What the Gig Economy Teaches Us About Attracting and Retaining Talent

Maggie Wenthe
Maggie Wenthe

Employees meeting in a conference room

The “gig economy” has taken off in popularity in recent months. Spurred by companies such as Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, Postmates, TaskRabbit and more, these “gigs” can seem like an off-ramp to self-employment and away from traditional, full-time employment.

And, for traditional employers, that can spell trouble.

As the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics states, there is no official definition of the gig economy—or, for that matter, a gig. Generally speaking, the term refers to a collection of smaller, often disjointed jobs, rather than one full-time employer.

Increasingly, employees are preferring the gig economy’s more flexible and independent work arrangements, according to a Harvard Business Review article. And, in the process, these businesses are transforming how, where, and when the country work.

This presents a challenge for more traditional employers: how can they keep top talent or key prospects from defecting into the gig economy? In other words, what can traditional employers learn and adopt from the gig economy to attract and retain?

Infuse these elements of gig economy-style jobs into your workplace to offer the best of both worlds.

Autonomy Inspires Talent Attraction

According to a study by McKinsey’s Global Institute, 20% to 30% of the working-age population do some form of independent work. And that share is growing rapidly.

Whether they do it as their primary income or just for money on the side, there’s a common thread among all of these independent jobs: they’re autonomous, and many of them allow for work to be done wherever and whenever.

For traditional employers that require a rigid 8-to-5 schedule at a desk in an office, it can be a difficult fight against that sort of boundless autonomy.

What employers can do: Give workers more freedom over their time and offer them the ability to choose the projects they want to do. And, if possible, offer remote work options—not only does this provide more autonomy to your current workforce, it can draw a nationwide or global talent pool rather than just a local one.

Purpose Supports People

A true meaning behind work, more than just a paycheck, gives employees a reason to come to work and leave with a smile on their face. (A recent study even found that people who demonstrate a sense of purpose in their lives have a 15% lower risk of death.)

Younger workers, especially millennials and Generation Z, want purpose behind what they do. They want to know that the work they’re doing is meaningful.

According to leadership expert Karl Moore in a recent Forbes article, money is important to younger generations, but they long to be part of something bigger than themselves. The workplace doesn’t define millennials and Generation Z to the degree that it did for baby boomers and, to a lesser degree, Generation X.

These generations want to be a part of an organization that gives back. When people work for a company that values their community and their people on the same level as the company’s financial prosperity, you’ll see impressive loyalty and attract the kind of talent you’re looking for.

What employers can do: Align your company’s mission with the greater good of the community to attract and retain key talent.

Get Social for Talent Acquisition

Boomers are getting into the gig economy too, according to one U.S. News & World Report article, and it’s not just for the paycheck. A big reason that older generations and younger generations alike are drawn to Uber, Lyft and other gig economy powerhouses is the social aspect.

When you’re at a desk all day, you see the same batch of people, day in and day out. But driving an Uber, you see and talk to people from all walks of life. The social aspect the gig economy brings is a huge, undeniable attraction that traditional employers must address to compete and bring in the talent they need.

What employers can do: According to the Wall Street Journal, by shifting employees from desk to desk every few months, scattering those who do the same types of jobs and rethinking which departments to place side by side, companies say they can increase productivity and collaboration. Also, offering opportunities for team members to get to know each other, both on the clock and off, is key to growing a tight-knit workforce.

Security and Benefits Are Fundamental

While traditional jobs used to be the only way to access employee benefits, health insurance and pensions, that’s not necessarily the case anymore.

In other words, in terms of job security, traditional employers are nearly on equal footing with the gig economy, and the security that only traditional jobs used to be able to offer isn’t exclusively reserved for full-time roles.

What employers can do: Employers can keep their people in place and attract new talent in a way that the gig economy can’t: by appreciating the whole employee.  

Talent Acquisition Requires Strategic Motivation

In the gig economy, workers must juggle tasks from different employers or clients, who often see them more as a means to an end, rather than valued team members.

That’s why, in order to prevent their workers from leaving and joining the gig economy, or in order to recruit crucial talent, traditional employers need to strategically inspire employee motivation to offer the security and benefits all workers crave.

Through a well-designed workplace wellness program that targets the health and wellbeing of their employees, traditional employers can assure the security their people need alongside the flexibility and freedoms they want.

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie Wenthe

Maggie strives to help the world understand the power behind personalized motivation that aligns people with business goals to drive powerful results. As the leader of Marketing Strategy at ITA Group, she analyzes market trends to develop world-class solutions that help Fortune 1000 companies motivate and engage their employees, channel partners and customers. She is certified through the Incentive Marketing Association, the Enterprise Engagement Alliance, as well as Pragmatic Marketing Level VI. Between marketing and three little boys, Maggie doesn't have free time. But when she can find a few minutes, she loves listening to audiobooks on marketing, business and sci fi thrillers.