You can’t talk TA/Recruiting strategies today without talking about the Gig Economy. While use of contract labor, in the traditional sense, allows you to bring in talent that’s employed by someone else, use of gig workers allows you to bring in talent that’s employed by—wait for it—themselves.
Is using the gig economy a viable alternative to traditional recruiting strategies? The answer is it depends. Job type, available gig workers in that job area, your structure to handle a gig worker, goals for the long term and more create the reality whether you should be using gig workers as part of your staffing mix as a Talent Acquisition or HR leader.
I’ve had the chance to dig into the gig economy over the last year— here are five things I’ve learned.
1–To really use the gig economy, you’re going to need to use a marketplace rather than your personal network or the network of your employees to find great gig workers. Let’s state the obvious: you’re not Uber or Postmates, so your entire workforce is not going to consist of gig workers. That means that most organizations that seek gig workers will do so through established marketplaces that provide access to hundreds of specialties. Examples of such marketplaces include Upwork and Fiverr, with Upwork positioned as more consultative and billing work hourly, and Fiverr preferring to price by the task/job.
2–Some skills are more available than others, and gig workers within these marketplaces aren’t readily available in every domain. In the new gig economy, all functional areas aren’t created equal. Gig workers, in the aforementioned marketplaces, are easy to find in marketing, creative design, and low-end technology but are scarce in other areas. Complexity of task matters, as does the ability to complete the work on a remote basis.
Here are the top ten skills available on Upwork via an analysis called the Upwork 100:
- .NET Core
- Landing pages
- Electronic design
- Technical recruiter
Heavy marketing and base-level tech. Click on the link and you’ll see accounting and finance make an appearance later in the Upwork 100.
3–Think about whether you want US-based workers or whether you’re willing to hit the international marketplace. As global as our economy has become, there’s still a multitude of companies, departments and managers in the U.S. who have never used offshore resources for their functional area. While there are many gig marketplaces and most have a mix of U.S. and offshore talent available, a good rule of thumb is that Upwork has more domestic resources to choose from while Fivver has more international talent as part of the mix. My experience is that the offshore talent is really good, so you should open your horizons if you haven’t partnered with talent in the Eastern hemisphere before.
4–You get what you pay for—but sometimes the best solution is the most inexpensive one. As I mentioned before, Upwork is positioned as more consultative and bills work hourly, and Fivver gig workers prefer to price by the task/job. All things being equal, you’ll have a natural bias when starting out in the gig space to think you need to go with the higher hourly rate because pricing by the task/job seems transactional. It really depends on what you want the gig worker to do.
The average hourly rate for the Upwork Top 100 skills was $43.72 in 2019, which is more per hour than 88 percent of workers in the overall U.S. economy. That last part shouldn’t be a surprise since the tradeoff in contracting per hour or per job is that you’re only paying for what you need when you contract gig workers. As with everything, that’s an average not the mean, so the highest earners drag that number up.
In addition, the ratings provided for each gig worker serve as a great guide. All things being equal, you can find a cheaper option for many areas that will cut your cost in half with similar or better quality. Actively read the ratings and go chat with prospects to help you in the marketplace. A lower price point with great ratings means the talent marketplace hasn’t overloaded the individual with work yet, while a high price point means work is plentiful for that resource, and you’ll likely be the small fish to the gig worker in question.
5–The biggest barrier you have is a line manager’s willingness and ability to leverage gig workers as part of their team and staffing plan. There are many reasons why gig workers can make sense. That being said, it takes discipline for the manager in question to actively communicate and manage the gig worker in order to have a successful project/engagement. If you make the move to make gig workers part of your mix, training on managing this type of talent asset may be needed! Don’t forget to tell your line managers what’s most important related to managing gig workers!
While the gig economy will continue to evolve, the best use for today’s leaders looking to supplement their TA/Recruiting strategy
with gig workers will be to turn to Upwork and Fiverr in specific
areas—with a focus on providing talent and services when a FTE
isn’t needed and the scope of the need is limited.
Kris Dunn is a Partner and CHRO at Kinetix, a national RPO firm for growth companies headquartered in Atlanta. He’s also the founder Fistful of Talent (founded in 2008) and The HR Capitalist (2007) – and has written over 70 feature columns at Workforce Management magazine. Prior to his investment at Kinetix, Kris served in HR leadership roles at DAXKO, Charter and Cingular. In his spare time, KD hits the road as a speaker and gives the world what it needs – pop culture references linked to Human Capital street smarts.