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4 and 1/2 Things to Consider When Joining the Gig Economy

New research by Intuit and Emergent found there are now 4 million workers driving the gig economy– or in other words, the flexible workforce is now about 34% of workers. And this number is expected to grow to 7.7 million by 2020. In just a few years, gig workers will make up nearly half of the workforce.

Gig workers are motivated by a number of factors, from more flexible schedules to autonomy of their career. Online platforms like Uber and Lyft and freelancer job sites like Upwork make finding gigs even easier. If you’re going through a career transition and the thought of becoming a gig worker has crossed your mind– you clearly aren’t alone.

Whether you’re already a gig worker, or thinking about joining the crowd, plenty have gone before you. Consider these four steps–plus one bonus idea– before joining the gig economy.

#1: Define your gig

The type and source of gig work varies greatly from industry to industry. It’s important to know what type of work you want to do so you can begin to source gigs and plan the logistics and structure of your business. Depending on the industry, there are a plethora of resources and platforms designed to help you get started and stay profitable.

Some gig workers partner with a staffing company or an agency to find work. You can join already-existing businesses that depend on gig workers to drive business, such as ride-sharing business like Uber or Lyft, or a grocery shopping business like Instacart. These “shared economy” businesses are skyrocketing in growth. In fact, there are now more Ubers than yellow taxi cabs in New York City.

If you offer a creative service, like writing or graphic design, or a financial service like accounting or tax consulting, you have the ability to contract directly with companies and clients. Understanding how you want to use your skills and abilities is the first step to joining the flexible workforce. From there, you can begin to fulfill the requirements for offering services in your field of expertise — whether it be setting up an online profile or learning how to create formal contracts with vendors. Your next steps will vary depending on your chosen field of work. Above all, choose a gig you love, since you’ll be spending much of your time devoted to it.

#2: Set goals– and report them to a friend

When you have a traditional full-time job, you’re typically required to report your progress to your manager and set goals for improvement. In the typical workplace, a manager or supervisor is checking in on your progress– and hopefully giving you feedback on your work. When you become part of the flexible workforce, you’ll no longer have someone checking your career growth and progress. In order to remain relevant and continue to provide value to your gig economy employers, it’s important for independent workers to not only set goals, but to share them with another person. Most of us need to feel accountable to someone in order to hold ourselves accountable for improving. Studies have shown that sharing goals with someone else, stating them in writing or stating them out loud is essential to realizing career growth and business success.

One study by the Dominican University of California found that individuals who simply wrote down their goals on paper increased their success from 43 to 61%. The researchers also found that participants who made their goals public or sent weekly progress reports to a supportive friend boosted goal completion rates to 76%. Don’t just come up with business goals for your gig work– write them down, and share them.

#3: Share your expertise

Think of yourself as an advertiser and a marketer, but likely without the budget for billboards or radio segments. As a gig worker, you’re essentially a one—person business. Just like any business, you need to create visibility into your work by making your skills known to target clients. Fortunately, you have a massive audience at your fingertips, thanks to social networks and online publications.

The best way to get started with sharing your expertise is by sourcing new ideas. Make sure to regularly read and explore what’s being said about your industry. If you’re going to build a following around your gig work, you want to share new ideas and create content that showcases your thought leadership.

The benefits and appropriate methods for sharing your expertise will vary from one gig industry to the next. Uber drivers, for example, might interact positively to reviews left to showcase their friendly personality. Freelance marketing professionals might write a LinkedIn post about the future of a particular lead generation approach. Graphic designers might write a piece of content on design and post it to Medium. A personal trainer might upload sample videos to YouTube. Understand where your audience goes for information, and what ideas might resonate, then create content that establishes your position as an expert.

#4: Get your ducks in a row

One of the most challenging steps to becoming a member of the flexible workforce is the behind-the-scenes process. There’s a lot of information that you’ll need to understand, from how to structure agreements and contracts, to setting payment terms and following through with collecting payment.

It goes without saying that you’ll be filing taxes for your business. Do your due-diligence to research what you can write off as an expense. Keep receipts for traveling, including commuting to a coffee shop to work. Any supplies or space needed to do your work can likely be written off as a business expense. Typically, if you’re a sole proprietor– as are most gig workers–you’ll be required to file a schedule C. Before you dive into the gig economy, get the advice of a tax expert with experience working with independent vendors.

Be sure to devote ample time for getting your ducks in a row. While it’s exciting to jump right in and start working, you’ll be forced to take steps backwards down the road if you’ve taken a misstep on the legal processes. Do your research. Get accounting software or consult with a tax professional. Keep complete records of sales and refunds. In the past, independent contractor and small business owners had to build out the forms and systems they needed. Now, there are a number of small business software options to make things easier and reduce the possibility of making errors or leaving out critical elements, such as Elance.com.

#4.5: Take control over your schedule!

One bonus idea: don’t forget to enjoy yourself! You’re working for yourself, which is “living the dream” for many people. So many gig workers say they want to leave the full-time workforce to have more control over their schedule, and then they find themselves enslaved by their gig work and not taking time to pursue the interests that had inspired them to leave the workforce in the first place. Some advice — don’t become a slave to your gigs!

Before you get started as a gig worker, define what you want to get out of the experience. If having more time for personal ambitions, or to improve work-life-balance make your list, then remember to stay in control of your gigs and the amount of time you spend working.

At RiseSmart, when we’re helping employees through career transition and weighing the pros and cons of entering the gig workforce, we encourage employees to assess the feasibility of their success. We have created 15 questions for our customers that help weigh the challenges of entering the gig economy with the impact and potential it could have on an employee’s career. A few of the questions we encourage employees to explore are:

  1. Do you prefer variety in your work?
  2. Do you enjoy juggling multiple, unrelated work commitments?
  3. Are you self-motivated and disciplined enough to manage a schedule with ambiguous deadlines and demands?
  4. Does your personal life require a highly-structured schedule?
  5. Do you learn quickly and acclimate easily to new environments?

These are just a few examples of important things to consider before you decide to switch to gig work. The more you plan and think through possible options and solutions, the better prepared you’ll be to launch a successful career in the gig economy

The post 4 and 1/2 Things to Consider When Joining the Gig Economy appeared first on RiseSmart.

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About Mildred Blankson

I am a Human Resource Professional with a Masters Degree in Human Resource Management. I have several years of experience in Human Resources and i hope this blog will be a great resource in helping you find the perfect job or candidate that you seek.

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How to Leverage Company Benefits to Recruit and Retain Top Talent

One-third of organizations have increased their overall benefit offerings in 2016, according to a research report compiled by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). As recruiting and retaining top talent continue to become increasingly difficult for employers, robust benefit packages play a key role. When salaries and perks (think: free lunch) are nearly equal from company to company, employees are likely to opt for the company that offers the best benefits and greatest opportunities.

Medical and financial benefits aside, employees are looking for lifestyle and career benefits. SHRM reported that the top reason employers increased benefits in 2016 was to remain competitive in the marketplace—and the three biggest focus areas for change were in the health (22%), wellness (24%), and professional and career development (16%) categories. Robust benefit packages that include career development, health and wellness, and flexible working options provide a platform for employers to stand out. Nearly one-third of employees look for external positions because they desire “overall better benefits,” second only to higher compensation.

The type of benefits you offer speaks volumes on how you treat and support employees, which always manifests by way of your external employer brand. It’s not enough to say “we have great benefits,” because “great benefits” are now table stakes. Companies have mastered the art of talking about perks, from catered lunches to team building activities. Failure to talk about the real support and development opportunities you offer to employees might translate to missed opportunities. So how can hiring managers and recruiters promote employee benefits to help with recruiting and retention?

#1: Kick “industry standard” out of your vocabulary

When recruiters and hiring managers list their company’s benefits and summarize with the catch-all phrase, we offer “industry standard” benefits, it’s not enough. When all else—compensation, vacation days, and perks—are even, offering a standard benefits package won’t help your company standout enough to secure commitment from a top employee. Even though it might be tempting to default to a quick response, it pays to provide more detail about the benefits your company offers, in length, during the interview process.

And even more importantly than providing a laundry list of benefits (but kudos to you for that list!), explain how these benefits fit in with core company values. For example, if you offer flexible work arrangements and flexible hours, explain that these arrangements support your company’s value of work-life balance. If you provide a gym membership or showers at work, talk about how it enhances company culture or creates opportunities for employees to get the exercise they desire in a convenient way.. When recruits begin to see how your benefits support their shared values and interests, they’ll see the benefits you offer are much greater than “industry standard.”

Employers hoping to keep a competitive edge are offering more than the “industry standard” at every stage of the employee journey, including at severance – according to a recent study by RiseSmart. If you’re on the cutting edge of severance offerings, use those benefits to differentiate your company form the competition.

#2: Talk about goals in the recruiting and interview process

Before an employee is even hired, find out what they’re looking for in their employer and what their short and long term goals are. Ask questions like, “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?” and “How are you hoping your employer will support you along your career journey?” Employees, many of whom are seeking opportunities for career development and continuing education, need to know you plan to invest in their individual career goals.

A Career Builder survey found that 45% of employees, regardless of generation, plan to stay with their employer for less than two years. During their tenure, they expect to benefit and grow with each new role and and at each new company. It’s important to convey to prospective employees that you invest in each individual employee, regardless for how long they plan to stay in the role for which they are being hired.

#3: Amplify the employee voice

Remind employees early on that they have a voice to share about company culture and employee benefits. Glassdoor, for example, recommends employers invite new hires to reflect on their first few months at the company. Whether this leads to internal feedback or a public review, it can assist efforts aimed at creating a positive employer brand.

L’Oréal recently launched a #LifeatLoreal hashtag to encourage employees to share photos of their experiences at work. The campaign all stemmed from the idea that people would trust their peers on social media when it came to L'Oréal being a great place to work. Employees posted a wide variety of pictures, including snapshots of various benefits and perks in action—such as flex days and catered lunches. Encourage employees to share the experiences they enjoy the most on the social channel of their choice.

#4: Keep employees engaged with benefits

On average, salary is only about 70% of an employee’s total compensation. When employees don’t take advantage of the benefits offered by the company, it’s equivalent to leaving 30% of the total compensation package on the table. Employers who keep employees engaged with benefits are more likely to see benefits manifest as part of the employer brand. An employee is highly unlikely to leave a Glassdoor review that mentions a positive benefit if she has never actually utilized the benefit.

Try hosting monthly or quarterly Q&A sessions to discuss available benefits. When you roll out a particularly hefty benefit, such as a new 401K offering, or an update to parental leave policy, give employees ample opportunity to ask questions. You could also share success stories from employees who have taken advantage of a particularly niche benefit, such as an hour of free lawyer services, to showcase how the benefit is used and encourage other employees to check it out.

#5: Benefits are the forgotten negotiation tool

If you are a hiring manager or recruiter engaging with a candidate, think beyond salary, or equity. Everything is negotiable, from vacation days to health insurance choices. Savvy employees, especially as the war for talent continues to heat up, will use benefits as negotiation tools—but don’t shy away from doing the same thing on the employer side. It’s often easier to offer more benefits than to secure additional salary for an employee.

Don’t be afraid to talk about your full complement of benefits, including your severance benefits. Prospective employees may feel more comfortable about joining a company that will take care of them, in the event of a downsizing or restructuring event. You may want to consider offering perks like outplacement and career transition services to employees who leave voluntarily as well as those who are involuntary subjects of a layoff. Knowing that you are invested in their career, even after they leave, will help you create a workforce of dedicated, engaged, and satisfied employees.

The world is small and everyone is connected. When you invest in employees, it leads to a positive employer brand. In the new Employee Relationship Economy, former employees will someday become vendors, customers, brand evangelists, recruiting references, or even boomerang employees. In a world where the employee/employer relationship is no longer finite, it’s important to convey your full support for employees’ career endeavors at every stage of their career journeys -- beginning early in the recruiting and interview process.

In every recruiting conversation, highlight your dedication to each employee’s career. When you frame up your organization’s benefits in context of how they fit in with the employee’s journey, it’s easy for the candidate to see how your company would support his journey. Communication about employee benefits can go a long way in the recruiting process—and will have a direct impact on your employer brand. If you offer much more than “industry standard,” you should be screaming it from the rooftops. Your current and prospective employees deserve to understand just how committed you are to their personal and professional journey.

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