Crisis Management: How Gig Workers Can Make Your Company Stronger and More Resilient

The world, the economic environment, and the demands placed on your company are all changing in unexpected ways. The difference between succeeding or failing to manage through a crisis can depend on your ability to add staff to critical functions, and access the exact skills and experience needed to respond to a changed business environment.

Gig workers can help your company weather this crisis by providing flexibility and resilience to your workforce. Maybe you need a skilled writer, blogger or technician to move a project forward or be “on the ground” in a specific geographic market. By using independent workers, you can respond to changing demands for specific skills, experience, or expertise, when and where you need them.

Independent workers bring other benefits to companies: they can increase the productivity of the workforce and support a high-performance culture. Companies that embrace the Gig Economy – made up of consultants, independent contractors, freelancers, and on-demand workers – will have a competitive advantage, in both good times and bad, over companies that don’t.

Here are a few ways gig workers could help your company successfully manage through this crisis, and eventually resume more normal business operations.

Access the right talent, when you need it

Responding to a crisis or changes in the competitive and business environment can require talent and skills that stretch companies beyond their normal operating workforce. You might need to re-write your marketing messages, enter a new market, change production, or re-brand the services you offer. These demands can strain or exceed the capabilities of your existing employees.

For example, as part of the widespread shift to working from home, I have heard from several business that, due to travel restrictions, need to find talent locally and on-demand. Or they have a surge in the need for specific skills, and want to bring on the right people, quickly. By hiring independent workers, these leaders can implement changes in their workforce across all their offices and geographies.

Independent workers give companies the agility to adapt quickly to changing business environments. They are faster to onboard than employees and are available on-demand. They can execute short-term tasks and projects to meet specific, immediate needs. The result is a more flexible and resilient workforce that can respond to market changes.

Increase productivity

Study after study offer evidence and data that independent workers are, on average, more productive than employees. These results aren’t surprising since independent workers are able to avoid the productivity killers of an average day in the cubicle. They aren’t subject to the wasted time of commuting, or the death of the workday by a thousand paper cuts of interruptions and meetings. Instead, independent workers are strongly incentivized to get their best work done in the shortest amount of time. Accomplishing that goal maximizes both their daily rate and their opportunity to pursue other professional and personal activities.

Recent surveys of 8,000 workers by McKinsey’s Global Institute confirm that gig workers, freed from the constraints of office life, report both higher levels of satisfaction and greater productivity. Similar surveys from the ADP Research Institute, Thimble, and FlexJobs reach the same conclusions: on average, gig workers are more satisfied, engaged, and productive than employees. The potential to improve productivity is great for companies that include independent workers as part of their workforce.

Support a high-performance culture

Hiring gig workers can help companies create a higher performing workforce in two ways. First, it can limit the prevalence of underperformance. Because the corporate relationship with independent workers can be structured entirely around short-term deliverables and results it’s easier and faster to identify gig workers that execute well. For example, gig workers hired to write a blog post or company copy, or produce an executive video can quickly be evaluated, and possibly re-engaged for other similar tasks. This helps companies focus on quality of work deliverable, and results that impact important performance metrics such as improved customer satisfaction.

Second, and perhaps more importantly, gig workers can support a company’s high-performance culture. Because independent workers are engaged and evaluated based on the tasks they accomplish and the value they contribute, they reinforce a corporate culture that explicitly values results and deliverables. Gig workers, by the nature of how they work, support a corporate focus on results rather than the processes by which they are achieved.

The New Normal

In less than a decade, we’ve seen the emergence and rapid growth of the Gig Economy and independent workers. In less than a quarter, we’ve experienced a forced and rapid shift to remote work and witnessed the loss of tens of millions of traditional full-time jobs. There is no going back.

The way we work has changed suddenly and permanently as a result of the pandemic. The war for talent will continue, but the new battlefield will be the independent, remote worker. Companies that adapt to working with distributed workforces and to the growth in gig workers will have the most agile and resilient workforce, and the quickest access to the skills, experience, and expertise to successfully execute their strategy. They will be best positioned to succeed in our post-crisis economy.