. This represents a marked shift in strategy, from 'I need to hire a person' to 'I need to complete a task' and the Gig Economy, in this instance, is regarded as a more flexible and cost-effective option.
However, there’s mounting evidence that US employers are starting to question the benefit of retaining staff purely on a piecework basis, in terms of engagement, motivation and performance. For example, Instacart, a California grocery delivery startup, has offered full employee status to its employees, eschewing the traditional UBER model typical of most just-in-time delivery apps.
The risk-factors for employees
Meanwhile, in the UK, a study of 2,000 people conducted by employment website Glassdoor, found that only 13 per cent of workers across all employment types would consider taking a job within the gig economy full-time in 2017. 27 per cent said they would consider working in it part-time. However, a vast majority of employees – 76 per cent – agreed they would feel more secure sticking with permanent employment.
Workforce planning implications
A series of high-profile tribunal rulings against, among others UBER, City Sprint, Excel, Addison Lee and Pimlico Plumbers, has ruled that piecework employees must be considered just as much a part of your business as permanent staff. So if you want to retain your best Gig employees, then surely Employer Branding has a part to play in minimising disruption and maximising engagement, in order to drive performance?
Employer branding in the Gig Economy
As more businesses turn to temporary, contract or freelance employees, there’s an increasing need to re-consider their employer brand, if they’re to attract the best candidates from this growing community.
Employers will have to make sure that the company offers a positive experience for all candidates and employees, regardless of their contract. For example, by making sure everyone receives the same level of business updates and communication – people will feel equally engaged and involved.
What’s more, communicating an authentic corporate brand is vital in a gig economy where trust is central to everything. Businesses must communicate their brand in a way that’s true and personal to permanent employees, potential candidates and contractual staff. And, by focusing on the company culture and its people, by having a distinct voice and personality, companies will bring a positive and consistent experience to existing and potential employees alike.
In the future
The Gig Economy is here to stay, so to embrace the flexibility it offers and address this ever changing social evolution, you need to make sure your employer brand is speaking to and involving this growing pool of talent. Only by doing so, will you be in a position to compete to attract the best talent out there.