The rise of the gig economy has led to a shift in the way nearly one-third of the workforce collects a paycheck. But should your brand adopt this popular hiring practice, or stick to a traditional workforce?

In the past, the term ‘gig’ referred to a musician. Today, we use it to describe freelance and short-term contracts, as opposed to permanent work. It’s safe to say the gig economy is rising in popularity —freelance workers make up more than 73 million people in today’s workforce, and an additional 2 million are added to the ranks each year.

Gig work can be as simple as driving for Uber or as complicated as software engineering. What both jobs have in common is flexibility. This benefit allows workers to set their own schedules and work around other commitments. More often than not, work is done remotely. This is appealing for those who may also be caring for family members or who simply prefer to work from home. 

While flexibility and the chance to work remotely are the top reasons for seeking freelance work, gig work is not without its drawbacks. More often than not, gig work lacks benefits and means lower wages, which can be a turn-off.

There are pros and cons to hiring gig workers. Companies that hire freelance workers hire a more diverse workforce as freelance workers from international job markets are more likely to be available to work remotely. Gig workers are often willing to work odd hours where traditional employees may require a 9-5 work week, and gives employers access to talent at the top of their field who prefer to be paid by the job rather than by the hour.

Hiring gig workers also improves a company’s scalability. Being able to hire and let workers go quickly during periods of rapid growth or loss, allows businesses to increase or decrease their workloads and save money in the process. 

However, some hiring managers may view freelance workers as being less reliable, although this is changing. In addition, some gig workers may require more time to discuss brand protocols than traditional workers, due to the fleeting nature of their employment. In the world of digital marketing, where image is everything, maintaining a consistent brand image means increased customer loyalty and satisfaction. Therefore, hiring personnel should consider these drawbacks carefully. 

There are also arguments to be made that money saved from hiring gig workers is not worth the long-term drawbacks of high turnover rates, limited collaboration and innovation, and less engagement. Dr. John Sullivan, a human resources expert, says the high turnover is due to several factors. First, gig workers are simply collecting a paycheck, rather than working their ideal job. Second, those who seek gig work are simply in it for the money: once the payment for services is received or they are given a better offer, they are on to the next job. And third, since long-term commitment is not established or desired on either side, there is less opportunity to build strong relationships or greater on-the-job experience. 

These high turnover rates can lead to high operating costs and poor relationships between co-workers, managers, and customers. In addition, employers spend more time hiring short-term employees and processing their departure paperwork.

Employees who work together regularly are more engaged in company culture and tend to be more productive. Gig workers, on the other hand, require short-term commitments, hindering the opportunity to collaborate with other workers. Less time spent together, along with possible differences in time-zones may lead to less innovation. 

While there are many valid arguments against hiring gig workers, the benefits should not be ignored. If scalability, flexibility and access to a larger workforce are top priorities, hiring gig workers may be right for your firm. 

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