Part of leading a small business is doing more with less, and labor costs are no exception. To compete with larger peers, most small businesses simply can’t afford to offer full-time positions with benefits.
Technology is shrinking the world every day, creating a marketplace where businesses find themselves competing with companies around the world for workers and consumers. Fortunately, this has enabled workers to specialize in a way never before possible, selling only their most valuable skills to employers at a higher rate, albeit in smaller chunks, than full-time work allows.
This is a beautiful change for small businesses, too. In a gig economy, businesses buy exactly what they need from exactly the right person in the exact amount needed. The worker sells what’s most valuable about his skills, and the company buys only the best that worker can give, reducing waste in both sides of the process.
The key to tapping into the gig economy’s efficiency gains is to view it as an opportunity rather than a threat. Gig workers, believe it or not, tend to be less expensive and better employees than their full-time peers.
Here are three ways you can make gig work optimal for your business:
1. Choose an area of business that needs a productivity boost.
Think about the roles within your business that offer opportunities to increase productivity. Does your accountant spend half his or her time doing HR or customer-service work because there’s no one else to do it?
If so, that’s a great opportunity to bring in a gig worker. In its 2017 Global Human Capital Trends, Deloitte urges managers to stop viewing jobs as the basic unit of work and to instead break jobs down into tasks. Doing so will immediately improve flexibility and efficiency.
2. Elevate the efficiency of your workforce.
The key to this step is to identify where you could benefit from skills at a much higher level than you can buy (full-time hires) and should instead rent (offer a gig). Gig hiring allows you to no longer be tied to justifying full-time salary and benefits for a specialized job that you need for only 100 hours per year.
Say your business is developing a mobile app. Does it make sense to hire a full-time app engineer? What if you offered that app project as a gig instead? And because you’d need that gig worker for only a short period, you wouldn’t have to hire a low-quality worker because he or she is all you could afford through traditional employment.
3. Plan to function with more gig workers than full-time employees.
It’s no secret that change can be hard, especially if there’s not a clear understanding of where the change will take you. But gig work is in fact a return to an old labor model in which individuals sought out jobs on the basis of how their skills contributed to the community.
In this model, the individual — rather than the corporation he works for — is the primary unit of productivity, and he can judge his success by the impact and outcome of each job. This differs from the idea of plugging away all day in the same job, waiting on an annual review to see whether the work is up to snuff.
Tell your team members that their ambition doesn’t have to change. In fact, it can be larger than ever. Functioning primarily with gig workers just means moving away from command-and-control management to maximizing the right talent in the right gigs for the right amount of time.
Making the switch to gig workers may seem intimidating, especially when you’re competing with companies across the world for talent. But for small businesses on tight budgets, there’s no more cost-effective way to get the help you need.
Trevor Foster is the vice president of finance and innovation at Innovative Employee Solutions, a leading nationwide employer of record that specializes in human relations and payroll services. Founded in 1974 in San Diego, IES has grown into one of the city’s largest women-owned businesses and been named one of its “Best Places to Work” for 10 years in a row.