Friday, July 13, 2018

Is HR Ready to be GIGantic?

In my most recent post HR and the Gig Economy, I talked about how the workforce is changing as managers staff their teams with more contingent labour.  HBR also wrote a thought-provoking article Run Taskrabbit Run, exploring a not-so-distant future where businesses no longer have employees.  Since my very talented former colleague Stacy Chapman, the CEO of SwoopTalent, has predicted that more doomsayers will write more about this topic… challenge accepted.

I'm actually not a doomsayer, at least I don't think I am.  I personally see the gig economy as an opportunity for HR rather than a threat, at least in the medium term (y’ know, before HR gets replaced by chatbots), because contractors are people.  For too long HR has let procurement own services talent as the proportion of contingent workers steadily increases.  It’s time for HR to step up and reclaim the people agenda.

Here are some of the challenges HR needs to be ready for to stay relevant in the gig economy:

People Data: I know we’re all still high fiving about moving to the cloud, but to prepare for the gig economy, your HR solution needs to track data for contractors as well as employees.  You need to know where your contractors are placed, when, for what, and how much they cost.  You also want to know if they are effective, which will be a challenge since they aren’t included in your performance appraisal process.

Compliance: There are some legal challenges with making contractors feel too much like part of the team - not to mention employment insurance - but someone needs to figure that out for the business.  Who better than HR?  Not procurement, unless HR also wants to share ownership of core competencies, performance management and employer brand.  Yeah, I didn’t think so.  : )

Organizational development: What is the right employee to contractor ratio?  Where should external skills be brought in on a project or fixed term basis v. in-house?  Most importantly, how can HR add real value to this discussion, rather than just consolidating input from different parts of the business?  Own this!!!

Recruiting: HR plays an active role in recruiting talent but not – typically – in acquiring contractors, besides signing the contract with the agency and/or sending over the NDA.  However, just like employees, contractors have diverse skills and personalities, and some will be a better fit than others.  Does HR really want to leave this up to chance, allow mission critical work to go to the lowest bidder, or fail to consider skills augmentation in a broader company context?

Performance and Engagement: Like employees, contractors need to be engaged and assessed for organizational fit and quality of work.  After all, they perform critical tasks for your company, provide a crutch for your company’s core capabilities, and cost money.  It’s important to make them feel like part of the team, help them succeed and establish some metric to assess the quality of their work.  

Skills Development: If we envision a future where most or all of the workforce is project based, at least in some industries, how will HR shape core competencies in that future?  What will core competencies even mean?  And how do you ensure today that skills for hire are also transferred, and that any skills or knowledge gaps your contractors have are addressed so they can work as efficiently as possible?

Leadership: Managing contractors requires somewhat different skills and perspective than managing employees.  It’s HR’s job to make sure managers are ready to lead a truly diverse workforce made up of employees, contractors and non-humans.

Rewards:  As more contractors are brought in to augment teams, compensation equity and company perqs will take on a new flavour.  There’s no one right answer, but plenty of wrong ones, and it needs to be considered in light of what is best for the business.  Ideally, you don’t want rewards to create a divide between internal and external team members, which is what will happen if contractors get treated like second class citizens.

Collaboration: The right collaboration and project management tools can help teams work more productively.  With the gig economy, having the right tools to streamline processes and tasks while linking work to company goals has never been more important.

Internal support: This one has long frustrated me as a hiring manager.  New employees get the red carpet rolled out by HR, a new laptop, a new workstation, etc., whereas contractors need to go on a treasure hunt to find a place to sit and get signed onto the system.  Which the company pays for in lost productivity, frustrated engagement and an hourly rate to boot.

Employer Brand: Just like employees, some contractors are a better fit for your organization than others.  How do you help ensure your organization attracts the best contractors, and equip them to deliver the best results?

So, you get the idea.  As contractors become part of the mix at work, HR needs to start thinking in very real terms how to attract, retain, engage and develop them.  Or… become less relevant to the business as the workforce changes.

Visual courtesy of Business in the Workplace.

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