Casey Hill, HR Manager, Bonjoro.
Casey, Bonjoro is a fast-growing technology startup. Scaling up is a challenge on its own especially when it comes to hiring top talent. Why do you hire gig workers and freelancers?
At Bonjoro, we operate a global workforce, spread out across three continents (Europe, North America, Australia). We hire freelancers because we find that it gives us versatility and high-quality workforce at a good price point as a fast-growing startup. Often, with full-time employees, there is a longer learning curve and you are cultivating or developing them in your niche/industry over time. With freelancers, we feel that we are able to get high value quickly and can use them in a flexible capacity (i.e. more hours when we need that time most and fewer hours over slower periods).
Then, there is the issue of employee happiness. We find that gig workers/freelancers relish their freedom and flexibility and tend to have high levels of happiness. Especially for millennial workers, having remote work possibilities is becoming increasingly desired. Also, we find that many of these freelancers have connections, meaning a great creative designer might be able to intro you to more skilled designers, or an animation expert in 2D might know someone who does 3D.
Flexibility is a great advantage but it may have a dark side too. Are the freelancers and contingent workers less motivated and loyal than the full-time employees?
From our experience, no. We think that finding the right freelancer is similar to finding the right employee in that you need to find someone who has a good culture fit and passion for the product. We have worked with dozens of phenomenal freelancers who helped us move the business forward in meaningful ways. Examples of good positions to stock for freelancers are marketing, design, video, copywriting, coding/development, accounting. We find that these "hard skill" positions are particularly good fits for both parties in these set-ups.
I believe that motivation, whether it is tied to freelancers or full-time employees, is largely a reflection of a proper incentive system and leadership structure. That being said, it is imperative that when you hire a freelancer, you have clearly defined roles and goals for them and a clear communication structure.
Often times, the pitfalls I see from colleagues who have bad experiences with freelancers are because they do little vetting and hire the people from UpWork or other freelance platforms without really getting to know the gig worker first. Just like with not doing your due diligence with a full-time employee, this is a recipe for disaster.
Make sure you have a thorough conversation in advance, check references, go through their resume/profile with them and have a clear understanding of how they will be tying in with the team. Then make sure they have the technology and resources they need to keep all relevant parties looped in on their daily progress. One recommendation we use is a shared excel doc where all daily hours and type of works is logged and then a "deliverables" tab is updated as tangible projects are finished.
Next, if you want your freelancers to be happy, feel connected to the vision of the company and be loyal, make sure you do the things that foster that for your full-time employees! Invite them to company retreats, send them holiday gifts and include them in other company events. Finally, make sure your leadership had a mentality of accountability when it comes to their freelancers. Often times, we have had management that got frustrated when a spec didn't turn out, whereupon deeper reflection one could truly see it was an issue of a poorly defined scope, more than a short-coming of the freelancer. And even if it was the freelancer's fault, make sure you foster a company culture where accountability starts at the top and that will trickle down to all levels of the organization and to both full-time and freelance employees alike.
Full-time jobs are no longer making promises of either professional or financial security to today's workforce. Do you think that the gig economy is the future?
I think that the new generation values freedom to work when and where they desire (like remote working) and this is possible with the new modern tech tools. Offices can stay connected around the globe on Slack. Projects can be coordinated on Asana and meetings can be conducted on Zoom. As technology facilitates this and social norms continue to normalize it, I think the gig economy will continue to expand. And to us, that is a good thing. We like the flexibility that this gives our organization and we like happy team members who can manage their own time schedules. Furthermore, because gig workers often carry experience and networks from multiple organizations, I would argue this movement also means increased innovation and efficiency for organizations. The new paradigms of sharing economies, AI and automation will all go hand in hand with this new freelancer future. I anticipate that our organization, already on 3 continents, will continue to scale out across the globe and work with more and more gig workers as we scale.