Over the past several years, we’ve seen more and more organizations take advantage of alternative work agreements. Today, the “gig economy” is a critical component across industry sectors, and flexible work agreements seem almost as prevalent as traditional full- and part-time employment. In fact, some business models are now designed to rely on a predominantly contingent workforce.
As alternative employment agreements become increasingly common, organizations must find ways to meet the needs of different types of workers. Despite the complexity of having multiple types of workers, it’s critical to provide a positive employee experience for all employees. Even though contract workers may be temporary by nature or leave at any time, providing a positive experience is still a powerful contributor to employee engagement, adding real business value to your organization.
The Growing Trend of Alternative Work Agreements
Alternative employment agreements have grown in popularity in part because they can be highly attractive for both employees and organizations. They lend flexibility to employees, who can create their own schedule or use the contract work to supplement income. In the gig economy, workers have the freedom to find the type of employment that best fits their situation.
Organizations gain flexibility as well. A company may need to size up or down seasonally, as is the case with many retail businesses, or their business model may require a large workforce of contract employees to be viable, such as with Lyft. Costs can be lower because employers may not provide benefits or a physical workspace with a computer and a monitor. Organizations in the service economy have low capital expenses because they don’t own or maintain the equipment responsible for delivering the service - in Lyft’s case, a fleet of cars. The risk of a bad hire is also reduced because an organization carries different obligations to contract workers than full-time employees.
Why Employee Experience for the Contingent Workforce Matters
Employee experience is rooted in the effects of organizational culture, physical work space, and technology. If an employee has a positive experience with any (or ideally all) of these environments, they are more likely to be engaged and productive. Inversely, negative experiences can make it hard for employees to stay motivated. Employee experiences directly impact employee engagement, which in turn, has the ability to drive organizational productivity and value.
Delivering a positive experience across these three environments is challenging in the gig economy. For instance, a freelancer may work remotely and an organization has little or no control over their physical work space. However, that doesn’t mean you should give up on delivering a positive experience for that employee. Going back to the example of Lyft, drivers don’t share a physical workspace with their employers but they do have access to best-in-class technology that helps them do their job quickly and efficiently. And because turnover can be high for contract workers, the negative effects of a bad experience are multiplied; as people move in and out of your organization, news of a bad experience spreads quickly.
Employee Experience and the Role of HR
No matter what type of agreement a given employee is working under, all workers must have access to HR services. Contingent workers likely have different needs than full-time employees, and different policies and process may apply. We already know that positive HR interactions foster a positive employee experience. When HR is able to provide personalized support, specific to the role, location, and even employment agreement type, it leads to a positive employee experience for all of your employees.
Nicole Lindenbaum is the Director of Product Marketing at PeopleDoc by Ultimate Software. Nicole leads the global messaging strategy for PeopleDoc by translating technology into business benefits HR can actually understand. With significant experience in HR technology, Nicole writes and speaks about HR service delivery, employee experience, digital transformation, and the future of work. Nicole holds a BFA from Syracuse University and an MBA from Washington University in St. Louis. She lives in Brooklyn, NY.