MANAGING FOR A BETTER WORLD
As well as external freelancers, there is also likely to be a treasure trove of hidden talent within organisations which is available to tap into, says Kate Kearins.
Freelancing from without - and from within. By Kate Kearins.
AS THE YEAR rushes to a close, universities and polytechnics and private training establishments are farewelling our most recent graduates. We know that most of our AUT graduates will be heading out into employment, often secured as a result of work placements that form a key part of their study.
Of those who have full-time jobs, nearly 10 percent are self- employed, potentially part of the growing “gig economy” – that group of people stringing together a series of temporary jobs or separate assignments rather than working for a single employer.
Prius-owning Uber drivers, duvet fluffing AirBnBers and, more recently, Lime scooter “juicers” might be the public face of the gig economy but data from McKinsey shows that it's the knowledgebased and creative occupations that are driving growth in the sector.
Contracting knowledge workers and freelancing creatives are going to be part of the fabric of many businesses who've come to rely on the skills and flexibility they bring. A recent survey by global freelancing platform Toptal found more than 90 percent of companies relied on external experts to fill talent gaps.
Managing this, sometimes invisible, workforce is not without its challenges. In a recent Harvard Business Review article, authors Jon Younger and Alvaro Oliveira, say those folk you contract in are after engaging, fulfilling work much like your organisation's own staff.
After questioning freelancers across a range of industries about what makes freelancing meaningful they found it was driven by advancement, both in status and responsibility, autonomy, balance, service and social contribution, variety, and affiliation.
The weighting might differ from one person to another. A parent of young children favoured flexibility to work around children and the autonomy of working at home with intermittent meetings, thereby creating some balance and avoiding office politics and interruptions.
Yet another respondent valued affiliation – the feeling of being in deep in a project and sharing the product owner's objectives and successes. It isn't a one size fits all approach and will require managers to really understand their freelancers in order to get the best from them.
“Organisations that want to retain their best people make employee meaningfulness and satisfaction an obvious priority,” they say.
“But they shouldn't stop there. Organisations that create the conditions for freelancers to also do their best work will ultimately attract the best external talent.”
Maybe you don't always need to look externally to fill that talent gap? Maybe the talent you need is right under your nose among your current workforce, potentially already using those unseen skills in a side hustle.
McKinsey identified the “casual earner” – those who were supplementing their income with some other independent work – as making up the biggest group (40 percent) of those in the gig economy. Sure, there'll be a chunk of those who are AirBnBing the room vacated by university-age kids, but there will also be the social media guru who is finding work via one of the numerous freelancing platforms.
In Forbes magazine, author Dan Pontefract says there is likely to be a “treasure trove of hidden talent” within organisations, which is available to tap into. Tapping into an internal gig economy by allowing staff to dedicate 10-20 percent of their time to in-house gigs could reduce absenteeism, while boosting retention, internal networks, job satisfaction, psychological commitment, customer satisfaction and employee engagement.
“It may even be the vehicle in which true job rotations might finally happen. At a minimum, it can introduce talent to other parts of the organisation possibly acting as the vehicle for cross-departmental movement.”
At its heart it's nurturing the talent you have rather than looking for talent from outside the organisation. And it's perhaps a way for your own organisation to morph responsibly into greater use of staff's strengths and fulfilment than over-stacking with freelancers, on a more precarious basis.