The ‘’Gig Economy’’ series sheds light on the future of work and the pros and cons of hiring freelancers and gig workers.
Our guest today is Denise Leaser, President, GreatBizTools.
Denise, flexibility is key to many businesses. Being able to scale their teams and downsize when needed is a competitive advantage. Why do you hire gig workers and freelancers?
There are lots of reasons we use gig workers. First, it allows us to size our company to fit our needs. When a project grows, our team can grow. And we can do it at a variable cost without the fixed overhead. When you think about it, a lot of work, such as graphic design and marketing, is situational. When you have jobs that are not day-to-day activities, you should consider hiring contract workers on a project basis. That’s true regardless of company size. We provide services for some of the largest companies in the world, like IBM. We are, in effect, gig workers to augment their capabilities.
Since we are a digitally native company, we can find and employ workers in remote parts of the world that have the skills we need. The great thing is we can hire the best of the best, regardless of geography. Right now, we have programmers in Hungary, public relations in Florida and social media in New York. Our offices are in California so, to make it work, we created a virtual office. We use cloud-based web conferencing, project management and content management tools that simulate a real office. Time differences can actually create an advantage. I can post a task at the end of the day in California and when I wake up, the project is completed and in my inbox.
Working in different time zones can be a challenge. Are freelancers and contingent workers less motivated and loyal than full-time employees?
I think they are actually more motivated to work. Intrinsically, freelancers are more motivated because they are doing exactly what they want to do. They choose the work they do so, in practice, it should be rewarding and enjoyable. If the work becomes less satisfying, they can move on to the next gig. Full-time employees sometimes perform work that does not match their passions. A Manpower study found one-fifth of the world’s employees are in the wrong jobs.
Then there is the extrinsic motivation: Getting paid and getting recognized for good work. When you work on your own, you have to be focused and have great initiative. Job security correlates to the immediate value you produce. To be a successful freelancer, you are probably going to be intrinsically and extrinsically motivated. Recognizing that, make sure you provide continual feedback and recognition for good work. And good pay. Freelance work can save the company money by reducing taxes and workers' compensation, but don’t underpay professionals who do the same work as your full-time hires.
Time management is important, even with motivated employees. With our gig work, every project is time-sensitive with deadlines. There is a sense of urgency because you don’t get paid if the project is not complete. It also means you need to time box projects and set clear expectations and deadlines. So, there is perhaps more project management involved with most gig work projects. You need to make sure freelancers can be there for the duration of the project. When a project is delayed or is extended, you may find your freelancer is already booked on another gig.
Do you think that freelancers having more than one client add value to the company by bringing in fresh ideas and innovation?
I do. From my experience, freelancers can be more efficient, creative, and innovative. It's always great to work with people who have experience in other areas. That's where real innovation can happen -- when you bring ideas from one industry into another. We are an HR technology company, and that means our tools and services must not only appeal to HR professionals, but they must also solve business problems that may be industry-specific. When we hire freelancers who, say, have experience with banking or manufacturing, they can provide insights into those domains and ensure we provide solutions that are perfectly aligned to those industries. Freelancers can enrich your company by providing their tacit knowledge which is rooted in experience and practice. It’s hard to put a value on that.
Bringing ideas from one industry into another can also guarantee a stable flow of gigs. 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 the gig economy is the future. A McKinsey study found about 30% of the working-age population in the US and Europe engage in some kind of independent work. The reality is, the social contract between employers and employees has been changed or, in many cases, eliminated. When you think about it, there has only been a brief period in history in the 20th century when employees worked their entire lives for the same employer. The pace of change was slow, and that meant employees performed essentially the same tasks, learning occasional new skills, for decades.
But technology and globalization have changed that, starting in the 1980s. It’s now rare to see an employee stay with a single company through retirement. We live in an era where companies face downward pressure to reduce costs and accelerate every area of their businesses to compete. There is little security in long-term careers today, so everyone should really be thinking of themselves as contractors working on gigs, whether they receive a W-2 or 1099. Job security in tough times is not part of your compensation package anymore, so the idea of being your own boss actually does not really introduce much risk if you are motivated and can provide real value.
I absolutely agree with you. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
The gig economy is really helping to make the workforce more diverse and inclusive. It provides the flexibility to work odd hours, contribute to society, create a great career with good pay.
Technology is making this happen. It is democratizing the labor market and opening opportunities for people who have been disenfranchised at a scale we have never seen before. You can learn new skills online at a minimal cost, connect with experts through online forums and find employment through virtual staffing organizations, like Upwork, Transformify, Craigslist or Fiverr. You can now reinvent yourself and create a new career as rapidly as the world is changing.
I lead a women-owned business, and I have children. I think about people, sometimes stay-at-home mothers, with amazing skills and talents who cannot work in a full-time office job. These are the people who are eager to work, who can contribute diverse viewpoints and enrich your company culture. These are the people we love to hire.
About the author
Lilia Stoyanov is CEO and angel investor at Transformify. A fintech and digital transformation expert, she is also a professor at Zigurat Business School and expert evaluator Horizon 2020 at the European Commission.
Trusted by recruiters from 150+ countries, Transformify offers an integrated solution comprising of HR Software, freelance platform and billing & payments.