Monthly Archives: April 2016

The Rise of the Contingent Workforce

Startup Stock Photos

Startup Stock Photos

Keeping up with the changing times can be difficult, especially these days when changes seem to take place overnight. As a manager or business owner, even if you’re able to identify what cultural shifts are taking place, you then have to deal with the task of actually figuring out what to do with that information.

I think about this sometimes when I talk with my two sons, both millennials with somewhat non-traditional working situations. My younger son works 3rd shift, which, although fairly common, is still non-traditional by most standards. My elder son currently lives and works in Malaysia, favors using Uber instead of buying a car for his own, and earns extra income through side work he can perform remotely.

Situations like that used to suggest an under-employed person who cobbled multiple jobs together because they just couldn’t find full time work.

Now, at least for my sons, it represents the ultimate freedom. They found what worked best for them and acted accordingly, no need to fuss with unwanted schedules and extra costs. They get to do the work they like without taking on all the “other duties as assigned” that usually round out a full time job.

Working remotely has never been easier

Working remotely has never been easier

What this shows, I think, is that circumstances have changed enough to allow for a more customized working experience for employees. With recent developments in universal healthcare and constant upgrades to technology and the capabilities of the Internet, it’s much easier for potential employees to stray from traditional options.

While this trend may seem like a bit of a bane for traditional companies, perhaps it’s best to see it as a fresh opportunity to keep up with the times by investing in a contingent workforce. After all, access to people, and more importantly talent, has never been easier than it is now.

For instance, a 2015 Forbes article states that according to the U.S. Government, “…40.4% of the U.S. workforce is now made up of contingent workers—that is, people who don’t have what we traditionally consider secure jobs.” While this statistic is a bit surprising (earlier estimates forecasted a 40% contingent workforce only by 2020), with the proliferation of contingent workers for service providers like Uber and Lyft, should we really be so surprised?

The question, then, becomes how might one take advantage of this current trend? Let’s take the website Fiverr.com as an example. For the uninitiated, Fiverr is a site where individual workers can post a description of their skills and offer to perform a task for a reasonable price. Whether you’re looking for a graphic designer, copywriter, or a web developer you’ll be able to easily scroll through professionals who charge a minimum of $5 per project.

Of course, there are potential issues to consider when hiring someone from a site like Fiverr. For example, it’s probably unwise to hire a Fiverr user for a big, complex project. Large projects can be too involved, require working closely with full-time team members, and aren’t really the point of Fiverr in the first place. However, if you have a few simple tasks to accomplish, like creating Facebook posts or drawing a Christmas card (see below), Fiverr could be a great place to find talent!

So what advantages can a contingent workforce offer? For starters, when used strategically, small companies can find opportunities to cut back on permanent staffers and reduce costs. If your company occasionally needs someone to make Facebook posts and run errands, it might be better to use Fiverr (or something like it) rather than add to staff. Secondly, it helps you find people who are genuinely skilled at performing the tasks you need. Rather than hoping your web developer is also good at graphic design, why not temporarily hire someone who has the proper experience?

Contingent workforces may or may not end up being the wave of the future, but it’s certainly what’s happening at present. Of course hiring contingent workers could pose flaws and drawbacks, but if used strategically it can be a boon for businesses. But regardless of whether or not sites like Fiverr will work for you and your company, the most important takeaway is that in order to stay ahead of the curve you need a finger on the pulse of contemporary society, an innovative touch to take advantage of changing trends, and a willingness to take chances.

Beware of PRAS (Performance Review Avoidance Syndrome)

PerformanceReview

“I haven’t had ______ in over 9 years!”   In the workplace, the most common way to fill the blank is “a performance review”.   It’s sad to say, but when I’m getting to know a new client, this statement comes up frequently.   And disappointingly, the higher up in the organization, the more frequent the complaint.   In fact, CEOs are the number one offenders.

So why is this the case?   I hear similar comments from leaders I’ve worked with directly:

“I gave the increase, but I never got around to writing the review.   He got the money, so why should he care?”

“I got so busy with the budget, sales plan and year-end, I just didn’t get to it.”  

“I give feedback all the time. She knows what I think about her performance.”

Based on the feedback I get from employees, I can tell you they do care. Additionally, if they are managers themselves and go through the work of getting their own reviews done, it’s doubly frustrating to have the person at the top not holding him or herself accountable. Getting a merit increase is important too, but if it’s not tied to performance feedback, the recipient is in the dark about how the amount was determined.

“Boss, I really do care about getting a review and every year you avoid giving me one is sign that you don’t care about me or my performance.”

Reviews do tend to come at a difficult time of year. For many companies, closing the books, setting sales plans for the year and finalizing budgets all coalesce in December and January.   Throw in a couple of holidays, and it’s no wonder reviews don’t get done!

I admit, the thought of writing reviews on top of all the other stuff you have to get done is daunting, but you’re probably spending more time worrying about it than it would actually take to do the task itself. Set aside an hour or two a day of uninterrupted time to do just one review.   You’ll find it’s not as difficult as you think.

Finally, you don’t bother with a review because your direct reports know exactly what you think. You tell them all the time. Even if you do give frequent feedback, it’s probably not as specific or meaningful as you think. “Nice job, Chuck” is not performance feedback. It’s a compliment.   Showing your employees that you took the time to think through what they did and how they did it is just as important as what you say. Additionally, it’s human nature to want it on the record. Compliments are nice, but a report card can be hung on the bulletin board of your heart.

It should only take you an hour or two to write a review. Get to it!