The workforce grows more fluid by the day. People feel increasingly empowered to work a continual series of short-term contracts and one-off tasks as contractors and freelancers rather than shackle themselves to a single employer. Far more entrepreneurial in spirit than traditional career models, the gig economy is already a force to be reckoned with for employers. As more become entranced by its unique benefits, the gig economy will only grow in scope and strength in the future.
As such, employers must understand the specific challenges facing contractors and freelancers to establish effective onboarding procedures that will maximize their impact and quickly make them a valuable part of a team. Given the significant differences between a short-term workforce and full-time employees, simply applying the typical onboarding process to gig employees is a recipe for diminished production and lower satisfaction levels.
Instead, the following best practices can help organizations design and implement an onboarding approach for gig employees that will maximize the experience for the worker and employer alike. As the importance of the gig economy grows, organizations should install the proper framework needed to take full advantage of the many benefits a short-term workforce can bring to an enterprise, particularly in an environment where flexibility and agility are such valued commodities.
As attractive as the gig economy might be -- never being tied down to a single employer and steering one’s own ship -- it doesn’t come without drawbacks. Aside from an inherent lack of stability and traditional employee benefits, the gig economy must be nimble to thrive. This notion presents specific challenges for both a worker and organization, each needing to maintain the ability to pivot when needed. Otherwise, both sides of the gig economy equation get mired in the wasted resources, inefficiencies, and lack of productivity that are the antithesis of its guiding ethos in the first place.
Therefore, employers must design onboarding strategies for contractors and freelancers that adhere to the gig economy's most fundamental characteristics. To a contractor, there's absolutely nothing attractive about a long, drawn-out onboarding process that is needlessly thorough and amounts to a tremendous waste of time and effort for both all involved. An endless parade of paperwork, training, introductions, and office tours is more likely to prompt a gig employee to sprint towards the door rather than feel excited for the opportunity.
Of course, that isn't to say that onboarding a gig employee should cut important corners and skip over anything essential to the job. Instead, employers must find that delicate balance between the two, covering everything needed to maximize the chances for success but in a highly efficient, streamlined manner. A handful of straightforward techniques can help organizations find that critical balance, decreasing drop-off rates while still covering all essential topics to make the experience as beneficial as possible.
As an organization streamlines its onboarding for gig employees, it’s important not to lose sight of the bigger picture. Don’t get caught up in the procedural aspect of the process and use the streamlining itself to test the flow of onboarding procedures, making sure there are no inconsistencies or communication gaps. HR should walk a mile in a contractor’s shoes, so to speak, and make any necessary changes to better the experience from the gig employee’s perspective.
Gig employees are typically straightforward, rarely hesitating to get to the point. The nature of the gig economy provides little room for procrastination and wasted resources. Organizations should have the same mentality when dealing with a contractor or freelancer, providing clear and precise expectations before they even start the job. Likewise, brief but frequent check-ins through an email, messaging, or short conversations can help ensure everyone is aligned and ready to go once the job begins. Keep such communication unobtrusiveunintrusive and quick while still emphasizing expectations, including:
Gig jobs are lean, precise, and efficient, leaving no room for wasted time and effort. Contractors expect to ramp-up quickly, acclimate to the environment, and hit the ground running. Therefore, it’s incumbent upon an employer to make certain any needed resources are in place and fully operational by the time the job begins. Remember, an organization that makes all necessary preparation ahead of time is helping itself just as much as it's helping the worker, accelerating ramp-up time and boosting productivity. The smallest of speed bumps can create delays and impede the effectiveness of a gig employee, so taking the following into account is time well spent:
The fleeting, temporary nature of gig employees doesn’t preclude them from being valuable members of the team. In fact, taking the time to make freelancers feel welcome and wanted will only enhance communication and collaboration between team members and, thus, boost overall productivity. While elaborate, in-person introductions are often impossible if a freelancer is working remotely, employers can use video chat applications to briefly introduce a newcomer to their co-workers.
Humans are social creatures by nature and tend to work best within a community framework where other team members and superiors can provide support, answer questions, and offer guidance. If working onsite, always be certain to invite freelancers to lunch, after work social events, and generally treat them like valued members of the team because, after all, that’s precisely what they are.
All good things must come to an end. Such a notion is a well-accepted inevitability in the gig economy and the primary driver behind its fluidity and adaptability. However, if an organization doesn’t take the necessary steps to ensure a smooth transition from gig employee to in-house responsibility, inefficiencies, and latencies could very well rear their ugly head and impact projects, departments, or, in a worst-case scenario, the entire enterprise itself.
To avoid such a predicament, organizations must be deliberate in their preparation for the passing of the proverbial torch, making certain that as the gig job winds down, the next person in line for the project is well-versed in the necessary tasks and up to speed on where the project lies and what needs to be done going forward. The departing freelancer should play a pivotal role in this process as they have a unique, insider perspective on the nature of the work and whatever it requires.
Although similar in form but pared down relative to the offboarding process in a traditional sense, the transition from gig employee to the next team member, whomever that might be, should be discussed with the freelancer from the very moment they accept the job. Harkening back to the need for transparency and clear expectations, an employer should make it clear that part of the contract worker's responsibilities is to help streamline the transition once their contract nears expiration.
Just like every other stage of the employee experience, for full-time employees and gig employees alike, offboarding a contractor or freelancer provides organizations an invaluable opportunity to gain insight on the process that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain. Strategizing based on often faulty assumptions is a full's errand and, given the ever-increasing importance the gig economy holds within organizations and entire industries, basing decisions on anything other than quantifiable people data is like playing with fire. At some point, even the most stable of organizations will get burned.
When designed and implemented effectively, offboarding a freelancer gives an employer the chance to view the experience from the gig employee’s perspective, a point-of-view often lost or unnoticed without a well-organized and meticulous system in place. Specifically, a sound approach to offboarding allows an organization to:
Freelancers might very well have a different opinion on such matters than an exiting full-time employee and, thus, can provide unique insights that are unobtainable elsewhere. Of course, even well-intentioned employers that place great value in such insights will never realize the many benefits they can provide unless a thorough system is in place to gather, analyze, and transform them into actionable data. Once again, decision-making based on conjecture can easily have a negative, cascading effect on an entire organization.
Hyphen’s innovative platform leverages technology to maximize both the convenience and utility of a well-designed, comprehensive feedback system to better inform an organization’s decision makers. Through precisely timed and worded surveys, Hyphen allows an employer to harness the power and sense of direction driven by the people data that’s been sitting in front of them all along, only without sufficient tools to transform that data into truly actionable insight.
The marketplace moves swiftly, particularly in the constantly evolving, dynamic gig economy. Hyphen empowers organizations with comprehensive, far-reaching feedback tools to refine the freelancer experience, maximize results, and gain a competitive advantage. Employers don’t have to rely on assumptions or best guesses anymore.