It’s 1:30 on a Friday and Jane is sitting at her desk counting the hours (literally) until she can clock out for the weekend. As she slogs through the last of her quarterly reports, Jane allows her thoughts to drift toward a secret ambition:
“What if I could work at home and be my own boss?”
Jane is on the brink of joining 54 million other Americans who engaged in some form of independent work last year. That’s a full third of the U.S. workforce, and some researchers think that number will grow to 50% in just five years. The burgeoning gig economy generated upwards of one trillion dollars in the U.S. alone in 2014.
Gig workers offer scads of benefits to employers: targeted skills for special projects, smaller resource investments, mobility, digitization, and more—all with no benefits required. But they also bring some risks to the table, including legal disputes, tracking requirements, payment issues, engagement problems, and communication hitches.
But does the benefit outweigh the risk? It certainly can, especially if you have a process in place for managing independent worker contracts.
That’s where your HRIS can help.
Creating a Predictable HR Process for Gig Workers
One of the most significant challenges of the gig economy is managing the logistics of a workforce that comes and goes, works remotely, and constantly evolves. Your managers need a predicable process they can follow to classify these employees and avoid potential legal problems and other pitfalls.
Your HR software likely already has built-in tools to track contingent workers, so let’s take a look at how you can use those most effectively:
- Determine classification—In order to track and pay contingent workers, you’ll need to group them together under a single classification. In Criterion’s software, for example, you would create a position titled “Contract Employee” or something similar. Here you can enter a code to specify 1099 classification, location and wage information, and tag the individual as a temporary worker:
- Create a workflow for payroll—You can run all 1099 workers as a group, entering hours manually or pulling them in from an employee time sheet. In the example below, the employee group is titled “1099 Employees” and income has been designated as “regular hours.”
- Track time remotely—If the contractor will be working at multiple locations, your software may be able to track time punch locations using geofencing or by capturing an IP address. For remote workers, you can use mobile apps to facilitate time punches via smartphone or tablet.
- Use Your ATS to track hires and completions—Your software’s applicant tracking system (ATS) makes it easy to track start and end dates for specific projects. You can also track reasons for termination (project completion vs. unsatisfactory work) and quickly determine which contractors you want to work with in the future.
Keeping Contract Workers Engaged
Keeping remote contract workers engaged with the company also presents significant challenges. As the percentage of gig workers increases, maintaining a unified, vibrant company culture becomes more difficult. Gig workers are attracted by the flexibility of contract work, but they also want to work for companies they believe in—and that means you should pay close attention to the messages you’re communicating.
Culture and branding comprise a huge part of the solution to the engagement problem. In order to attract skilled workers, you must brand yourself as a desirable employer in terms of work environment, values, and personal investment. Let’s look at two ways your HRIS can help you achieve this goal:
- Personalized home screens—Many systems can personalize an employee’s online experience based on their classification, security access, and workflow. Here’s an excellent example from Bamboo showing an HR Director’s home screen. For contingent workers, this screen would show only the information relevant to each worker and the groups he or she interacts with:
- Engagement Tools—Engagement tools like social message boards, employee interactions, notifications, and performance reviews can help contingent workers feel like part of the team. In Bamboo’s software, the employee portal includes a “What’s Happening” section to highlight important announcements, news, and reminders:
Undoubtedly, the gig economy will challenge the way businesses interact with employees. As the number of contract workers grows, companies will need to answer questions about communication, training, engagement, onboarding, and culture.
The good news is that HR software is evolving right along with your workforce needs. At CompareHRIS.com, we’re seeing encouraging new developments in employee engagement and branding tools, and those trends will continue as software providers respond to new technology demands.
Looking for HR software that can meet the challenges of the gig economy? Check out our HRIS comparison tool to find the right software match for your company.
About the Author: Susan McClure is our resident content marketer at CompareHRIS.com. She writes about HR outsourcing, HRIS, and general employment issues. When she isn’t writing, you might find her browsing shelves at the library, exploring a local hiking trail, or digging in the garden with her family and fur kids.