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.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS - Kate Kearins is Pro­fes­sor of Man­age­ment and Pro Vice Chan­cel­lor and Dean of Busi­ness, Eco­nom­ics and Law at Auck­land Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy.

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.

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