February 27, 2020
Millions of businesses rely on part-time employees, independent contractors, agencies and other for-hire services to support their operational needs and help their companies grow.
Yet very few of them put much effort into keeping those workers engaged and appreciated as part of the overall team.
Engaging these “gig” workers is often a more cost effective way to get specialized services such as digital marketing, photography, coding and development, bookkeeping and dozens of other trades when a young and fast-growing company can’t yet justify the expense of hiring full-time dedicated in-house people for those roles.
Nowadays there are more than 22 million part-time workers in the United States, and another 15 million alternative arrangement workers such as independent contractors, freelancers, on-call workers, and on-demand gig workers.
The non-traditional “shadow workforce” has an enormous but often overlooked impact on the companies they support.
For example, Google now has more contract workers than full-time employees for the first time in its 20-year history. The contract workers wear red ID badges and most of them don’t get the most valuable perks such as stock awards, health care and retirement benefits. But they do get to eat for free in Google’s high-end cafes, ride the free shuttle buses, work out in onsite gyms, and join happy hours and other employee parties.
The rise of the shadow workforce makes it more important than ever to show these workers that they are valuable members of your team, and that their work is a significant contributor to your success.
Showing your appreciation also keeps these workers engaged and aligned on broader long-term goals, which encourages them to come up with creative ideas for how to get there.
Start by creating an onboarding process that is similar to the one you do for full-time W-2 employees. Include an overview of the company, its history, operations and core business units, the leadership team and any company benefits or resources that will be available to them such as access to a gym or participation in the company healthcare plan.
Make sure the independent workers spend time with executives as well as the peers they will be working with most often, and make it a priority to have face-to-face meetings at least once a quarter.
Keep independent workers informed about major changes or shifts in the business strategy, growth plans, significant sales wins and losses, leadership changes, and other things that will impact or influence their work.
Ask for their feedback and input on major projects and presentations that are related to or might affect what they do, even if they haven’t directly worked on that project. Praise their work and give them credit for their contributions when you send internal emails to senior leaders, and include them on the email so they see it.
Consider using collaboration apps like Slack, Monday or Salesforce Chatter to keep them engaged on the daily messages, traffic and internal jokes that are the glue that bonds strong teams. Invite them to team outings, casual happy hours, volunteer events, leadership retreats and company wide parties.
The more tightly you embed your shadow workforce with your full-time team, the better their work will be.
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